Modern, Growing, Successful Province

Address by Mr John Block, MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism to the Northern Cape Legislature on the occasion of tabling Budget Vote 6

Honourable Speaker
Honourable Deputy Speaker
Honourable Members of the Provincial Legislature
Madame Premier
Colleagues in the Executive Council
Chairpersons and CEOs of the Boards
Distinguished Guests
People of the Northern Cape
Ladies and Gentleman
Honourable Speaker,

Sixty years ago (1955) at the end of the Congress of the People, while facing the might of the Apartheid Regime, our leaders, armed only with the God-ordained desire for liberty, pledged: "These freedoms we will fight for; side by side, throughout our lives, until we have won our liberty".

This diabolical regime contrived to destroy this desire by soaking the African soil with the blood of the martyrs, but instead of disheartening us, it served to galvanise us and strengthen our resolve.

On 15 October 1985, on Thornton Road in Athlone, Cape Town, the Apartheid regime sunk to a new low. They loaded a truck with crates, leaving a space in the centre. This they filled with armed policemen. They drove the truck into the middle of a peaceful protest and opened fire on the protestors, killing three. This infamous incident became known as “The Trojan Horse Massacre.”

Today we have three Trojan horses produced by Apartheid policies, namely,  inequality, poverty and unemployment. They prance around in our midst and seek to trample upon the blood-bought freedoms of the martyrs of democracy, a democracy that is entrenched in the Freedom Charter. We are committed to making the structural and systemic changes that are necessary for a political and economic landscape which is conducive to radical economic transformation to effectively slay these Trojan horses. We have designed plans to ensure inclusive economic growth, increased employment opportunities and improvement of the skills levels in this Province, aimed at alleviating poverty and thereby creating a better life for all the people of our beloved Province.

Honourable Speaker, when confronting the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, I alluded to the fact in my previous budget speech that an initial budget of R 235, 601 million which was adjusted to R279, 028 million for the Department to deliver on the targets outlined in our Annual Performance Plan (APP). The department spent R276, 731 million (99.18%) of the allocated budget for the 2014/15 financial year to achieve the set targets. I will briefly highlight some of the more significant achievements of the previous financial year.

I am pleased to report that the Department achieved an unqualified report, thus a clean audit, from the Auditor General (AG) in the 2013/14 financial year. I would like to commend the staff and leadership of the Department for this outstanding effort.

The Department has compiled a number of research reports, which included:

  • four economic intelligence reports focusing on sectors important to the Northern Cape like Agro-processing and Renewable energy and the Special Economic Zone;
  • the Unemployment Dynamics of the Province,
  • Turning social grants into economic opportunities, and
  • Compiling a Growth Inequality Index focusing on Economic Inclusivity.


The Department has reviewed the provincial Tourism Master Plan (TMP).

Forty Five (45) FET College tourism students participated in the research of four key tourism events that broadened their understanding of the tourism industry and provided them with requisite skills in research. It also provides the Province with valuable data regarding the impact of these events on the economy. These key research reports have guided us in developing strategic interventions, which are integrated within our plans to create a conducive environment for inclusive economic growth and alleviating poverty and unemployment.

The New Growth Path and the Skills Accord have highlighted the fact that skills development is a catalyst in achieving the developmental objectives of the Province which includes the creation of an environment conducive to economic growth, decreased unemployment and a reduction of inequality. We implemented the following skills development initiatives in order to empower participants to take advantage of the opportunities existing in the economic environment. These initiatives include the following:

  • The Bavumile Skills Training programme, which was coordinated in collaboration with the DTI, and which empowered 184 women in the Frances Baard, John Taolo Gaetsewe and ZF Mgcawu regions.
  • The Kimberley International Diamond and Jewellery Academy (KIDJA) provided training to 57 students in the field of mineral beneficiation.
  • In anticipation of the Bloodhound Supersonic Car land speed record attempt, two workshops were held in the Mier area to support the skills and service development of enterprises. This resulted in 74 people being trained on business skills, financial management skills and customer care.
  • 40 youth were trained on jewellery manufacturing, pottery, beading and semi-precious stone cutting and polishing at the Prieska Loxion Hub.
  • Training on access to incentives from the DTI was also conducted for departmental officials to improve assistance to smme’s and coops regarding applications for national incentives.

