Ekurhuleni: Home to Africa's First Aerotropolis
In the 21st century (and beyond), aviation is widely regarded as being vital to physical connectivity. With this in mind, the City of Ekurhuleni has taken a deliberate course towards the development of an aerotropolis, the first of its kind in Africa, says Khaya Ngema, the city manager of Ekurhuleni.
The aerotropolis planning lies at the heart of the City’s next phase of globalisation and development, he says. “For us, it is important that the aerotropolis is more than a physical land-use plan. It is about finding perfect harmony between the airport, business and spatial planning,” he notes. Ngema elaborates that the aim of the project is for it to be a host of physical, social, governmental and economic planning efforts intended to improve the everyday lives of its citizens as well as to communicate a message of stability, sustainability economic energy and desirability to the world. “Accessibility within any aerotropolis is vital, and, in our case, this is further enhanced by the fact that we host the OR Tambo International Airport, which is Africa’s busiest airport, handling over 17-million passengers every year,” reveals Ngema.
He adds that the airport is in a good position to accelerate its logistics and air cargo activities regionally, as “it is already a gateway for the transit of high-value goods and could develop into the premier air cargo hub for sub-Saharan Africa”. According to him, connectivity is another important element for an aerotropolis. “The City of Ekurhuleni has a spectacular freeway network which includes the N12, N17
and N3 that link Gauteng’s metropolitan municipalities at the Gillooly’s interchange where national roads merge, moving on to the outlying ports and cities as well as transporting goods to and from the airport,” he proclaims. Besides the impressive road network, there are more than 200 conference facilities sprawled across the City, thus making it an ideal destination for business tourism. The City has the capacity to host local and international events of any kind, including events such as the Airport Cities Conference that was held in 2013.
Gauteng is largely regarded as the business heart of South Africa, with the City of Ekurhuleni playing a key part as the manufacturing hub of the country. Concludes Ngema: “The intensity of this economic activity will only increase as strategic connections are made to ports like Durban and to Maputo in Mozambique. One of the key drivers of the development in our City over the next few years will be the revitalisation of the manufacturing sector, including support and growth of high-end manufacturing in such sectors as aerospace. That the modern infrastructure and facilities of the City are situated just a stone’s throw away from OR Tambo International Airport creates an Airport City. This gives Ekurhuleni an edge over other cities in Africa as an aerotropolis. The City is in the process of developing its 25- to 30-year Aerotropolis Master Plan and, with this trajectory; the Ekurhuleni Aerotropolis is set to emerge as the hub of Africa – a safe haven for business on the continent and the economic centre of the Southern Hemisphere.”
CASE IN POINT | City of Ekurhuleni
by Andrew Ngozo