Chamber positions Bay of Opportunity during launch of Local Economy Reinvention Think Tank

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2024-06-06
Press Releases

The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber officially launched its Local Economy Reinvention Think Tank today, marking a significant step towards achieving its vision of unlocking the potential of the metro as the Bay of Opportunity, says Denise van Huyssteen, Chamber’s chief executive.

The launch included the signing of a pledge by business leaders who committed to collectively adopt a united vision of unlocking the potential opportunities which Nelson Mandela Bay has to enable it to become a diverse manufacturing base on the African continent.

According to the pledge, the initiative will be supported through the involvement of the intellectual and other resources of members, partners and other key role players in the applicable workstreams of the Chamber’s Think Tank.

“Key to this endeavour is the commitment to collaborate in identifying opportunities aimed at retaining and creating investment and jobs in the Metro. This commitment was symbolised by the signing of a pledge during the launch event,” says Van Huyssteen.

To attract and retain investment and employment, the Chamber has devised a strategy which will be driven through its Local Economy Reinvention Think Tank, Investors Forum, and Nelson Mandela Bay Climate Change Coalition. Strong linkages and partnerships with local, provincial and national organisations are being established to drive the vision forward. These include among others Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC), Presidential Climate Commission, National Association of Automotive and Allied Manufacturers (Naacam), National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa), Automotive Industry Development Centre - EC (AIDC-EC), and the Consumer Goods Council South Africa, with the signing of Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) solidifying some of these partnerships.

“We have long known the need to diversify the local economy and reduce our over-reliance on the automotive environment in which to do business,” she says. 

Recognising the massive disruptive changes which are happening globally and locally, the Think Tank is focused on positioning Nelson Mandela Bay as a Bay of Opportunity. Leveraging its two ports, the city aims to become a world-class logistics hub for imports and exports. Additionally, prioritising infrastructure inter-connectivity of enabling rail, road and ports is crucial for retaining and accelerating private sector investment and jobs.

Van Huyssteen also highlights that the Metro has a unique value proposition based on the strategic location of the Coega IDZ, ample solar and wind power, highly skilled people in manufacturing, the flexibility of the workforce and availability of young people. It is also a prominent player in the South African automotive industry, and home to a diversified manufacturing sector with depth in skills, technology and innovation capacity. Furthermore, it is the only accredited battery testing lab in South Africa, and has a manageable large urban sprawl and is also home to Hive Hydrogen’s planned multi-billion rand investment in a green ammonia production plant. Green hydrogen economy is viewed as a key catalyst that could support new manufacturing and energy security for developing economies.

“Our Bay is the potential anchor of a myriad of downstream opportunities such as manufacturing of electrolysers, small scale hydrogen combustion engines, fuel cells, medical devices, wind turbines and the production of not only of green energy but the equipment for generating that energy,” she says.    

The Chamber’s Local Economy Reinvention Think Tank Co-Lead, Quintin Uren says that to reinvent the economy and remain competitive, the Chamber has set its sights on diversifying the local manufacturing industries, capitalise on global gaps, shift the focus from automobile to “altermotive” mobility, strengthen the industry’s flexibility and resilience, utilise Climate Change as an opportunity, retain and grow engineering talent, leverage natural resources, get the city working, to work towards embedding the Nelson Mandela Bay ports and Rail Corridor in the government’s national strategy, including leveraging BRICS relationships.

He says that he hoped that all these co-ordinated efforts would enable the Metro to unlock its true potential so that much needed investment and jobs can be retained and created here.

“It is therefore very heartening to see that these discussions around the Think Tank and what is seeks to achieve are now turning into action. Too often talk ends up just being talk. In fact as we all know, one of our country’s shortcomings is that we have many good plans but too seldom do they end up actually being implemented,” says Uren.

“As a business community we have hope in the future – we know that this is the Bay of Opportunity. It starts with all of us believing in the potential and taking action to drive things forward in the right direction.”