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Free State Business 2022

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A REGIONAL OVERVIEW OF FREE STATE Both the Botshabelo Industrial Park and the Maluti-A-Phofung Special Economic Zone (MAP SEZ) are attracting investors to the country’s most centrally-located province. Covid-19 hit the tourism sector hard, but the province’s miners are enjoying good commodity prices and the Virginia Gas Project is steaming ahead. By John Young The announcement in 2021 by Renergen, the owners of the Virginia Gas Project, that it had signed an agreement with Consol, one of the country’s leading glass manufacturers, gave new impetus to the country’s only onshore gas project. Having previously targeted the logistics sector for offtake agreements, and successfully concluded several agreements together with a joint venture to roll out gas supplies to filling stations across the country with TotalEnergies, the Consol pact marked a significant new customer for the gas explorers and potentially opens up a new market. Renergen said in 2021 that their findings continued to confirm early reports of substantial reserves. One of the key facts to emerge is that the gas contains helium of up to 12%, a good percentage. Other good news came in the form of news that the Maluti-A-Phofung Special Economic Zone (MAP SEZ), the strategically located area on the N3 highway, is attracting new investment to the Free State Province. Sectors prioritised at the MAP SEZ include logistics, ICT, automotive, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and agro-processing. The 1 000ha site has four zones: agro-processing, light industrial, heavy industrial and a container terminal. Control of the project now rests with the provincial Department of Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DESTEA). Infrastructure Other areas that are being upgraded to provide infrastructure to encourage manufacturing are the Phuthaditjhaba Industrial Park and the Botshabelo Industrial Park, where a foreign firm has started FREE STATE BUSINESS 2022 10

SPECIAL FEATURE province which is also well served by rail and air links. The Bram Fischer International Airport serves the provincial capital. Links to the west (Kimberley and on to Namibia) and east (to Lesotho) underpin the planning behind the N8 Corridor concept which covers Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu. A plan for the coordinated development of the N8 Corridor has been approved by a range of bodies and is being funded by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality. Sasol’s complex at Sasolburg. Credit: Sasol construction of a new steel mill (which is covered in the Manufacturing Overview). Telecoms company Vodacom is investing heavily in its infrastructure in the Free State. Several new base stations have been established in villages such as Clocolan, Fauresmith and Fouriesburg, greatly improving coverage in rural areas. The Rural Coverage Acceleration Programme allocated R207-million to the region in 2020/21. Bloemfontein is the site of one of Vodacom’s new solar-powered facilities, helping in the company’s drive to reduce its carbon emissions. Vodacom saved 11 971MW in 2020 through its energy management programme. The N3 is South Africa’s busiest road and the Highway Junction truckstop at the entrance to Harrismith claims to be Africa’s biggest. More than 1 500 vehicles pass through every day and three forecourts cater to three fuel brands. Refuelling, storage and handling take place here, highlighting the province’s strengths in logistics as the country’s most central province. The country’s two great highways pass through the province. The N3 links the ports of Richards Bay and Durban with the industrial heartland and the N1 provides north-south connectivity. The provincial capital, Bloemfontein, is another logistics hub. Three other national highways intersect the Provincial assets International fuel, gas and chemicals company Sasol regularly invests in new technologies and in expanding production of its many products. Mining is reduced in importance but remains a significant employer. Harmony Gold has several assets in the province and Sibanye-Stillwater has undertaken a feasibility study on a property adjacent to its existing Beatrix mine. In agriculture, the Free State is looking forward to the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the free trade agreement that was stalled by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Free State’s agricultural export basket is well suited to trading with African states and strategies are being considered to promote apples, asparagus, cherries, cut flowers, sorghum, venison and wine. The Free State produces significant proportions of South Africa’s wheat (30%), sunflowers (45%) and maize (45%) and is ranked third in contribution to national GDP in agriculture. The Free State shares borders with six other provinces, in addition to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. A summer-rainfall region with a mean Commercial agriculture is a key element of the Free State economy, with companies like VKB farming and storing vast quantities of grain. Credit: VKB 11 FREE STATE BUSINESS 2022

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