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KZN government launches RBIDZ Techno Hub

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Finance, Mrs Belinda Scott, and MEC for Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mr Sihle Zikalala, launched two multi-million rand projects to boost the economy of the City of uMhlathuze in Richards Bay last Friday.

Scott turned the sod of a R35-million Techno Hub project and Zikalala unveiled the R16-million Gate Complex in Phase 1A, which signals the readiness of the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone (RBIDZ) to attract even more investors. These projects are earmarked to stimulate economic growth in the area through science, research and technological innovations.

The RBDIZ Techno Hub is the second of four science and technology innovation centres to be rolled out in KwaZulu-Natal, after the Provincial Treasury launched the first techno hub in Port Shepstone last month. Two more will be launched soon, in Newcastle and Pietermaritzburg.

These Techno Hubs are expected to draw high-tech entrepreneurs, private businesses, academic institutions, researchers and investors interested in providing concepts through innovationo create platforms for the commercialisation of technology and innovation-based businesses.

  • Click here to read MEC Scott's full speech

Addressing stakeholders who attended ceremony, Scott said the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) and the RBIDZ have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding regarding involvement within the Techno Hub. MUT will play a supportive role at the Techno Hub with Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

The TVET and RBIDZ have also entered into a Recognition Agreement and lease documents have been prepared for signature by both parties. Infrastructure requirements within the Techno Hub site for the TVET/MUT Technology Campus will be formulated for approval by a Provincial Steering Committee.

"According to the Cost Benefit Analysis report which the Provincial Treasury conducted in 2013, the total cost of developing four comprehensive and fully occupied techno hubs in KZN is estimated at R5.4 billion over a 15-year period. The associated operational costs are estimated at R6 billion over the 15-year period," said Scott.

She added that "the Provincial Treasury has secured funding of R120 million through the General Budget Support Programme over the 2015/16 to 2017/18 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).

"The current funding will only support the development of phases 1 at each of the four locations. Phase 1 refers to the provision of bulk infrastructure, some top structures to initiate the projects, and development facilitation and planning. However, funding applications will continue to be submitted to enhance the current R120 million," Scott said. 

One of the most interesting features about techno hubs is that they aim to convene like-minded individuals as well as business people and investors, who focus on and emphasise adaptation to local context while, at the same time, forming part of a global movement.

Zikalala also unveiled a R16-million rand RBIDZ Phase 1A customs control Gate Complex at the same event.

He said the Gate Complex would be a Customs Controlled Area (CCA) with dedicated RBIDZ staff and South African Revenue Services (Sars) officials to provide support for access control, customs control requirements and VAT requirements. 

"The RBIDZ was created as one of the original four industrial development zones as far back as 2002. However, it only really started developing since obtaining its permanent operator permit in 2009 and the employment of a new management team and board in 2010 and 2012 respectively," said Zikalala.

"The RBIDZ is tailored for manufacturing of goods and production of services to boost beneficiation, investment, economic growth and the development of skills and employment. The IDZ aims to encourage international competitiveness through tax and duty-free incentives, as well as world-class infrastructure.

"The CCA is the backbone of the IDZ programme it ensures full compliance to all Sars requirements and allows locators to benefit from the incentives such as VAT-free transactions, no import/export duties and expedited customs procedures. Locators within the IDZ can also qualify for additional incentives such as reduced Income Tax rate (reduced from 28% to 15%), accelerated depreciation on structures built and Youth Wage subsidy being applicable to all employees within a certain threshold," he said.

RBIDZ CEO Phumelele Motsoahae said a key priority is to establish effective infrastructure to drive Richards Bay’s development objectives to become the province's prime investment hub.

"RBIDZ is committed to ensuring that it plays its role in helping to achieve government's objectives of creating employment opportunities and investments for our area, which will lead to poverty alleviation and skills enhancement," said Motsoahae.