Agency Development and Support
 
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Aspire Development Agency

 
 

Project Involvement

In the early days of the Amathole Economic Development Agency, a corridor manager, commenting on what they did at the agency, said: "We use verbs a great deal." Little did he know that these words, obviously uttered in jest, would become the driving culture of the agency.

As his comment suggests, the agency, commonly known as Aspire, is very active. In the past 13 years it has done quite a lot to elevate the economic status of communities in the jurisdiction of the Amathole District Municipality, in Eastern Cape.

The district, considered the most economically diverse part of the province, covers parts of the former "homelands" of Ciskei and Transkei, characterised by lack of investment, as well as former Cape Provincial Administration areas, which are more developed. According to Aspire, 26% of the Eastern Cape's population live in the Amathole District.

Dr Vanguard Mkosana, the chairman of Aspire's board of directors, says the strategic intervention of Aspire in the Amathole District is small town regeneration. "To us, it is worth saying that we are focusing on the small towns. We want to get to the small towns that serve the poorest communities. We have also come to learn a lot from these towns because they have the tactics of survival that make it a lot easier for us to work with them," he says.

Established in 2005 with the help of the Industrial Development Corporation, Aspire has changed the lives of many people in the district, mainly because of its interventions in particular "corridors". The corridors cover local municipalities and towns along the arterial N2, N6, the R63 and the R72 main roads.

The N2 Corridor

The N2 Corridor extends from East London, passes through the towns of Qumra, Butterworth and goes all the way to Dutywa. It covers the municipalities of Great Kei, Mnquma and Mbhashe. The corridor features vast rural areas and a beautiful coastline to the east. With a population of about 609 000, its main economic drivers are agriculture and livestock rearing. Aspire's focus in the corridor is regenerating the towns of Butterworth and Dutywa, and the renewal of Gcuwa Dam.

The N6 Corridor

The N6 Corridor covers the local municipality of Amahlathi, which consists of the towns of Stutterheim, Cathcart and Keiskammahoek, and the Amabele/Ndakana rural node. In this corridor, Aspire has established a blueberry farm and a furniture manufacturer. It is also involved in regenerating the towns of Stutterheim, Keiskammahoek and Cathcart; and has plans to market the area as a tourist attraction. It is estimated that the corridor is populated by about 122 000 people.

The R63 Corridor

The R63 Corridor extends westwards from East London all the way to Bedford. The main towns are Alice, Adelaide, Bedford and Fort Beaufort. Aspire is regenerating the first three of these. The main economic drivers in the region are agro-processing, tourism and citrus farming. The R63 Corridor covers the local municipalities of Nxuba and Nkonkobe, and the corridor's population is estimated at 158 00 people.

The R72 Corridor

The R72 Corridor nudges the coastline from East London down to Hamburg and extends inland to Peddie. Perhaps its main attraction is the Emthonjeni Arts Centre in Hamburg. The area is well-known for its rich arts and crafts sector, a major tourist attraction for the region. The corridor is located in Ngqushwa, a local municipality with a population of about 86 000 people.

Looking over the 2011/2012 financial year, Mkosana picks out several projects in the N6 Corridor that have made a significant impact on the lives of Amathole residents: blueberry farming, household food gardens, and bamboo plantations in the Amabele/Ndakana villages.

"In this corridor, the once quiet community of Ndakana is fast becoming economically active and changing the quality of life of its people as they embark on the creation of co-operatives. Aspire, together with its strategic partners, is actively involved in Ndakana. The Ndakana Wood Products Co-operative, which started in 2011, is made up of young people from nine neighbouring villages. These young people are currently expanding bamboo plantations to 105 hectares with financial support from the department of economic development, environment and tourism."

In addition, residents are receiving training from the Ndakana Agro-Ecological Support Co-operative – with support from the Lima Rural Development Foundation – to enable them to plant food gardens. The support co-operative has a membership of 80 households from four villages in Ndakana.

"Ndakana is a living example of a community where the community has understood the meaning of ‘Vuk'uzenzele' (do it yourself). What gives us hope is the high number of young people who are involved in these development projects in this community. Ndakana, with the necessary support, may grow in the not-too-distant future to be a model to be emulated by other communities," says Mkosana.

The artists' retreat in Hamburg is the pride of Aspire. Emthonjeni Arts Centre is considered a key in "unlocking" the potential of tourism in Amathole District. The centre has just been completed and a "soft opening" function is set to be held in June this year.

The agency

Aspire was founded as the Amathole Economic Development Agency on 1 September 2005. Its mandate was to promote and implement development policies in areas of economic production and investment in Amathole District.

Aspire works closely with the Amathole District Municipality and is the operational arm of the municipality's economic development strategy. Essentially, the agency was created to enact local economic development policies approved by the council.

Its priorities are to:

  • Contribute to sustainable growth;
  • Facilitate the development of an integrated, district-wide economy; and,
  • Develop appropriate and responsive institutional capacity.

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