Johannesburg - The government needs to reverse its neglect of investment in the Eastern Cape, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Wednesday.
"The Port of Ngqura (Coega) represents the first strategic anchor investment in the Eastern Cape made by the South African government in its entire history," Gigaba said in Port Alfred.
"This points both to the historical neglect of the region and the need to focus our attention to address this neglect."
Gigaba said in a speech prepared for delivery at an investor conference there are many possible infrastructure projects that could contribute to the development of the Eastern Cape.
These include projects that would enhance the Port Elizabeth, Coega and East London industrial development zones (IDZs) as an economic corridor, he said.
"First and foremost, we need to unlock Ngqura's potential as a major trans-shipment hub as a matter of urgency.
"Major shipping lines have invested in feeder ports in both the West and the East coast of Africa, which will create efficient logistics chains between Ngqura and growing African middle class consumer and industrial markets.
"This will give South Africa a unique competitive advantage in accessing these economies," he said.Labour-intensive industries
Ngqura's IDZ would be an ideal location to set up labour-intensive light industries to take advantage of these opportunities.
"A second obvious area for development is the relocation of the manganese terminal and tank farm from Port Elizabeth to Ngqura.
"This will free up prime port land for more appropriate tourism development and higher value added uses."
Gigaba said the automotive sector - largely based in the province - needs to build up critical mass to become globally competitive.
State-owned companies, therefore, need to prioritise the provision of infrastructure to the automotive sector.
"It is important that we integrate investments in infrastructure with investments in skills development activities in the province to build, operate and maintain the infrastructure."
He said a forum overseen by the department's deputy minister Dikobe Ben Martins has been established to enhance cooperation between state-owned companies and the province.
"The purpose of the forum is to ensure that our respective investment plans support one another, improve the operational provision of infrastructure to the province and support the build programme."
Gigaba said government is willing to invest in the Eastern Cape.
"Let me state unequivocally that we have the will to drive this hard slog and are willing to incur the economic cost."
State-owned freight company Transnet will invest between R8bn and R10bn over the next 10 years in the Ngqura port to boost its capacity, Business Day reported last month.