Aspire, registered as the Amathole Economic Development Agency, is a proprietary limited company established in September 2005 and is wholly owned by the Amathole District Municipality. Aspire’s vision is to be a pioneer in the stimulation of spatial economic development.
Aspire is positioned as a “trusted advisor, stimulator and partner in the regional economic environment” and our mission is to stimulate locality development, with the objective of regenerating small town economies. We believe that the regeneration of decaying small towns will enhance their ability to contribute to the economy of the Amathole Region, and will improve the quality of life of its residents.
Aspire’s programmes can be classified into four pillars:
- Town-centre development
- Growth point or node development
- Corridor investments
- Developing markets
The four pillars, which are also in line with the recently published World Bank case-study, have the following objectives:
Town-centre enhancement schemes that seek to promote vital and vibrant town centers, which are the heart of the town’s ability to be competitive. Town centre development schemes include a wide range of initiatives from developing business partnership, marketing the town centre, undertaking surveys, upgrading the physical environment to targeting investment and so on.
Current Aspire initiatives include physical infrastructure improvements in eight small towns have either started, near-completion or waiting funding with approved plans. In the Butterworth central business district (CBD) for example, where congestion, over-crowding and competing use of public space between business, informal traders, taxi operators dominates the town center, Aspire focused on building pavements, closing-off a street to provide facilities and ablution block for informal trading and installed street-lighting. The project is nearing completion.
In Stutterheim, a racially-divided town in the apartheid era - a construction of a vehicular bridge and access road to link the town and the township (black location) was completed in July 2011. A naming process of the bridge (through community consultation) and official opening of the bridge by the Mayor is scheduled for September 2011 – but the bridge and the road are in full use by the local residents.
Town Development Schemes:
Encouraging investment into growth nodes identifies specific areas within the town or corridor where certain types of businesses are encouraged to locate. A growth node may then act as the centre for planned growth and employment.
Current Aspire initiatives include the construction of the Hamburg Artists’ Retreat - a catalytic project set to anchor the regeneration of Hamburg as a niche tourism destination centred on art and the development of local artists. An artists’ retreat is a resort equipped with accommodation, studios and facilities for artists. The Hamburg Artists Retreat will offer a multidisciplinary residency programme, thus it will provide facilities for all genres of art. To begin with, the focus will be on music production and performance, theatre, dance and crafts. There will also be the provision of artist lofts to cater for the more quiet arts, such as writing and painting. This development has triggered Aspire’s recent funding support from national government for the development of complimentary services in the development of the town centre.
A rural nodal development initiative in Ndakana village, focused on food security and agro-processing is also taking off with a R1 million funding support from the IDC.
- Nodal Developments
- Gcuwa Dam
- Hamburg Artists’ Retreat
- N6 Petro-Park
- Mlungisi Community Commercial Park
Encouraging investment into corridors includes the expansion of growth from an area of promising economic activity out towards a more challenging area. By encouraging incremental investment, the aim is to develop an active growth corridor linking richer and poorer areas, reducing social and economic exclusion.
Aspire’s current initiatives in this, include the production of blueberries on 55 hectares of land on the N6 corridor and extending it towards the rural villages of Keiskammahoek for additional 20ha – and 6ha has already started with plantation. Similar plans and feasibility studies in partnership with provincial government partners are being followed with pineapples and citrus production on the R72 and R63 corridors, respectively.
- Berry production (N6)
- Citrus farming (R63)
- Pineapples (R72)
- Essential Oils and alternative crops (R63)
Developing markets within the context of regeneration programme involves tackling socially and economically disadvantaged groups – youth, women, people with disabilities and unemployed semi-skilled men. As the World Bank says, these interventions are the most challenging, the most expensive, take the longest time and are the most necessary activity government has to undertake.
An example includes the training of 40 young people in the manufacturing of wood and timber – with the aim to increase their employability and entrepreneurial skills. A few kilometers from this Woodhouse initiative is a retail development initiative – also aimed at supporting small entrepreneurs to locate in a more visible and accessible commercial centre (Mlungisi Community Commercial Park) and access local business support programmes.
Amabhele/Ndakana agroprocessing cluster
Keiskammahoek Fresh Produce Market