The Deputy Minister of Tourism, Ms. Tokozile Xasa, successfully launched the Journey to Excellence (J2SE) pilot programme in Upington on the 4th of September 2014. As a precursor to the launch, intensive sessions of Service Excellence Training were held in Upington on the 26-27th of February and 4-5th of March 2014 reaching a total of 221 participants.

In addition to skills development initiatives, the following strategic interventions yielded significant outcomes:

  • A total of 166 SMMEs and 73 cooperatives were assisted during the 2014/2015 financial year. The nature of the assistance included accessing funding opportunities, the development of business plans, obtaining BBBEE certification, marketing materials, incubation, business registration, training in business and financial skills, market exposure, and public procurement;
  • In total 11 EPWP projects were implemented and to date 362 jobs have been created with a focus on the targeted groups.

Honourable Speaker, we are committed to ensuring that SMME’s are export ready  and we continually strive to leverage external markets for our products. In order to achieve this, we visited the USA, Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines, China and Japan. These visits opened up markets for the exports of provincially produced products such as olives, pecan nuts, grapes, wines and raisins.

The Province was also successfully marketed as a tourist destination. The increase in tourists from these countries testifies to the success of these outbound missions. Two media groups from the Philippines, one of which is internationally renowned, visited the Province and produced several internationally published articles promoting the Province. A tour group of twenty-six Philippine tourists also visited the Province. Myanmar and Thai chefs were trained locally in Northern Cape cuisine, with the aim of replicating our dishes in a renowned hotel chain.

In 2014/15 we managed improved performance and outcomes in terms of the Kimberley Diamond Cup (KDC). This event, which is a flagship event for the Province, is now accepted as one of the world’s most influential skateboarding championships drawing skaters from 37 different countries. Last year it was broadcast to 147 million homes across the globe (Source: Cision & Newsclip Research). The event promoted Kimberley and the Province as a premier destination for adventure tourism and extreme sports.

No less than 56 SMMEs were contracted to participate in the KDC as service providers and 45 vendors traded during KDC Week. We created 356 temporary jobs including 9 permanent ones.

Skateboarding for Hope (SFH) was also a key feature of the build-up to the main KDC event. Two additional SFH events were held and an additional Pro Tour as well. We also managed to create 568 temporary job opportunities separate from the KDC-generated job opportunities.

The Barney Barnato Golf Week attracted 450 visiting golfers and resulted in 55 job opportunities.

Grants were awarded to tourism SMMEs for product development and market access. Six of these grants were awarded to emerging SMMEs (start-ups) in Mier as we work towards creating homestays in preparation for the Bloodhound Super Sonic Car (SSC) Land Speed Record in 2016.

The Department tested devices for improving connectivity and Government information services delivery in rural municipalities like Mier. We have purchased three micro-server devices to host information content, which can be accessed through free information exchange tools on mobile phones. The first device will be deployed in Mier in time for the Bloodhound SSC and a second in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District.

Through the committed efforts of the Department, in conjunction with the Northern Cape Tourism Authority (NCTA), the brand Northern Cape has been transformed into a globally recognized brand, with consistent application during the year under review.

Honourable Speaker, the impact of this marketing and branding strategy can be seen in the statistics released by National Tourism for the 2013 year which indicates that tourism growth in the Province has been substantial, especially when compared to the countrywide performance of the sector.

Between 2010 and 2013 we measured growth of 104% for domestic tourism in the Province. Domestic visits increased from 219,000 domestic visitors in 2010 to 446,000. Foreign visitors to the Province increased by 82 percent from 96,329 to 175,446. There is no doubt that this is a substantial improvement, which holds much promise for us going forward. The Northern Cape is recognised as the fastest growing foreign destination in the country.

