Coega ADZ: Investment-ready platform Coega ADZ: Investment-ready platform
Coega’s Business Development Manager Dr Keith du Plessis says the Coega Aquaculture Development Zone could create an investment-ready platform for infrastructure projects in the... Coega ADZ: Investment-ready platform

Coega’s Business Development Manager Dr Keith du Plessis says the Coega Aquaculture Development Zone could create an investment-ready platform for infrastructure projects in the emerging aquaculture sector

Aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing food sectors globally and is considered a key sector for future food production (Costello et al., 2020).

Aquaculture is defined as the farming and husbandry of freshwater and marine organisms such as fish, shellfish, and plants (including seaweed). Production can be land-based or off-shore in rivers, dams, or the ocean. Land-based aquaculture uses constructed systems with raceways, ponds, or tanks.

According to Heller (2017), land-based aquaculture is expected to see continued growth to meet the increased market demand as the global demand for seafood continues to grow.

It is predicted that by 2050, the production and volumes from aquaculture, particularly around Asia, will double and be the main supply of aquatic dietary protein globally (Stentiford et al., 2020).

Dr Keith du Plessis, Business Development Manager

Besides having a smaller spatial footprint when compared with both land-based agriculture and capture fisheries, aquaculture offers many positive attributes including poverty alleviation in socio-economically disadvantaged regions, increased production due to technological advances and comparatively lower environmental impacts (Stentiford et al., 2020).

Notwithstanding the enormous potential that it holds for the economy of South Africa, the local aquaculture sector is underperforming and continues to contribute very little to national fishery products and the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) (FAO, 2022).

According to Little et al. (2016), aquaculture has expanded faster than any other livestock sector in recent decades, growing at an annual rate of 7.5% between 1990 and 2009, thereby outperforming the global growth achieved by the poultry (<5 %) and pig (<2.5%) sectors.

There has, however, been a decline in the global growth rate of aquaculture since the beginning of the century (FAO, 2020), with public opposition, restricted land space for aquaculture farms, licensing backlogs, market issues and diseases being cited as some of the reasons for the declining growth rate of the sector.

To unlock the aquaculture sector in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipal (NMBM) region, the Coega Development Corporation (CDC), as operator of the leading Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Africa, decided to develop a 440-hectare (ha) land-based aquaculture development zone (ADZ) in the Coega SEZ to accommodate both freshwater and marine aquaculture.

The overall purpose of the development is to create an investment-ready platform for planned commercial aquaculture operations to establish within the Coega SEZ, thereby facilitating entrance into and boosting the growth of the sector in the region.

Problem identification

Through stakeholder engagement and desktop research, the CDC identified some of the major constraints stifling the growth of the sector in the NMBM region and set out to address some of these through public sector interventions.

It should be noted that the identified constraints listed below are by no means exhaustive and merely serve to highlight constraints from an infrastructural and environmental perspective that the CDC seeks to address through the development of the Coega ADZ.

The identified constraints include:

  • Access to land adjacent to the ocean: Land adjacent to the ocean in South Africa is costly to acquire and largely protected by environmental legislation.
  • Logistics linkages to local and international markets: It is crucial to have good road networks to transport products to local markets. Being situated close to an airport or seaport for exports is vitally important.
  • Availability of bulk infrastructure: Delivering bulk infrastructural services to properties adjacent to the ocean is usually very costly, especially in rural areas. Therefore, the financing of bulk infrastructure as part of the project’s development cost would, more often than not, render the project non-viable.
  • Environmental approvals: Cumbersome and costly environmental approvals have been a major stumbling block, especially for SMMEs seeking to enter the aquaculture sector.

Coega ADZ

Over the past decade, the CDC has set out to develop one of the largest land-based ADZs on a single geographical footprint in South Africa. The 440-ha ADZ is a greenfield development located inside the Coega SEZ adjacent to the deepwater Port of Ngqura (Figure 1).

Being situated adjacent to the Indian Ocean with approximately 12km of coastline forming part of the boundary of the 9003-ha SEZ, it was inevitable that the CDC would pursue aquaculture as one of its targeted sectors for development.

Figure 1: Location of the Coega ADZ inside the Coega SEZ. (Source: Ethical Exchange, 2017)
Figure 2: The Coega ADZ indicates the low-lying coastal section earmarked mainly for high seawater users, e.g., abalone farms and a higher-lying inland section for marine return aquaculture systems (RAS) and freshwater aquaculture. (Source: Ethical Exchange, 2017)

Antoinette Panton

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