City of Durban on the rise

Traditionally, Durban’s striking coastline of soft sandy beaches and its subtropical climate made the city a natural holiday paradise, centered around one of Africa’s busiest ports and conveniently positioned to service the continent’s eastern seaboard. Durban has also always had a strong history and performance in manufacturing and agribusiness for nearly 150 years.

However, Durban Tourism and the Durban Investment Promotion team have worked aggressively with business partners to not only reposition Durban as a premier lifestyle and events destination, but also as an award-winning investment location, which is now home to Samsung Electronics, Toyota, Unilever and many others. The city launched an ambitious seven-year plan geared at boosting international visitors, called the Durban Visitor Strategy. If all goes to plan, this will attract five million tourists by 2020, inject R10- billion into the economy and support 74000 jobs.

To assist in the development of commerce between KwaZulu-Natal, Lusaka and Harare, SA Express’s direct flights into Africa are the perfect springboard. These flights provide a wide range of new possibilities for the province by linking Durban directly with a number of Southern African countries.

Tourism remains a main focus of the city’s six main business sectors. A major catalyst for the hotel industry — and a forceful show of increased investor confidence in the city — was the billion rand upgrade of the Beachfront Promenade, from Ushaka Marine World to Blue Lagoon.

Durban is not without its praise singers among the world’s media. The city has launched its new Smart Cities Campaign, a documentary that forms part of the National Geographic Campaign in Washington. The World’s Smart Cities Programme will feature up to 18 of the world’s most liveable cities, capable of providing the best places to live, visit, study and do business in. CNN voted Durban as one of the world’s top 10 most underrated cities. The recently published Master Card Global Destination City Index has predicted that Durban will be this year’s fastest growing city in Africa, and will be the second-fastest growing tourism city of 132 cities surveyed worldwide.

Durban has won the Vuna award and favourable investment grade credit ratings as a result of its financially strong local government, and has invested in a number of business enablers. These include a huge, expanding fibre optic system, and vigorous participation in Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) initiatives, often the start of partnerships for industrialisation and development. Indian foreign direct investment into Durban alone has topped R3-billion over the last four years.

The city’s economic growth outstrip average growth rates in South Africa, and are also higher than those of many other major centres. Durban is aiming at a growth rate of more than 5% — not an unachievable number.

Durban has the continent’s leading infrastructure base, including virtual infrastructure like globalised financial services. Durban has the most award-winning electricity distribution on the continent, a vast road network, and new opportunities for a partnership-accelerated water treatment and supply base.

There are large amounts of vacant land available at realistic prices across the 2300km² city. Durban leads the sub-continent in terms of port infrastructure, with Sub-Saharan Africa’s busiest harbour, plus the expanded King Shaka International Airport and Dube Trade Port Aerotropolis.

Durban is presently South Africa’s sole bid city for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, and possibly the 2024 Olympics.

Over 65% of the province’s economy is generated in Durban, and the Durban Chamber of Commerce is the country’s oldest and largest metro chamber.

Having the second-largest business and industrial base in South Africa provides many options for suppliers, support services and customers. The Durban Investment Dashboard for the City of Durban catalogues over 65 active “flagship projects”, with a cumulative value in excess of R620-billion. These have the potential to produce over 600 000 permanent jobs, and over R8-billion in new rates revenue for the municipality.

Durban has embedded manufacturing capacities and some of the country’s largest businesses. KwaZulu-Natal has the largest share of the most productive agricultural land in South Africa. This is providing much-needed rural and peri-urban employment across the whole province, along with further product beneficiation and renewable energy opportunities.

The region’s tourism sector stats continue to reflect growth in excess of 13%, and new trends are emerging such as a large rise in tourists from the United States.

The call-centre and business process outsourcing industries in Durban continue to grow and are expanding local job opportunities. The film and media sectors have a bright horizon, with new local production facilities in the pipeline.

KwaZulu-Natal has the inherent potential to become a massive power generation and waste recycling region.

The eThekwini municipality has done some good work on its own energy efficiency front, and on the green economy partnership platform known as the KZN Sustainable Energy Forum.

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