Honourable Speaker, we would like to present the Northern Cape as a favourable foreign destination for both in terms of Tourism and trade and investment. The Northern Cape Economic Development Agency (NCEDA) was established to respond to the challenge of translating high-level investment and business opportunities in the area into actual business operations that may contribute directly to economic growth and social equity for the people of the Northern Cape Province. Last year I announced that the Department will develop a new policy position on the future of NCEDA. I am glad to announce that NCEDA, as a catalyst for the acceleration of sustainable economic growth and development in the Province, is being transformed to focus on new industries such as renewable energy. NCEDA will therefore play a key role in developing the Upington Solar Special Economic Zone. The Province has secured funding to the value of R 28 million over the MTEF of which R5,7 million was received for 2014/2015 and R9 million for the 2015/2016 financial year.

The Northern Cape Provincial Government, through the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, hosted the Northern Cape BRICS Exhibition and Investor Conference from the 29th – 31st October 2014. In addition to the BRICS countries, the conference also exposed local SMMEs to potential investors and traders from Mauritius, Thailand and the rest of the African continent. A total of 1179 delegates attended the BRICS Expo and Investment Conference.

The BRICS Conference also yielded Memorandums of Understanding between the Northern Cape Province and Beijing Solar and Green Energy Company, as well as a Cooperation Agreement reached on investment opportunity between Tsantsabane Local Municipality and the Xiangxi District, Hunan Province. The Hunan TV Station also developed a documentary on trade and investment opportunities.
The Istanbul Jewellery Chamber has shown a keen interest in setting up jewellery manufacturing operations as well as a diamond cutting and polishing plant in the Province.

Based on the long-term vision of the province to grow the manufacturing sector we have utilised the Economic Growth and Development Fund (EGDF) to assist enterprises in this sector for 2014/15 creating a total of 110 jobs. The Manufacturing Sector has been prioritised as a job driver because of its labour intensive potential. One major intervention of note was the introduction of manufacturing clusters (Mineral Beneficiation Cluster, Agro-Processing Cluster and Clothing Manufacturing Cluster).

The Mineral Beneficiation Cluster acquired 50 hectares of land in Ga-Segonyana Municipality, earmarked for manufacturing activities and to accommodate the revised business model for the Cluster. Seven firms have been secured to participate in the Clothing Manufacturing Cluster and a Cluster Management Company has been established.

The Northern Cape Technology Station in Upington is operational, has signed on several clients already and is promoted daily to a broader audience.  A further breakthrough has been the Technology Innovation Station targetting the revitalisation of the Upington Algae Plant.  A detailed feasibility study is being concluded in collaboration with SEDA.

Foreign vehicle companies testing new vehicles and technology have been frequenting the province.  The Department has been supporting the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, Gerotek and these companies to ensure the Northern Cape remain their preferred destination.  This has resulted in Volvo securing a permanent testing space in the province as one of the leading vehicle manufacturers in the world.  One of the biggest European luxury vehicle car producers are currently also finalising their plans for a permanent vehicle testing facility in the Province.

The Port Nolloth and Hondeklipbay Harbour upgrades have continued in the past financial year.  The Department of Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry is still funding the project and the Namakwa District Municipality is the implementing agent with support from the Department.

The Department supported thirty (30) regional representatives, from the Northern Cape to attend the launch of the Youth Chamber of Commerce and Industries of South Africa (YCCI SA), which was launched in July 2014. The Chamber is established from the mandate outlined in Section 3.1 of the NYDA Act and is championed out of the Office of the Deputy Minister in the Presidency. The Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industries (NCYCCI), as well as the district Chambers has been established.

Honourable speaker, the Department is also responsible for a number of entities. I will briefly highlight some of the achievements or milestones reached over the previous financial year.

The Northern Cape Liquor Board is tasked, amongst other duties, to consider liquor license applications and all license applications received in the financial year 2014/2015 were processed.

