The Amathole District Municipality, on the eastern seaboard of South Africa, was established after the first transformed local government elections in December 2000. The district stretches from the Indian Ocean coastline in the south to the Amathole Mountains in the north, and from Mbolompo Point (just south of the Hole-in-the-Wall along the Transkei Wild Coast) in the east to the Great Fish River in the west.
It is a land of rivers and fertile floodplains, undulating grasslands, valley bush, pristine estuaries, beaches, forests and waterfalls. The bio-diversity of the district is often remarked upon, together with possible implications for future socio-economic developments and competitive advantages.
The district lies at the heart of the Eastern Cape Province and is presently home to about 1.7 million people. The economy of the district is dominated by Buffalo City, which comprises the coastal city of East London, King William’s Town, Mdantsane and the provincial administrative capital of Bhisho.
The district has eight local municipalities, each containing at least one urban service centre. These are:
Amahlathi Municipality (Cathcart, Stutterheim and Kei Road)
Buffalo City Municipality (East London, King William’s Town, Mdantsane and Bhisho)
Great Kei (Komga, Kei Mouth, Hagga-Hagga, Morgan’s Bay and Chintsa)
Mbhashe (Dutywa, Willowvale, Elliotdale)
Mnquma (Butterworth, Nqamakwe, Centane)
Ngqushwa (Peddie, Hamburg)
Nkonkobe (Seymour, Fort Beaufort, Alice, Middledrift)
Nxuba (Bedford, Adelaide)
Buffalo City accounts for 42% of the district’s population, 83% of the district’s economic output, and 72% of the district’s formal employment. The city is clearly important to the growth and development fortunes of the district and critical to realising an integrated district growth and development agenda.
Sectors that provide formal employment in the district are public services (75,000 jobs); manufacturing (27,000 jobs); trade (25,000 jobs); and agriculture (17,000 jobs).
Nevertheless, unemployment and poverty levels are high, particularly in those local municipalities which were formerly in Ciskei and Transkei.
The Amathole District’s existing manufacturing sector includes the automotive, textile, pharmaceutical, electronics and food-processing industries. The automotive industry has strong linkages into activities such as component parts, industrial textiles and leather tanning. Renowned companies operating in the district include DaimlerChrysler SA, Johnson & Johnson, Da Gama Textiles, China Garments, Nestlé, First National Battery, Summerpride Foods, Castellano-Beltrame, Defy Refrigeration, Dimbaza Foundries, Kromberg & Schubert, Aspen Pharmacare, Yarntex and Coca-Cola Bottling to name a few.
Two of the Eastern Cape’s Spatial Development Initiatives (SDIs) for concentrated economic development, the Fish River and Wild Coast SDIs, fall partly within the Amathole region. The East London Industrial Development Zone, endorsed by the Department of Trade and Industry, is aimed at export-oriented manufacturing and processing and is ideally located close to the airport and harbour, the only river port in South Africa.
In 2005, the district established the economic development agency Aspire, which is a proprietary limited company and wholly owned by the Amathole District Municipality. Aspire’s vision is to be a pioneer in the stimulation of spatial economic development.