Atlantis has a complicated history, which has recently, unfortunately, become synonymous with gangsterism. Atlantis was established during the 1970s by the Apartheid government as an industrial centre and a community for the coloured population of Cape Town under the Group Areas Act. In the mid-1980s, thanks to major tax incentives, there were approximately 50 industrialists in Atlantis employing people drawn from nearly 8 000 households. These industries included large manufacturing companies such as Tedelex.
But the tax incentives soon dried up, and over the years Atlantis became cut off, an outpost, feeling increasingly like a ghost town, where opportunistic and career criminals had free reign.
But there is a sense of a new dawn for Atlantis with numerous new factories and businesses which have started to operate in Atlantis recently. Hisense opened a factory in the town in June 2013 injecting R350 million into the first phase of the Atlantis plant, creating 300 production positions, accompanied by a skills-transfer programme led by technicians and engineers from China.
And now, finally, after years of planning and lobbying, Atlantis has been designated a Special Economic Zone (SEZ). This designation is basically a jacked-up version of the old Industrial Development Zones (IDZ), with the focus now on diverse regional development needs and taking into account the context of each region. They are essentially designed to be growth engines towards government’s strategic objectives of industrialisation, regional development and employment creation.
Over R600m has already been invested by the green manufacturing industry in Atlantis, for the manufacture of wind towers, wind tower internals and solar panels. It’s another perfect example of inter-governmental cooperation with positive results, despite the politicking in the foreground.
The City of Cape Town, Western Cape Provincial Government, National Department of Trade and Industry, Wesgro and GreenCape have worked together on the SEZ project, with investors now being offered a range of tax incentives, including the benefits of co-location, and access to established markets.
The revitalisation of the area is happening at speed.
The MyCiti bus service is fully operational (barring a bus driver’s strike) and a fibre optic network has been established to improve the broadband utilization and load shedding curtailment agreements. As part of the basket of incentives for investors, they can expect building plan approvals to be fast-tracked, reduced electricity tariffs and access to an Investment Facilitation Office in Atlantis.
Gestamp Renewable Industries was the first of these investments. The company has already invested R300 million and has created about 220 jobs in Atlantis. Other investors are Resolux, with an investment of R25 million, Kaytech with an investment of R130 million, and Skyward Windows with an investment of R50 million.
An additional R2.4 billion in investment is expected to flow into the area, following its official designation as an SEZ. In the short term over 1 400 jobs will be created in Atlantis, multiplying to over 4 500 in the long term, for the West Coast region as a whole.
Wesgro CEO Tim Harris says the Atlantis Special Economic Zone for Green Technology is testimony to what is possible when all levels of government collaborate.
“It is also a reflection on how the Western Cape is building an economy that will benefit from global growth in the future. But now the real hard work begins. We will work hard to tell the world to come to Cape Town and the Western Cape, and set up their green tech factory, right here in Atlantis.”
Atlantis will soon have a good story to tell.