In considering the social impact of alcohol abuse in the province, the Board only issued 66 new liquor licenses for the financial year 2014/2015. Most of the new permanent liquor licenses issued was restaurant-type licences, mainly due to spatial developments in the Province (i.e. malls and guesthouses).

The Northern Cape Gambling Board issued the third permanent Casino license to Oasis Casino in Kuruman which became operational in December 2014. It also issued two Route Operator Licenses in the project to roll-out Limited Pay-out Machines (LPMs) in the province. I am pleased to announce that the new Board members were appointed effective April 2015 for a term of three years.

Honourable Speaker, due to the considerable efforts of the department and the Northern Cape Liquor and Gambling Boards, a total of R21, 522 million in revenue was generated.

In 2014/2015 the Consumer Protection Authority (CPA) saved consumers a total of R2 610 802 (two million six hundred and ten thousand, eight hundred and two rand) by investigating 1475 complaints and resolving 874. In addition, 40 cases were referred to the now fully operational Northern Cape Consumer Court.

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

My fellow friends and compatriots of the Northern Cape, we are in a precarious economic environment and as such the predisposition of the economic structure of our provincial economy means we are more susceptible to the global events. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the world economy is anticipated to grow by a lowly 3.5 per cent in 2015, and the global body projects a positive outlook for the advanced economies, while growth in emerging market and developing economies is projected to be lower, primarily reflecting weaker prospects for some large emerging market economies and oil exporting countries. The IMF has also revised its earlier growth projections for the country (i.e. South Africa) to 2.0% and anticipated to grow further by 2.4% for 2016. The revision in the growth forecast follow on the current loadshedding by Eskom that has plagued the country in recent times.

Honourable Speaker, the Budget Review 2015 projects national average real growth at 2 percent this year and 2.4 percent in 2016. These are rather low rates of growth since we require average real growth rates above 5 percent per annum. The Northern Cape tends to be more sensitive to global events, given its economic structure. According to Statistics South Africa, the Northern Cape GDP grew by 2.1 per cent in 2013. Unfortunately, the growth levels predicted are insufficient to make a meaningful dent on the unemployment rate of 28.7%%. It is important to note that even though the province created 18 000 jobs (mainly seasonal – agriculture, fishing and retail)  in the fourth quarter of 2014, we still have high numbers of unemployed people especially amongst the youth.

Now the economic dilemma that bedevils us is how we ensure that we promote an economy that sustainably grows and creates employment for the masses of our people. Honourable speaker there are a few aspects of growth that we need to consider, namely:

  • What drives growth is not  always good for jobs or for reducing inequality;
  • We need growth to sustainably raise living standards; and
  • We need jobs to reduce inequality.

The National Development Plan (NDP) proposes models to apprehend this economic dilemma.

As a province we are a Mining and exporting province, and while our exploits are good for growth they do not guarantee employment for our people; as such the NDP propose a move towards labour intensive activities. Key interventions are therefore required to explore the potential of beneficiation – Mineral and Agro-processing and new industries. However, our primary challenge is to deal with the structural and competitiveness challenges that hold back production and investment in our economy. The most important of these is the security and reliability of energy supply.

Electricity restricts growth in manufacturing and mining, and also inhibits investment in housing and raise costs for businesses and households. Higher growth is possible, if we make good progress in responding to the electricity challenge or if export performance is stronger. The best short-term prospects for faster growth lie in less energy-intensive sectors such as tourism, agriculture, light manufacturing and housing construction. These are also sectors that employ more people, and so they contribute to more inclusive growth. Efforts to support these sectors have to be intensified.

I am pleased to announce that the province is well on track to become a net exporter of renewable energy by 2020. This is in terms of the vision outlined in the Provincial Renewable Energy Strategy. Against our current demand of 725 MW, there is already over 2,000 MW approved in terms of bid windows (BWs) 1, 2, 3 and 4 respectively.

