28 October 2021

Mpumalanga province is a gateway from Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Durban port and Richards Bay port through Ermelo or Swaziland and branching out to Limpopo province toward Zimbabwe; or directly to Mozambique; and even to Gauteng Province through Witbank. 

“This strategic location encompasses the Maputo Corridor Logistics, with Trans African Concessions, N4 and south-bound N3 Toll Concession highways which carry a significant share of South Africa, and Africa’s freight and passenger movement. 

These highways represent ambitious transport economic projects initiated in the late 90’s, followed by corridor development initiatives that anchor them through ports, industry and terminals,” says Professor Maredza. 

He further notes that there are more than 10 000 vehicles using these road corridors per day. By rail, Transnet Ltd. forecasts, the stretch between Richards Bay Port and Komatipoort via Swaziland to range between 20 and 60 million tons per annum; at least 100 million tons per year through Ermelo; and the rail freight tons between Mpumalanga and Limpopo are forecasted to range between 60 to 80 million tons per annum. 

The Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport located in the capital of Mpumalanga province is a critical point of entry to the tourism and mining economy and offers technical capacity for aircraft control, maintenance and development,” adds Professor Maredza. 

Effects of COVID-19 

Though he notes that in 2020 due to a combination of national lockdowns and travel restrictions, South Africa stopped moving and the public transport sector was hit hardest on an economical level causing unparalleled negative knock-on effects on aggregate demand and the wider economy. 

“In the wake of the crisis and to the extent that the fundamental factors that influence household and business mobility decisions revive and continue to support increased and sustained demand for both business and public transportation, the South African economy will experience economic growth and significant economic recovery post COVID-19,” he says. 

“However, on the downside, if a significant portion of the decrease in passenger transport demand persist in the post COVID-19 society and become permanent on account of safety concerns and other unforeseen dynamics, a chain of negative spill-over shocks will adversely affect the economy.”

In May 2021, Transport Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula in his budget speech mentioned that efficient public transport networks are important to keep economic hubs functioning optimally and a funding mechanism has been developed to enable the rollout of these networks to cities through the public transport network grant. 

“These allocations are expected to increase at an average annual rate of 15.7% over the medium term, from R4.4 billion in 2020/21 to R6.8 billion in 2023/24. The sizeable increase is due to once-off reductions in 2020/21 to fund priorities related the COVID-19 pandemic within the transport industry.”

Professor Maredza adds: “As the economy recovers gradually and both consumer and business confidence pick up, the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport will serve as a conduit for regional and international access to freight and passenger travel. These factors make the Mpumalanga province a critical point for both international, regional and intra-regional trade in the South African context.”

@ Professor Andrew Maredza is the Programme Leader: Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Mpumalanga. Picture Supplied.