Agency Development and Support
 

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Blue Crane Development Agency

Established in 2004, the Blue Crane Development Agency has identified and implemented key development projects to expand the local economy and create jobs. The projects range across sectors, and are in tourism, agriculture, aviation, renewable energy and business.

 
 

Project Involvement

September 19, 2013

The Blue Crane Development Agency (BCDA) has 40 projects up-and-running in the Blue Crane Route Municipality, cutting across sectors such as tourism, agriculture, aviation, renewable energy and business.

Located in the western part of Eastern Cape Province, Blue Crane is part of the Cacadu District Municipality, which consists of nine local municipalities, of which Blue Crane is the largest. It incorporates the towns of Somerset East, Cookhouse and Pearston, and is about 9 914km² in size with a population of a little over 36 000, according to Statistics South Africa 2011 figures.

The agency was set up in 2004 with the help of the Industrial Development Corporation. Its mandate was to conceptualise opportunities and facilitate sustainable development projects related to agriculture, business and tourism to benefit local citizens, with a specific focus on job creation and black economic empowerment opportunities. Since then, BCDA has identified and implemented key development projects that focus on the expansion of the local economy as well as job creation, in line with the local municipalities’ integrated development plans.

It has also gained support from the private sector in the towns as well. It was funded solely by the IDC for the first five to six years; since then, other partners such as the Department of Land Affairs, the Eastern Cape department of agriculture, the Wilderness Foundation of Southern Africa, the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, and the African Global Skills Academy, to name a few, have jumped on board.

Vision and mission

The BCDA’s vision and mission is:

  • Vision – to be an internationally recognised model agency for the delivery of sustainable development projects in a rural context.
  • Mission – to conceptualise opportunities and facilitate sustainable development projects related to agriculture, business and tourism to the benefit of all citizens, with special emphasis on job creation and black economic empowerment opportunities.

Projects

The agency has quite a number of projects, some of which are completed, while others are still running. They are mainly in the tourism, agriculture, renewable energy and business sectors.

Tourism sector

One of the main objectives is to develop and market Somerset East as a preferred tourism destination in Eastern Cape. Initially, in 2007/08, the BCDA decided to invest in a tourism destination for the town that would include a residential development and an 18-hole golf course, according to BCDA tourism manager Chris Wilken.

“[But] as we were securing funding we had this economic crunch and the whole thing fell flat. We decided to change approach and start small. This is when the idea of a tourism hub was hatched.” Wilken explains that the idea of a tourism hub is to centralise tourism in the region. This involves concentrating activities in one place with the aim of attracting visitors from cities such as Port Elizabeth and East London. The hub, which is up and running and will be officially opened later in 2013, has the following activities:

  • Mountain biking;
  • Hiking trails;
  • Retail shops;
  • Wedding venue;
  • Workshops; and,
  • A restaurant.

 

Agricultural sector

The Blue Crane region is known for its well-established agricultural industry and the agency was mandated to investigate the potential to produce high-value crops such as vegetables and fruit. The thinking behind focusing on these crops is to create employment and to add value to produce, and therefore establish industries. Various studies have been conducted since 2004, with vegetables and fruit identified as ideal crops for the region.

All types of vegetables do well in the fertile area, which makes a vegetable growing project a viable venture. Currently, there are no local growers of fresh vegetables and all vegetables are received from Port Elizabeth.

In addition, since 1996, studies have been conducted on fruit production by various experts from the Agricultural Research Council, the University of Stellenbosch and others. Trees were planted in pilot projects to see which cultivars would grow and produce the best. Those that did well in the conditions were identified as deciduous fruit, particularly pomegranates, figs and prickly pears.

Renewable energy sector

Given the high demand for electricity, as well as the concern by the agency and the municipality for the environment, the need for alternative and more specifically renewable energy was identified. The BCDA has found that the generation of hydro-electricity, solar electricity, and wind electricity are ideal for the area. A windfarm in Cookhouse has taken off and is expected to supply 138.6 MW into the existing Eskom substation on Patryshoogte Road once finished.

Business sector

A key element of the BCDA’s mandate is to enhance economic development, and there are several projects to improve commerce. One of the approved projects comprises the construction of a commercial airport, approved and licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority. The new airport is situated on the old Somerset East airfield site.

A light industrial park is planned within the airport precinct. This park will enable private businesses to establish their enterprises on erven purchased from the municipality. The project could potentially create more than 1 000 jobs while opportunities will be created for specialised and scarce skills training.

Aviation forms an integral part the of the national government’s strategy to reform transport. This is why Blue Crane Route Municipality plans to create an enabling environment to inspire economic and social development through private sector investment. Somerset East has the potential, the agency believes, to become an economically stable zone of sustainable prosperity if an aircraft manufacturing industry is established in the town.

Other projects

There are other projects that the BCDA has on the cards for the near future, among them plans to build a shopping centre next to the Andries Vosloo Hospital, along the R63 provincial road entering Somerset East from Cookhouse. Completed projects include the Somerset East Prison and a sport and educational training project in schools.

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