In the provincial context, Gini-Coefficient has decreased between 2002 and 2012, from 0.64 to 0.58 respectively. Pleasing is the fact that inequality has somewhat stagnated, as it remained at 0.58 in 2013, which bodes well for the future. The decline could be ascribed to the marginal increase in economic activity in the province and public policy interventions by Government. However, inequality remains one of the structural constraints plaguing the provincial growth.

We will continue to focus our efforts on the following three interventions i.e. Enterprise development, Main Economies (Manufacturing, Mining, Agriculture and Tourism) and the new economies (Knowledge, Green and Ocean economies).

BUDGET ALLOCATION 2015/16

Honourable Speaker, please allow me now to table the budget allocation of the Department for the 2015/ 2016 which amounts to R266, 436 million in an on-going effort to address the triple challenge in our economy. I have already indicated in the 2015 Budget Speech that fiscal consolidation by national government has resulted in reductions in provincial baselines. This department’s allocation shows an increase of R30, 835 million; this represents a 13.1 percent increase on the 2014/ 2015 financial year.

The baseline budget of the 2015/2016 financial year was however decreased by R812000.  This can also be expressed as a 0.34 percent decrease. The nominal increase in the allocation for the Department is significantly ahead of inflation which averaged 3.9 percent in February 2015. 
Honourable speaker I would now like to provide a programmatic exposition of the envisaged budget for 2015/2016.

ADMINISTRATION

The administration programme provides leadership, strategic management and economic policy direction in accordance with government legislation and mandates. The sum of R53, 544 million is allocated to administration.

The department’s organisational review has been concluded. To align both form and function of the department to national imperatives, several programmes and sub-programmes have been rationalised and renamed. I will refer to these changes later.
Our focus will be on the implementation of Outcome 4 – The creation of decent employment through inclusive economic growth. The APP 2015/16 and the strategic plan outline our focus areas which are closely aligned to the National Development Plan, the Provincial Spatial Development Framework, the MTSF 2014-2019 and Outcome 4 respectively.

SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT (Previously Integrated Economic Development Services)

Honourable Speaker, the allocation to the programme for this financial year is R84, 122 million. Over 40 percent of this budget is for enterprise and cooperatives development and a further 43 percent is allocated to the Economic Growth and Development Fund (EGDF). This shows the seriousness with which we envisage to grow sustainable enterprises, but also manufacturing through the EGDF allocations.

The SMME Development (Previously Enterprise Development) sub-programme will comprise Enterprise Development and Cooperatives Development respectively. We have elevated the Economic Empowerment sub-unit to a full directorate in order to support our focus on localisation and black supplier development. The sub-unit has been actively engaging with key stakeholders to create an enabling environment for women and youth empowerment and people with disabilties.

Informed by the mandate giving credence to the Northern Cape Youth Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCYCCI), the Department will collaborate with the NCYCCI to ensure that we successfully bring about more significant economic participation of youth in the Northern Cape Province.

We have allocated R36 million to the Economic Growth and Development Fund (EGDF). The EGDF will retain its focus on manufacturing with the “Spunbond” manufacturing project to be supported during its second phase of development.
In addition, the EGDF will be used to support the realisation of access to opportunities emanating from the Kimberley Diamond Cup and Bloodhound projects.
Furthermore, three (3) entrepreneurs that were successful in the South African Breweries Kickstart Competition (Maiktronix in Kuruman, Rainbow Granite and Marble; in Kimberley and Nam Petroleum in Springbok) and Mafarathla Technical Works are some of the projects that will receive support from the department to grow their businesses.

The Programme Small Business Development will continue to support SMMEs with various initiatives including linking them to public procurement opportunities in terms of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act, linking them to Strategic Infrastructure Project opportunities, new economic activities such as renewable energy investments and EPWP projects.  Support for the targeted groups and sectors will continue to range from skills development, access to funding opportunities and markets.

