Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane has on Friday outlined several priorities for the provincial government, including creating employment which he believes will lead to a flourishing province.

Delivering the province’s 2023 State of the Province Address (SOPA), Mabuyane said the Eastern Cape will this year focus on creating an inclusive economy; providing quality healthcare and education; rolling out basic services such as water, roads, and electricity, and building safer communities.

“This is our contract with the people of our province,” he told the assembly.

The Premier described the year 2022 as “eventful”.

“We had times of hardship but also moments of wonder, that brought great joy in our hearts because they were an affirmation that our efforts of building the Eastern Cape we want are on track.”

Despite these setbacks – including the demise of the 21 youngsters at Enyobeni Tavern – he said he considered 2022 as a year of tremendous progress.

“Our story of good progress begins on the economy because it is the key piece in the puzzle of poverty, unemployment and inequality that we are trying to solve.”

Economy and jobs

The provincial economy is on a path to recovery, after the devastating period of the COVID-19 pandemic, recording growth in the Eastern Cape gross domestic product (GDP) in the first three quarters of 2022.

The number of employed people in the province increased by 144 000 between the third quarter of 2021 and the third quarter of 2022.

“Every day, our minds are occupied by unlocking more opportunities for economic growth, so that women, men and young persons who need a job can get one. Today, I want to assure the people of our province that more jobs are coming.” 

He told the Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPL) that last year, the province made history by attracting 11 new investors at the Provincial Investment Conference with a combined value of R46 billion.

These include Shoprite Group, Tshedza Pictures, Transnet Port of Ngqura, Benteler, Sun Farming, South African Breweries, Mhlobiso Concrete, Toyota Material Handling, Sanaha Property Developments, Sanral and Aqora Lithium Battery.

In addition, the newly announced investment projects worth over R1.3 billion are underway with 1 198 jobs created.

The Premier told the assembly that SAB’s Ibhayi Brewery is investing R510 million in plant expansion which will lead to more jobs. 

Last year’s new investments take the cumulative total for the sixth administration to R171 billion.

“As a result of these investments, 21 664 people in our province are now employed in various sectors of the economy.”

In the meantime, the province has established an Eastern Cape Economic Development Fund, which will recapitalise private partners to unlock future investments.

He announced that he has tasked the Automotive Industry Development Centre-EC to work with the private sector to implement projects that would prepare them to transition to electric vehicles.

Key among these projects, he said, is the installation of public electric vehicle charging stations in all key routes, enhancement of electric vehicle skills and promotion of renewable energy projects to sustain the demands of the auto sector.

He also said they are establishing an automotive aftermarket programme that will benefit 300 panel beaters and mechanics and will focus on training, capacity building and aftermarket funding over the next three years.

Mabuyane said the province’s two operational Special Economic Zones (SEZ) continue to be a beacon of hope and excellence.

In the last few months, the ELIDZ has attracted R535 million in investment, while the Coega SEZ has received pledges of R557.7 million.