The inaugural Sedibeng Investment Conference on Friday saw foreign and local investors commit at least R40 billion towards reigniting the region’s economy.
If investors put their money where their mouths are, the investment could create 170,000 jobs in the district, south of Johannesburg.
During the conference, Gauteng Premier David Makhura described the gathering as a “game changer”, if the commitments made are followed through and the investments are brought to fruition.
“We must warn ourselves…that history may be very harsh on us if this becomes a talk shop,” said Makhura.
He warned that future generations would be watching pledges like this to see if there would be follow through on investment commitments.
“Future generations could say like many conferences, they met, they made speeches, they made pledges and nothing came of it,” he warned.
“We come together not because we want speeches but because we want change. We want to drive real change,” Makhura said.
The region – which includes the Emfuleni, Lesedi and Midvaal local municipalities – has “huge, hidden” economic potential, which all three spheres of government want to unlock.
All things green
One of the areas the Gauteng government is eyeing for development lies in unlocking the potential of green energy.
“This must be the birthplace of green industrialisation in Gauteng because it’s the birthplace of industrialisation, which is considered [a] ‘dirty industry’, said Makhura.
Makhura said cannabis farming is also an industry the government would be targeting for growth.
“There is potential to bring in new emerging farmers into the cannabis economy, principally for export, including processing.”
Gauteng has identified the West Rand and the Vaal Triangle as potential special economic zones for “incubation hubs”.
There are already some developments underway in the Vaal.
Entrepreneur Benny de Beer’s has kicked off a “revolutionary medical cannabis project”. His company, CBD Full Spectrum Manufacturers International, is working to develop a local medicinal marijuana market.
De Beer is also offering support for local doctors applying for section 21 medicinal cannabis licences at the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra).
Other industries and sectors identified in the Vaal economy include agro-processing, agribusiness, food and beverages, transport and logistics, and tourism and hospitality.