Mpumalanga

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Right man for the job

regions-mpmanager topMpumalanga Regional Manager Mashweu Matsiela 

Mpumalanga is a beautiful province, rich in minerals and tourist attractions. But it is not without its challenges. The empathetic regional manager in the IDC office is making a difference on the ground.

As a regional manager, Mashweu Matsiela feels he is in a privileged position to make a difference in the lives of Mpumalanga’s residents, and he is filtering this passion for community development down to the rest of the IDC regional office. He believes that not only will it help the community, but it will help strengthen the character of his team. “I want to get my office to do something together and make an impact. It will also help build ourselves as a team and realise the realities people go through.”

In the 2013/14 edition of Mpumalanga Business, Matsiela stated that intervention was most needed in economic sectors that had high job creation potential, namely agro-processing, mining and tourism. Already, the IDC’s Mpumalanga office is investing in agro-industries, mining and minerals beneficiation, forestry and wood products, and tourism. In the 2012/13 financial year, the office’s gross funding exceeded R88-million, which led to the creation of 373 new jobs.

Mining

Mpumalanga is rich in minerals, with coal and gold making up the bulk of the mining sector’s yield. The 1880s gold mining boom made the province, and particularly the town of Barberton, an economic powerhouse.

Today, coal mining is one of the more dominant products mined in Mpumalanga – the province supplies 83% of the country’s coal, most of which is sold to Eskom and Sasol. The IDC funded two such projects in 2012/2013: service provider and open cast coal miner Kusile Mining in Witbank, and Pembani Coal in Carolina. The IDC is continually looking for new funding opportunities in the mining sector.

Forestry

Mpumalanga is known for its dense forests, with eucalyptus and pine dominating the landscape. In recent years, however, there has been a lull in forestry, mostly caused by the increase in fuel prices and forest fires.

The IDC’s largest contribution in the sector was made to York Timber. With a 28.7% stake in the company, the corporation is its largest shareholder. According to York Timbers’ annual report, the company has a gross revenue of R1 132-million and a processing profit of R88-million. It currently has 61 000 planted hectares of pine and eucalyptus trees and it operates five sawmills in Sabie, Graskop, White River and Jessievale.

The IDC’s other major contributions were made to Elegant Line Trading and White River Sawmills.

Tourism

Mpumalanga has the second highest number of international tourists, behind Western Cape. It is the home of the Kruger National Park, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Blyde River Canyon, making it a particular hotspot for international tourists. According to South African Tourism, it attracted approximately 1.4 million foreign visitors in 2012 with foreign direct spending exceeding R4-billion.

And the IDC intended to capitalise on this lucrative tourism draw, said Matsiela. Already it has partnered with Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) on two projects. The first project is the construction of a skywalk at God’s Window. The IDC conducted a feasibility study that was completed in April this year and determined that the structure could be built at the attraction and would boost tourism.

The second project, said Matsiela, was a cable car in the Blyde River Canyon. MTPA identified the development of a cable car as key to unlocking the tourism potential of the region and enhancing the competitiveness of the province with regard to adventure tourism. The proposed cable car will carry tourists from the upper-canyon to the lower-canyon where an array of activities will be provided, including boat rides, hiking, abseiling, white water rafting, to name a few.

Challenges

Like most parts of South Africa, Mpumalanga has its challenges. It is predominantly rural, with much poverty, inequality and high unemployment.

According to the Mpumalanga provincial government’s 2012 report on the Socio-Economic Review and Outlook, the unemployment rate was 45.4%, the second highest in South Africa. Turning to education, 14% of its 4 million citizens had not received any schooling and its Grade 12 pass rate was the third lowest in the country. Its HIV prevalence rate for females aged between 15 and 49 was 35.1% – the second highest after KwaZulu-Natal.

However, for Matsiela, people in Mpumalanga do not take advantage of IDC funding and this poses a challenge to the corporation. “An increased promotion of IDC funding in the region is thus required,” he said.

But his office is working hard to overcome these challenges and ensure steady and sustainable community development. To resolve land claim issues, the IDC is building relationships with the Land Claim Department and the communities involved. “We have a dedicated unit within the IDC that will look at the socio-economic affairs relating to these land claims.”

Regarding the issue of red tape, the corporation was making sure that projects were fast tracked so that progress was swift and successful. And as for entrepreneurial development, Matsiela said his office was encouraging people to apply for funding through the IDC. His message to the residents of Mpumalanga is simple: they do not have to suffer alone, because the IDC is there to help.

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