With less companies setting up in the SPEDU region, the government is adamant that the number of jobs created will exponential rise as more companies establish and expand in the region, lured by the raft of incentives government has made available.
Moiseraela Goya, junior minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, on Monday told parliament that SPEDU has facilitated the creation of 754 jobs in the SPEDU region since the mines closed. The majority of the created jobs are from low skills industries, with more half of the jobs coming from textiles and agriculture.
SPEDU, an investment promotion company owned by the government, was created in 2008 to coordinate investment promotion and economic diversification in the SPEDU region in sectors of agriculture, tourism and manufacturing industries. The SPEDU region is a vast economic zone that boasts of a population of 200, 000, spread across 52 villages that surround Selebi Phikwe, the commercial nexus of the region.
SPEDU for a larger part of its existence was operating under the radar until it was forced to the front following the closure of BCL mines that wiped as much as 7000 jobs, also contributing to serious decline in business activities in the SPEDU region that resulted in some business winding up. Faced with a crisis on its hands in late 2016 after the BCL mine was abruptly closed, government scurried for cover and found temporary reprieve in SPEDU to allay fears that Selebi Phikwe won’t turn in a ghost town.
The government has injected about P95 million in SPEDU, with about 82 percent of the funds pumped in the company since the BCL mine closed. The ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, has allocated a whopping P47.8 million to SPEDU for the 2018/2019 financial year. SPEDU has a staff complement of 29 employees against a total approved structure of 46 staff, leaving 17 posts vacant.
For all its efforts, SPEDU has so far managed to attract around 14 companies to set up in the SPEDU region, facilitating the 754 jobs the minister spoke of. In addition to that, SPEDU is in talks with about 25 companies. To lure investors and businesses to SPEDU region, the government has proposed tax incentive; these include a 5 percent tax for start-ups and 10 percent tax charge for established businesses. Aside from tax concessions, the government has proposed a 30 percent off-take of locally produced products and services; a minimum 50 year land lease; and a one stop service centre to ensure easy flow of information.
Companies are yet to benefit from the incentives offered as the government lawyers are working on the legal framework to iron out legal incontinences that have been identified. Moreover, the slow progress made through SPEDU is said to have frustrated the government, resulting in a setup of a special committee of cabinet to expedite SPEDU region revitalization, also to deal swiftly with issues hindering progress.
However, this has not shielded the government and SPEDU from a barrage of attacks. At the forefront of the assault has been Dithapelo Keorapetse, a legislator from Selebi Phikwe, who accused the two parties of stalling. Keorapetse says SPEDU has not been successful in bringing any concrete business that would employ a significant number of workers. Chiefly among his concerns is the lack of direction and implementation by the concerned parties.
Keorapetse has accused SPEDU of time delaying tactics as the investment promotion company keeps postponing dates of some businesses due to commence. “There are meetings after meetings that go on about Selebi Phikwe, but the results are not there. We keep hearing that businesses are coming to Selebi Phikwe, but we are seeing nothing,” he has previously said.
Lending credence to Keorapetse’s assertion has been the much touted P1.4 billion investment by Brite Star, an aviation company that was expected to create around 3000 jobs, mostly employing former BCL workers. SPEDU has been left hapless after creating a fanfare during the signing of memorandum of understanding with Brite Star. Now SPEDU says there is not much that they can do other than wait on Brite Star.