The coming months should see construction start in earnest on the R84 billion Chinese-driven “smart city” project, on Johannesburg’s East Rand, which will be completed over a 15-year period.
Anthony Diepenbroek, CEO of Zendai Development SA – the local arm of Hong Kong-based Shanghai Zendai Investments – says the “smart” concept for Modderfontein New City, as the development is known, is not limited to ICT services such as connectivity and fibre-to-the-home.
“We envisage that once the new city begins to take shape, smart systems will not only provide world-class ICT infrastructure, but also enable efficient use of resources and provide services that are responsive to people’s needs. The smart city elements will be all pervasive and not limited to ICT functions – but also cover energy, healthcare, water, waste and education.”
He says the new city will embrace smart technology to aid in the administration of city services, as well as reduce congestion, pollution, and energy consumption through sustainable development practices.
“Modderfontein New City is expected to be the first smart city in the country with services and systems designed into the fabric of the built environment from the outset.”
Zendai Development SA notes, once completed, the planned development is expected to infuse an additional employment boost in the Ekurhuleni metro, generating up to 200 000 white- and blue-collar jobs.
The company also expects the smart city development will create a significant amount of jobs and contribute billions of rands to the economy during the construction phase. According to an economic assessment, prepared by the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) in March last year, “there may be significant economy-wide benefits stemming from the Modderfontein development”.
The BER assessment – based on the 15-year development period and data supplied by the developers – indicates an annual contribution to the economy of R13.5 billion and the creation of more than 21 000 jobs a year.
Diepenbroek claims the project will see some of the biggest construction activity since the country hosted the soccer World Cup in 2010. “The model is skewed towards partnerships with local developers and/or the on-selling of parcels of land to independent developers. We expect the project to create significant downstream opportunities for even students in artisans’ institutes in the vicinity.”
He adds skills and knowledge transfer is an imperative to a project of any size. “Given the footprint of Modderfontein New City, we trust we will be able to run a robust knowledge transfer programme in project management and engineering, safety, sustainability, project controls and other specialties.”
Diepenbroek also allays fears that skills for the construction of the smart city would be resourced mainly from China, meaning the local labour force would not benefit. “As an organisation, we will seek to attract and develop the right mix of skills to support the development. To ensure a flow of the right talent to grow the business over time, we will be looking at hiring both locally as well as globally to build our talent pipeline.
“We seek to make a direct and meaningful contribution to economic and social inclusion by employing local talent. If certain skills are not available in South Africa, we would look at the global pool for such skills. However, we will have a programme to ensure these skills are transferred to South Africans. As a business, we are committed to meeting the prescribed employment benchmarks.”
Diepenbroek points out the development will be managed by Zendai Development SA, which will ensure contracts awarded to suppliers – both local and international – will follow due process and comply with regulatory and local government requirements.
He further notes the technology components for the smart city development would be sourced both locally and internationally. “The city will be rendered ‘smart’ through a collection of technologies cutting across many industries – transportation and traffic management, energy, telecoms and IT, electronics and surveillance, etc.
“To manage this torrent of information on a project the size of Modderfontein New City – we will have to rely on both local, as well as international suppliers. No one firm can cover the entire industry chain, in our opinion.”
The proposed development has also raised concerns among the Wetland Society of SA. According to environmental consultant and Wetland Society board member Paul Fairall, the extended seeps and wetland systems that straddle the Modderfonteinspruit are classified by Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development as irreplaceable.
Fairall says he will approach Zendai Development SA to discuss the company’s environmental impact assessment permits. However, Diepenbroek says all relevant clearances and regulatory approvals will be sought before any project starts. “Applications for environment clearances are sought on a project basis.
“These include detail related to wetlands, planned public/private open space, and the full spectrum of development parameters. All applications are subject to scrutiny and ultimately approval by the relevant authorities and departments therein.”
He points out Zendai Development SA previously planned and implemented projects such as Modderfontein Reserve and the rehabilitation and restoration of the Westlake wetland, in Modderfontein.
Source: IT Web
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