A vision of green growth

Atlantis SEZ helps boost manufacturing and uplift the community

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The Atlantis Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for Green Technologies has launched to considerable fanfare, bringing with it the hope that South African manufacturing can be reignited by aligning with the growing global trend towards green technology, including energy, agriculture, water and waste. No small part in this success story has been the commitment of and ongoing collaboration between local, provincial and national government and GreenCape.

Francis Jackson, Atlantis SEZ: Project Executive at GreenCape, elaborates: “It goes back as far as 2010, when the City and provincial government first started to brainstorm how Atlantis could be leveraged for green technologies.

Some of those ideas went into the revitalisation framework for Atlantis. Then in 2011-2012, the City of Cape Town established a green-tech hub programme in Atlantis. In 2013, the national Department of Trade and Industry's (dti) SEZ program got under way, and Atlantis was nominated to be one of those SEZs.

The first green tech investors started trickling in, and we applied for Atlantis to be designated under the program. This bore fruit in 2018, when the dti gazetted parts of Atlantis as an SEZ and we had the presidential launch.”

According to Jackson, what sets Atlantis apart is that it has been conceived from the start with existing and potential green-tech manufacturing market opportunities and needs in mind.

“The SEZ provides a suite of opportunities flowing from the co-location of such industries. Our aim is to attract a green tech industrial eco-system. The market opportunity is there. For example, the signing of the power purchase agreements for the fourth round of the renewable energy IPP procurement program brought in an injection of some R56billion in committed investments, bringing the total committed to that programme alone to R200billion. The SEZ already has two committed investors in that sector, with a slew of interested parties in the pipeline.”

The next steps will be to operationalise the SEZ, which include establishing the governance framework and entity for running it, the operations, and the infrastructure development programme.

On the community side, says Jackson, “There’s support for skills development and enterprise development, which would include the supplier development programmes. There’s already been a lot of progress on engaging in those work streams and building the right kind of social capital. It’s a key directive from the dti that small and medium enterprises are supported and capacitated by this SEZ as well.”

Because of the highly skilled nature of green technology work, skills development has been fast-tracked to ensure local capacity meets industry needs. To help youth tap into emerging greentech job opportunities, the SEZ has facilitated training, mentoring, exposure to greentech, and participation in the annual Renewable Energy Challenge and career expo.

Adults have benefited from training on solar PV for people from Atlantis and surrounds, while three women from Atlantis recruited as interns in the SEZ project office have successfully transitioned into permanent appointments.

This success is due in great measure to the SEZs progressive approach to community engagement.

“People need the mechanisms to be able to engage,” says Jackson. “What we are doing is establishing such a framework, a community structure that enables that conversation to take place between the SEZ and the various representative groups in the community. It’s been a wonderful evolution to watch and I think it’s something quite new and different to how SEZ’s have progressed so far.

“We’ve seen graduates from our skills development program setting up their own businesses, we’ve seen locals looking at the opportunities in waste recycling and biogas—and there’s also been a culture shift. It’s not just about developing the manufacturing of such technologies, but also showcasing how you can set up an industrial park to be more sustainable and to use principles such as industrial symbiosis.

“GreenCape's Western Cape Industrial Symbiosis Programme (WISP) has audited Atlantis and had great results in increasing revenue, reducing costs, linking material flows through existing Atlantis industries, and also revealed market opportunities, a couple of which have been already taken up by local entrepreneurs,” concludes Jackson.

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