The Central Karoo District Municipality (DM) is a category C municipality which is characterised by high levels of poverty. It is situated in the northeast of the Western Cape Province and borders both the Eastern Cape Province and Northern Cape Province.
The municipal area covers Beaufort West, Laingsburg and Prince Albert as well as the District Management Area (DMA), which includes the town of Murraysburg. The District was declared a presidential Node by President Thabo Mbeki during 2001 due to high levels of poverty, poor health services, high illiteracy and lack of skills development.
As a result it has been incorporated in the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme (ISRDP). It is also one of the 11 municipalities in the Western Cape Project Consolidate Programme.
Central Karoo posted strong growth in 2005, increasing its regional gross domestic product (GDPR), albeit from a low base. The District, however, contributed only 0,5 per cent to the Western Cape economy.
Beaufort West and Prince Albert are the main contributors to the District’s economy. In 2005, the two municipalities contributed 55,6 per cent and 29,8 per cent respectively to the Central Karoo District’s economy.
The growth was largely driven by the fast growing sectors such as financial and business services, manufacturing, transport and communications, wholesale and retail, and construction.
The District is strategically placed on the main transport corridor between the in-land provinces and the coastal regions of the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape. It is positioned centrally and has excellent road (N1, N12) and railway connections.
The Central Karoo’s size, location and relatively rural composition have been limiting factors in terms of potential to attract key investment and skills to support the local economic activity.
The district has a low population density with large distances between towns and settlements. It is some distance away from large markets. Central Karoo is famous for the production of lamb, leather, wool, mohair, and deciduous fruit, which caters mainly for the export market.
Historically, the main driver of the local economy; has been commercial farming, particularly of livestock. The environment limits the potential for expansion of the sector.
Project Consolidate is targeted at municipalities and promotes all spheres of government working together with communities to address the pervasive challenges of poverty and under-development.
The Karoo National Park is located within the District. The National Park’s presence heralds potential for growth in tourism. It is currently the main tourism attraction and offers beautiful scenery, hiking trails and conference facilities.