The Regional Economic Development Support Directorate ( previously – Regional and Local Economic Development) will continue to support economic development planning and implementation in the municipalities.  This will be achieved through support for their Integrated Development Plan (IDPs), Local Economic Development (LED) Strategies and Plans and focusing on Red Tape Reduction and Township Development. This will entail spatial referencing, economic intelligence and strategic alignment.

A key enabler for EPWP in the Department is the conditional grant of R 2 000 000 received via the Environmental Sector.  This provides project funding that is applied to initiate exit orientated EPWP projects.

TRADE AND SECTOR DEVELOPMENT

The budget allocation to this programme is R31, 324 million and its key mandate will be to focus on trade and investment promotion, sector development and implementing strategic initiatives with the potential to have an impact on economic growth and job creation.

As this is the year of China in South Africa, the department is committed to strengthening and expanding this strategic partnership by hosting an investment delegation from the Hunan province. This will allow us to showcase our culture, trade and investment opportunities with the aim of expanding markets in China.

Planned outbound missions will continue to raise the profile of the province as a preferred investment destination, a tourist destination of choice and a significant exporter of choice products and services.

Mining as one of the main economic drivers of the province contributes more than 26,5 percent towards the provincial economy and is key in addressing unemployment. We will establish the Provincial Mining Task Team that will ensure the implementation of the Northern Cape Mining Procurement Charter. This will ensure that local communities and businesses benefit from procurement opportunities from mining companies.

In addition to the inroads that we have made into mineral beneficiation through its cluster, this year the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), Geo-technical Studies, Land Surveys and Zoning as well as the Construction Plan for the Mineral Beneficiation Cluster will be completed.

Honourable Speaker, in this financial year we will train 20 students and establish a diamond beneficiation incubation centre with the strategic objective of providing a business development platform of KIDJA graduates who aspire to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities.

On the new economies, we will strive to assist local communities and SMMEs in reaping the rewards of the renewable energy strategy by aligning them to the spin-offs related to the strategy such as employment, maintenance and localisation.

BUSINESS REGULATION AND GOVERNANCE

The Business Regulation and Governance Programme is allocated R29, 4 million for the 2015/2016 financial year. Of this amount R8, 209 million is for the Consumer Protection Authority, which includes funding for the Consumer Court. Allocations to the Liquor and Gambling Boards are R8, 447 million and R9, 188 million respectively, while R3, 56 million goes to Corporate Governance.

Honourable Speaker, the Corporate Governance sub-programme will oversee the departmental public entities by ensuring that they comply with the respective legislative and strategic framework.

The Consumer Protection Authority will continue with renewed commitment to protect the unsuspecting consumer of the Province, from unscrupulous entrepreneurs.  The Consumer Protection Authority will ensure that those who seek to do business in the Province are aware of the consumers’ right to submit a complaint to the Consumer Protector and of the implications of contravening the newly promulgated Consumer Protection Act of the Province.

Honourable Speaker, in regulating the liquor industry in the province, the Liquor Board will continue to inspect licensed premises, expand awareness on alcohol-related antisocial behaviour as well as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

In a concerted effort to increase revenue for the provincial fiscus, the Northern Cape Gambling Board will continue rolling out the Limited Pay-out Machines (LPMs) as well as maximising bookmaker licences. Regulation of the industry will be intensified through compliance audits and inspections at licensed outlets and raiding illegal gambling establishments.

POLICY, RESEARCH AND INNOVATION (Previously Economic Planning)

The budget for the programme is R17, 153 million for the 2015/16 financial year. A portion of this budget, R3, 058 million, has been allocated to Economic Policy Development; R3, 420 million to Research and Development; R6, 573 million to the Knowledge Economy and Innovation; and R2,015 million to Monitoring and Evaluation.

In an attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of our economic policy environment, an evaluation of the implementation of the NGP will be conducted. This analysis will assist in identifying areas that need to be prioritised and guide us on how to address new sectors of the economy, such as the Oceans Economy.

