KwaZulu-Natal: South Africa’s Aerotropolis


Over the last couple of years, the Province of KwaZulu-Natal has positioned itself and its largest city, Durban as one of the go-to destinations on the African continent. Durban is a popular leisure tourist destination that offers diverse tourism products, and was deservedly voted South Africa’s friendliest city in 2013. Besides tourism, KwaZulu-Natal is home to other diverse industrial sectors that are spread across its eThekwini Metro and ten districts which make it the country’s second largest economy.

In recent years, the province has experienced significant growth in the events and conventions business which is attributed to its strategic location and well developed developmental logistics such as the brand new state of the art King Shaka International Airport, the continent’s largest convention centre, Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Conventional Centre and as well as the world class leisure and sporting facilities, including the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium that was mainly built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The province is capitalizing on its comparative and competitive advantages to advance its socio-economic ambitions to become the world’s gateway to the rest of the African region.

With the intensification of competition in the global market, KwaZulu-Natal continues to explore new options to position itself as preferred destination for both investment and tourism. This covers the investment in the development of industrial logistics which includes the repositioning of the purpose-built King Shaka International Airport as the nucleus for the development of a new aviation industry inspired conurbation on the northern fringes of Durban under the auspices of an integrated Industrial Development Zone called Dube Trade Port. The developmental project, dubbed Aerotropolis is a global concept where urban growth is influenced by aviation related business operations – with the airport as anchor that facilitates the movement of time-sensitive goods for both export and import markets and as well as tourist and business oriented passengers that require convenient multi-destinations connectivity.

The Dube Trade Port, which is soon to officially acquire the tag of being a Special Economic Zone where investors in the diverse industrial operations are served by multi-modal logistics that guarantee strategic linkages to global markets, is set to become a major trade and business hub in Sub-Saharan Africa. At the core of this positive development is the modern airport – with cutting-edge cargo handling and passenger capabilities where the largest wide-bodied new generation jumbo jets could easily land and lift-off. This aviation precinct is destined to be one of the world’s new types of cities, an aerotropolis that develops around air transportation logistics as stated above.

“Dubbing KwaZulu-Natal as an aerotropolis, signals the dawn of a highly competitive business-operating environment that boasts endless possibilities that are conducive for the acceleration of business efficiencies which is essential for enhanced global supply chain,” says KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Minister of Economic Development, Tourism & Environmental Affairs, Mr Michael Mabuyakhulu. “Because Durban is the province’s primary manufacturing center, it is positioned perfectly to broaden its industrial horizon through the advent of the emerging aerotropolis around King Shaka International Airport. The interconnectivity through road, rail, sea and air becomes our strong pedestal to market the province and the region as an ideal location for investment and tourism. The World Routes Development Summit provides that platform to expose our province and the city to influential figures in the aviation and tourism business as we want more airlines to consider direct flights to Durban as a reliable aviation hub.”

More importantly, the aerotropolis is strategically located between the country’s leading sea-ports of Durban and Richards Bay that handle a wide range of bulk commodities for export and import markets. In the very near future, these maritime facilities will be complemented by a new ground-breaking infrastructure development, the dig-out port on the Durban’s southern industrial basin that is championed to contend with the country’s bulging global trade volumes. The growth prospects therefore require complementary multi-modal logistics to present different transport options to the globally inclined business community.

It thus comes as no surprise that the World Routes Development Summit, as the largest and most premier aviation and tourism event in the Routes portfolio, is taking place on 19th – 22nd September 2015 where 3000 senior representatives from more than 110 countries in the fields of airlines, airports and tourism will meet to discuss the development of integrated world routes to promote symbiotic trade amongst the nations of the world.

Further to the World Routes Summit that is expected to position KwaZulu-Natal and the City of Durban as a key player with respect to global trade, it is also destined to highlight to potential investors the significance of Dube Trade Port’s butterfly effect on the province’s other diverse sectors that would culminate in the development of an aerotropolis which could be summed up as:

  • A freight-orientated development with world-class cargo facilities, managed by a single handler and is considered the most secure in Africa;
  • Being purpose-built, specifically within a radius of 7,5km around the mighty Dube Trade Port; and
  • One of few Aerotropolis developments around the world utilizing a Greenfield site, with an additional 32 000 acres ready for carefully planned and controlled development.

“The future development of an aerotropolis also leaves a considerable space for public and private sectors’ co-operation which is a strong element of co-ordination and alignment with government’s broad and long term socio-economic developmental strategy, the National Development Plan”, added Mr Mabuyakhulu who further stated that hosting the World Routes function would inspire the development of the aerotropolis as some of the participants in the Routes festivities would be able to sample possible investment opportunities in the designated precinct.



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