A REGIONAL OVERVIEW OF NORTH WEST PROVINCE The assets of the North West Province are many and varied. From fantastic mineral wealth and sophisticated commercial agriculture to manufacturing, the province is also strategically located very close to the nation’s biggest markets. Known variously as the Platinum Province or South Africa’s ‘Texas’ because of its big beef herds, the North West province makes up 6.8% of the population of South Africa (3.6-million), 8.7% of the land mass (105 076km²) and accounts for 5.8% of economic output in terms of gross value added. The provincial government of the North West has adopted the name Bokone Bophirima Province for the provincial entity which is bordered on the west by the Republic of Botswana and on the east by Gauteng province, the engine of the South African economy. The big four sectors of the provincial economy are mining, agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. The Vaal River runs along the province’s southeastern border with the Free State, and the province also shares borders with the Northern Cape to the south and Limpopo in the north. The province’s strategic location goes beyond its proximity to Gauteng: the major roads linking trade on an east-west axis pass through the province, as does the major railway line which runs from Cape Town in the south to Zimbabwe and beyond in the north. The Mahikeng Airport connects the capital city of Mahikeng to Johannesburg and the major tourism hub at Pilanesberg Airport. There are smaller airports at centres such as Klerksdorp and Rustenburg. Mining contributes 31% of the region’s gross domestic product. The mineral reserves that still lie beneath the ground in the province are enormous. Platinum group metals predominate but there are significant deposits of gold, uranium, diamonds, copper, vanadium, fluorspar and nickel. Stone and limestone are also found in rich quantities. Mining beneficiation takes place at many places, with Rustenburg being particularly strong in this sector. The economy of the town is closely linked to the fortunes of platinum mining, with the sector contributing 77% of the city’s gross geographic product. The North West is a major producer of maize and sunflower seeds and many other agricultural products. About 20% of South Africa’s maize comes from the province, as does 15% of its wheat. The dry western part of the province is home to beef cattle, game ranching and hunting. The normally well-watered eastern and north-eastern regions can carry many kinds of crops, many of which find themselves on the tables of the citizens of the nearby urban centres of Johannesburg and Pretoria. The agricultural sector also generates largescale storage and logistics operations, particularly in Klerksdorp, Vryburg and Brits.
Manufacturing capacity is concentrated in the larger towns in the north-east and eastern regions of the province. Automotive components firms are clustered in Brits, which in turn is very close to the automotive manufacturing hub in Rosslyn (Pretoria) in Gauteng. Towns like Klerksdorp (agriprocessing and engineering) and Potchefstroom (food and beverages) also have manufacturing capacity. The province’s other great assets include big tourist attractions such as Sun City, the Pilanesberg National Park and associated game reserves and the Hartbeespoort Dam. Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites are located at Vredefort Dome (where a meteorite hit the earth about two million years ago) and Taung, where the discovery by an archaeologist of a skull in 1924 is regarded as one of the most significant of all time. The province’s three Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and the well-respected University of the North-West all have several campuses catering to a wide range of educational disciplines. The university has a good reputation as a research institution. Assets While the North West province enjoys tremendous advantages in terms of agricultural and mineral assets, and it has fine infrastructure in some aspects of the first economy, it is also true that much of the population is still rural and remains unconnected to economic opportunity. Much of the planning of the provincial government, development agencies and financing bodies is aimed at finding ways of helping small businesses thrive in poorer communities. Some of the institutions involved in this process are the Small Enterprise Development Agency (seda), the Industrial Development Council (IDC) and the development agency of the provincial government, the North West Development Agency. Measures include: • financial support for small, medium and microenterprises (SMMEs) • building infrastructure in rural areas • finding ways of expanding the value chain in mining and in agriculture • directing tourists to new sites which will benefit communities The possibility also exists that a totally new sector, renewable energy, will help to transform the lives of previously excluded communities. This is already taking place to a small extent in that the province’s first solar plant is partly owned by the community in which it operates. There is much more scope for this kind of partnership, but there is also tremendous scope for the development of a manufacturing sector to support the renewable energy sector. A start has been made to attract solar panel manufacturers to the Platinum Special Economic Zone in the Bojanala District Municipality. Principal towns Mahikeng The capital city of the North West Province lies on the banks of the Molopo River. Situated in the north-west sector of the province near the Botswana border, the city has a strong services sector and a population of approximately 300 000. The Mahikeng International Airport is served by SA Express. Flights to and from OR Tambo International (Johannesburg) and Pilanesberg Airport (Sun City/Pilanesberg National Park) link the city with the main economic hub of the region and to the most visited tourist area. The city’s main growth sectors are financial services, services, transport and trade. The Garona District houses the North West parliament and government buildings. The administrative headquarters of the BaRolong tribe are located in the city. The arts are promoted by the Mmabana Cultural Centre, while the North West Institute of Hotel and Tourism Management is one of three tertiary institutions in the city. North-West University’s Graduate School of Business and Government Leadership is located in Mahikeng, and Unisa has a presence. Other institutions are the Taletso TVET College and the International School of South Africa. The town is well served by hotels such as the Mmabatho Palms, Hotel and Casino Convention