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Five town renewal bonanza for Amathole

FIVE towns in the Amathole region will receive a much-needed boost through a R273 million National Treasury grant, Amathole District Municipality (ADM) executive mayor Sakhumzi Somyo announced earlier this week.

The award was made to the ADM on the application of Aspire, the district’s economic development agency, to National Treasury’s Neighbourhood Development Programme Grant (NDPG).

The national programme established in 2006, seeks to help regenerate townships throughout the country. The R10 billion national budget, to be allocated to municipalities over a 10-year period, will be used to build the economies of townships by attracting public-private sector investment and to encourage economic activity in townships.

The five projects in the region include the regeneration of Hamburg, Alice, Stutterheim, Butterworth and Dutywa. The grant will be spent over three years and improve the quality of life of the area’s 900,000 inhabitants.

Aspire CEO Phila Xuza explains that Hamburg, located on the R72, is looking at planning proposals to regenerate the seaside town while in the case of Alice, it is looking for proposals which would link the town to the university. The Butterworth renewal, the largest of the projects, will undergo a spatial transformation which will include a new retail and services hub, as well as improvements to the educational heart of the town. Stutterheim, on the N6, will undergo a three phase R65 million renewal which will include a bridge, linking Stutterheim and the Mlungisi township.

In each of these cases, the funding will be used for a catalytic capital project which will provide opportunity for investment, creating an environment for local entrepreneurs and helping ensure that the revenues generated by the project remain within that area.

Xuza says the funding will not be used to cover infrastructural costs (water, sewerage, reticulation), or support businesses and SMMEs. It will be used for technical assistance, planning activities and capital costs.

“Although the NDPG is aimed at the regeneration of townships, the Amathole region’s critical mass is in the small towns which have established township economies. This, together with Aspire’s vision for small economies, gives hope not only to the 27 small towns in our region but also to the other 470 small towns and their townships in South Africa. It is an acknowledgement of the historical challenges of our region and province,” says Xuza.

She says that this funding affirms Aspire’s approach to socio-economic development and for the “first time we have moved away from talking about issues; this funding says small towns have arrived.” This approach creates a vibrancy, physically and socially, for small towns and also aims to decongest the bigger cities.

Xuza adds it is encouraging that all five projects have the backing of their relevant municipalities and that sufficient funding has now come through from Treasury for the implementation of the projects.

Border-Kei Chamber of Business executive director Les Holbrook says the NDPG is a good concept and that the initiative should be welcomed.

“All the towns identified by Aspire do need some form of intervention. Aspire’s challenge will be to give effect to the funding by finding the right people to drive these projects and to design projects that are achievable,” says Holbrook.

Xuza says she is conscious that this funding is much bigger than the budgets of some local municipalities and hence “we will have to work very closely with the municipalities” to ensure effective implementation of the projects.”

She reiterates that Aspire wants to create capacity in local municipalities through partnership.

“This process is about creating confidence amongst the municipalities so that they will be encouraged to take the next action in applying for further grants in order to replicate the projects. However, Aspire will be very happy to assist them in a process in which we have been successful,” she ends.

The Eastern Cape has received over R1 billion rand for 11 projects from the NDPG of which Aspire was allocated R273 million.

Aspire has recently been re-branded and was formerly known as the Amathole Economic Development Agency (AEDA).


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