DEVELOPMENT: Single Agency For Cape
Recent Western Cape Business News
Discussions are taking place between the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Provincial Government regarding the establishment of a single Western Cape Economic Development Agency.
The establishment of the Agency will bring together the various existing promotional and sector bodies under one umbrella which should strengthen their ability to operate as well as make it easier to identify and support new emerging growth sectors, the argument goes.
There are currently a range of different development agencies (called Special Purpose Vehicles – SPVs) supported by the City and Province such as Wesgro, Cape Town Routes Unlimited, Cape Craft and Design Institute, South African Oil and Gas Alliance, Cape Town Boatbuilding and Technology Initiative, all with different roles. It is hoped that they will be more effective if they were brought under one roof. The concept is not to merge all the bodies into one amorphous mass but to maintain a sectoral and market-driven focus.
According to Felicity Purchase, the City's Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Development and Tourism, having so many disparate SPVs has resulted in some just not having the resources to provide the level of support necessary to help the sector grow.
“Whereas a stronger amalgamated body will bring together the various promotional and sector bodies which will enable sufficient resources to be directed to cater for the needs of all levels of the growth sector, from emerging and small to big business. It is not going to be a case of the so-called two economies being treated completely separately, but the needs of all business in the growth sector will be addressed through the one Agency,” she said.
There is a particular need to look at ways to improve our support service to emerging and small business. Experience has shown that the RED Door small business support offices operated by Provincial Government have been less successful than had been hoped in generating growth of emerging and small business. They offered generic rather than sector specific support which is perhaps why their success has been limited. In addition, they duplicated the role of the National Department of Trade & Industries (DTI) SEDA offices which offer similar services. Other NGOs such as The Business Place also offer the same range of services and is it generally agreed that they do a better job.
“Instead of the City and Province duplicating these generic small business support structures, we would rather concentrate on offering quality services to our growth target sectors. It is also important to note that having all the SPVs working together will make it easier for the City and Province to develop a specific ‘brand’ to which all can subscribe. This is something that has been lacking in the past,” said Purchase.
The creation of a single Agency is however not just about sector development and promotion. Such a body could be tasked to undertake major specific development projects. The London Docklands project was handled by the London Development Agency. So, for example, the East City Precinct project could be given to the Western Cape Economic Development Agency to develop.
According to Purchase, the intention is not that the Agency should become a monolithic structure. “The basic administration should be ‘lean and mean’, but special task teams would be assembled for specific projects to bring in the best of local and if necessary international expertise, much as was done when the Victoria and Alfred(V&A) Waterfront was developed. Using this system will enable development processes to be more focused and streamlined.”
" It is absolutely essential that the Agency does not become a political body. Instead, it must remain a development body. The success of the Agency will ultimately depend upon the people involved. We already have some very talented people within the various SPVs. We will ensure that they are given the tools to deliver on their mandate. In addition, other suitably qualified people need to be recruited to fill key positions within the organisation. Much work needs to be done before the proposed Agency comes into being, but the City is determined to assist the Provincial Government to ensure that it happens and that we have a body that we can rely upon to drive development in Cape Town and the Western Cape in the future, ” Purchase said.
Establishing the Agency is however not a solution for all problems related to making the city more attractive as a place to do business. When the Agency attracts more investment and helps businesses grow, the City needs to ensure that development proposals are not held up by unnecessary or bureaucratic red-tape.
“As part of the City’s efforts to make Cape Town globally competitive, we are in the process of establishing a continuous improvement process. This process has already started, by making it possible to obtain permits for film, events and informal trading on-line, but this is just the beginning. Ensuring the improvement of the various processes will be written into the performance agreements of senior officials to help us achieve our objective to make the city more competitive. The City of Cape Town cannot undertake this massive task alone and close co-operation with other role players such as business, other spheres of government, parastatals and academia is essential if we are to make real progress,” Purchase added.
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