PRETORIA, The recent approval of the 30-year Aetrotopolis master plan centred on OR Tambo International Airport, South Africa’s main aviation gateway, will bring much needed jobs for South Africa’s Gauteng province, the smallest but most populous province in the country.

The City of Ekurhuleni — one of the five districts of Gauteng province and one of the eight metropolitan municipalities of South Africa — at its council meeting at the end of October approved the master plan which will pave the way for economic impact projected at 8.1 billion Rand (about 564 million US dollars) per annum.

Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwadile Masina said Tuesday that the Aerotropolis is envisaged to be a game-changing intervention which would facilitate spatial, economic and social transformation. Using labour intensive scenarios, the Aerotropolis promises massive job creation, and is set to change the landscape of joblessness in the city and in Gauteng province, which also includes the South African administrative capital, Pretoria, and the financial capital, Johannesburg.

The master plan, the mayor said, had been developed to identify projects in sectors such as retail, aerospace, advanced manufacturing, logistics and distribution, research and development, health and life sciences to be used as enablers of the economic turnaround plan.

Ekuhuleni spokesperson Themba Radebe, said the plan had been in the pipeline for about five years. The City of Ekurhuleni, the Gauteng Provincial Government and the Airports Company South Africa have embarked on the development of the Ekurhuleni Aerotropolis.

This programme is a deliberate growth trajectory that aims to reposition and enhance the value proposition of the Gauteng City Region, with a particular emphasis of the Ekurhuleni Regional Economy as the footprint of the first Aerotropolis in the African continent, said the mayor.

The Aerotropolis — the first on the African continent — leverages on the presence of the airport which handles 19 million passengers every year and has the capacity for 60 million passengers. OR Tambo International also handles 83 per cent of all air cargo movements in South Africa, thus playing a critical economic role for South Africa, Gauteng and Ekurhuleni.

OR Tambo International Airport is in a good position to accelerate its logistic and air cargo activities regionally. The airport is already a gateway for the transit of high value time sensitive products, such as electronic equipment, as well as textiles and footwear for nearby countries, the mayor said.

At the centre of the master plan is an initiative to redesign the city’s layout, infrastructure and economy to be centred on a major airport. Masina said that the critical road infrastructure networks are being prioritised to unlock the footprint of the Aerotropolis to enable mobility, integration and densification.

This through exploring ways of leveraging the economic opportunities created from having the OR Tambo International Airport located in the city to position the city to become a destination for investors seeking to relocate their operations.

When coming to funding, the mayor said, the project requires a multi-layered approach that is capable of leveraging on the financial capabilities of the private and public sector.

The funding plan requires strategic partnerships between all stakeholders, including government, development finance institutions, property owners, developers and investors, research and development agencies, institute of higher learning, external funders and underwriters through a systematic and coordinated integrated development planning process in order to deliver the strategic objectives of the Aerotropolis.