Government gazettes R4bn digital project to create 700 jobs

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 28 Jul 2020
Public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille.
Public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille.

To revive the country’s economy, the South African government has unveiled a number of infrastructure projects, including a R4 billion digital infrastructure project.

The project for the digital sector has the potential to create an estimated 700 direct jobs, according to public works and infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille.

The South African economy was in the doldrums prior to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, that situation has been exacerbated, with the country facing rising unemployment, especially among young people.

According to Stats SA, the country’s economy recorded its third consecutive quarter of economic decline in the first quarter of 2020, falling by 2%. This followed a contraction of -1.4% and -0.8% in the fourth and third quarters of 2019, respectively.

Stats SA also revealed that unemployment in the country rose to 30.1% in the first quarter of 2020, a situation president Cyril Ramaphosa described as untenable and unacceptable in his weekly newsletter.

To contribute to significant job creation and its overall economic recovery plan, government has decided to implement a number of infrastructure projects in sectors such as water and sanitisation, energy, transport and digital, to name a few.

De Lille, minister in the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, reveals her department has gazetted the first 50 projects emanating from the inaugural Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium South Africa, and an additional 12 special projects as strategic integrated projects.

Explaining the digital infrastructure project, she says: “The digital sector has a single project gazetted worth R4 billion with the potential to create an estimated 700 direct jobs. The space infrastructure hub for national development will allow for the development of satellite infrastructure, satellite-based augmentation systems and earth observation satellites.

“Domestic access to this type of infrastructure will reduce South Africa’s reliance on other countries for the type of information that these satellites can make available and is expected to reduce the timeframes for collecting necessary data.”

The minister further notes infrastructure-led economic growth is the most effective and significant way for government’s economic strategy to grow the economy, while responding to the socio-economic needs of citizens.

“The severe economic recession, together with the COVID-19 pandemic, has now placed an added urgency on us to navigate a new normal. In this new normal, there is an even greater need to partner in the investment and implementation of infrastructure that will facilitate social and economic growth in a workable and purposeful way.

“In South Africa, infrastructure investment, together with the use of public land and public buildings, is a critical lever to achieve spatial and economic justice by connecting our people, integrating our communities and bringing people closer to work opportunities.”

The minister notes that many of the projects will be implemented over a period of more than one financial year.

Ramaphosa also used his newsletter yesterday to emphasise the importance of infrastructure development to address the country’s economic woes.

“When we launched the economic stimulus and recovery plan nearly two years ago, we announced the establishment of an infrastructure fund that could blend different forms of finance to drive infrastructure development. This we identified as the flywheel of economic growth. There is now general consensus that our recovery should be led by infrastructure development and maintenance.

“At the Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium organised by the Presidency a few weeks ago, business and government were of one mind on a new methodology to develop an infrastructure pipeline and deliver on it.

“Investors from the multilateral development banks, development finance institutions and the private sector all showed a strong appetite to make the necessary investments to meet South Africa’s extensive and diverse infrastructure needs.”