To harmonise our economic interventions, Research and Development will provide economic intelligence on unlocking youth participation in economic activities, SMME digitisation, and the procurement plans  related to the Strategic Infrastructure Projects e.g. SIP 5 -  the Sishen Saldanha railway line.

As I have mentioned, efforts towards transitioning the Provincial economy towards a Knowledge-Based Economy are being escalated. We are collaborating with the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) in the SIP 15: Expanding Access to Communication Technology phase 1 roll-out of the National Broad Band Policy “SA Connect”. Phase 1 is planning to connect 103 clinics, schools and government offices in the Pixley ka Seme District. As you will recall, the Department’s efforts to bring broadband connectivity to rural areas, included a collaboration with the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), as well as the Meraka Institute to implement a wireless communications infrastructure in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District. The establishment of wireless infrastructure in the Province commenced with the identification of fifty five schools that were connected. In addition to this we are exploring options and processes to stimulate new skills and businesses that will utilise this technology.

ICT innovation has been utilized to improve access to service and “shorten distances” in our province.  The *120* USSD mobile application has been developed and will be introduced to the public for the Consumer Protector and SMME support.

We have established alliances with Sol Plaatje University (SPU), the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Mobile Applications Laboratory South Africa (mLab SA). We have positioned the “Geekulcha” to serve as the precursor to the establishment of the mLab. We will continue our collaboration with the SKA Project Office to explore opportunities of expanding local procurement in the SKA build.

TOURISM

Honourable Speaker, Xenophobia is currently placing the country in turmoil and the impact of related news features will certainly have a serious impact on the country in general as well as the Province as a popular tourist destination. Therefore our marketing and branding strategy will be focussing on assuring both international and domestic tourists that the Northern Cape does not support or tolerate Xenophobia and that it is the Province of harmony where all tourists and businesses are welcome and treated like family as only the warm-hearted citizens of the Province can.

It is critical that the growth trajectory of the future shifts towards less electricity-intensive sectors. The Tourism sector encompasses these requirements and is complementary to the provincial trade and investment promotion value proposition. The budget allocated to this sector is R50, 894 million.

Our efforts will focus on implementing tourism customer care training to enhance service excellence. Training of tourist guides and accreditation will also be rolled out. The campaign against illegal tourist guiding is starting to bear some fruits as observed in the enthusiasm to register and the uptake of tourist guides on our database.

We will continue to support festivals across regions to create temporary and permanent jobs. We plan to erect a replica of the Bloodhound SSC in the Mier municipal area as part of the legacy of this event. Furthermore tourism infrastructure projects will be prioritised in terms of the financial year.

Product development and market access grants will remain a key feature of our interventions to enable SMMEs and cooperatives in the sector to grow and improve their products and service offerings. We plan on hosting a tourism conference this financial year to introduce the reviewed Provincial Tourism Master Plan, its implementation and targets to all stakeholders.

The focus of Tourism Growth and Development will be on tourism enterprise development; tourism infrastructure development; maintenance of key tourism infrastructure sites and tourism experience development. The focus of the latter aspect will be on events and tourism route support. Spatially our focus will be on the Mier Municipality in the Kalahari; Carnavon and Sutherland as emerging astro-tourism destinations; and Renosterberg hiking trail. All three areas are rural and have high unemployment.

No fewer than 40 small tourism enterprises will benefit from skills development through business development workshops. Six SMMEs will be awarded product development and market access grants. The KDC, Bloodhound SSC, Gariep Arts Festival and the Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon will be supported financially by the department. The Journey to Service Excellence Pilot Project (J2SE) by the National Department of Tourism to assist tourism enterprises with service excellence will be rolled out to all five districts.

Honorouble Speaker, I would like to express my appreciation to the former HOD, Mr. P Seboko, and to the current Acting HOD, Mr. Packirisamy for their dedication and effort. I also wish to extend my particular gratitude to the hardworking staff of the Department, the officials in the Ministry and my family for their support.

Honourable Speaker, I now table the Budget Vote for Economic Development and Tourism for consideration by the House.

Thank you.

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