Gauteng premier David Makhura says his provincial government plans to develop a new smart city in the Vaal triangle, which he wants to make the ‘cannabis capital of Africa’.
In a media briefing on Tuesday (26 October), Makhura said that the project, which includes some areas in the Free State and Mpumalanga province, will become the cornerstone of a new Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
Unlike other smart city models proposed for the country, Makhura noted that the Vaal smart city would focus on emerging technologies, including:
- A new logistics sector;
- A hub of the cannabis industry;
- A hub for the hydrogen economy in the Gauteng region.
“The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and Gauteng provincial government, in collaboration with Sedibeng District Municipality, have already established the Vaal River SEZ Company and the programme management unit, in line with applicable legislation, to help coordinate and fast-track all the planning and rollout of specific shovel ready projects that will catalyse the entire smart city and SEZ,” Makhura said.
However, the premier noted that the Sedibeng area had faced serious service delivery in recent years. Some analysts recently posited that it was the worst run municipality in South Africa.
“On our part as government, we fully understand that the major obstacle to the realisation of the SEZ and smart city has been the infrastructure decay and the decline in the quality of governance,” Makhura said.
“Poor maintenance of infrastructure, sanitation infrastructure and poor governance has led to the sewer spillage into the Vaal River and the consequent devastating impact on the economy and environment of the Vaal.”
To remedy these service delivery issues, Makhura said that road infrastructure in the surrounding area would receive a significant upgrade, including the construction of the new interchange, which will catalyse the development of the smart city and the Vaal River SEZ.
He added that other maintenance and infrastructure would be introduced to support the new smart city development.
“The team of administrators has refurbished and fixed 15 electricity substations to mitigate the chronic power supply problems terribly affecting communities and businesses of Sedibeng. We have procured 30 waste management trucks for Emfuleni Local Municipality to improve waste management and refuse removal.
“Our drive to re-industrialise this region has prompted the government to continue to encourage the evolution of local businesses to new opportunities and support existing businesses to be competitive.”
Hydrogen and cannabis
A key differentiator for the Vaal City will be a strong focus on the hydrogen economy, said Makhura. “Energy company Sasol and Mitochondria Renewable are leading ground-breaking initiatives on making the Vaal the hydrogen economic hub for Gauteng.”
Several renewable energy initiatives are underway, and these will create new industries and small businesses that will provide jobs and income to the people of this region:
- Solar & battery storage;
- Circular economy;
- Carbon capture.
Makhura said that a ‘Vaal Cannabis Consortium’, coordinated by MK Malefane, has also put forward plans that will see major investment into the development of the Vaal as the major hub for Cannabis growing, processing and export.
All these initiatives must be inclusive, transformative, and empowering for small businesses and township businesses based in the Vaal, he said. He added that they must bring in black business, women, and young people in this region to play a meaningful role.
Makhura said the intention is to make the Vaal “the Cannabis Capital of Africa”.
“The new sector that has enormous potential to offer opportunities to new emerging farmers and new industrialists who grow and process cannabis for medicinal and other uses,” he said.
“The planning for Lanseria is complete. Now we focus on Vaal River City and SEZ.”