The eThekwini Central Business District (CBD) is a critical economic hub for the City, the Province and the Country being home to crucial economic infrastructure such as Southern Africa’s busiest port, Durban Port, and the Durban Container Terminal (DCT), which is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, handling 65% of South Africa’s container traffic. Additionally, the CBD is ideally positioned as a port of entry into Southern Africa through the critical business linkages created by transport and logistics infrastructure such as national roads and railway linking the City to other national economic hubs as well neighbouring countries who are reliant on the port.

However, in recent years, the CBD has fallen into disrepair and faces varying degrees of urban decay, with significant challenges such as derelict buildings, crime and grime, unregulated street trading, homelessness and a lack of infrastructure development and maintenance. eThekwini’s inner-city rejuvenation strategy is crucial to preserving the CBD as an essential economic hub. The CBD and inner-city need to be safe and secure as well as a conducive environment for people to live, do business and visit, thus making it more attractive to business and actively reversing the exodus of companies and ratepayers leaving the city centre.

At the recent Durban Chamber Central Area Forum, the Head of Catalytic Projects for the Economic Development and Planning Cluster of eThekwini Municipality showcased the inner-city Catalytic Projects that aim to kickstart business confidence in eThekwini’s CBD. In July, eThekwini Municipality commenced with the first phase of its inner-city rejuvenation project with the demolition of a few “bad” buildings in the CBD. It is exciting to note the energy being put into renovating and modernising architectural and urban design to provide convenience and comfort to the community, local businesses and investors as well as improving the aesthetic and investment profile of the area.

The business community looks forward to getting more insight into eThekwini’s long-term plans and programmes that will deal with corresponding issues such as informal trading, social housing, policing, waste management, infrastructure development, repair and maintenance and overall smart city planning. Familiarity with eThekwini’s long-term plans and programmes can empower local businesses to unlock the resultant potential economic benefits. By actively collaborating with the broader organised business community, it is possible for eThekwini to create and implement long-term plans and programmes that will promote the sustainability and longevity of this inner-city regeneration project.

Greater investment in the restoration of deteriorating infrastructure and the development of new infrastructure remains the cornerstone for economic growth and development and can actively empower CBD-based businesses to unlock potential economic benefits. Through this project, eThekwini can promote business development and inclusion by adopting and implementing an inclusive procurement approach to the public-private partnerships related to this programme. Both big businesses, as well as entrepreneurs, start-ups and small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), can then benefit from the project work.

Utilising local firms, in particular, SMMEs, in the execution of the inner-city rejuvenation project will translate into direct benefits for the local economy. Leading to revenue generation across various industry sectors involved in the project as well as their value chains which will also aid in addressing socio-economic challenges such as unemployment creating a self-sustaining, attractive and vibrant economic hub.