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CSIR and COEGA set to establish Biofibre Hub - published 4 Jun 2021

CSIR and COEGA Set to Establish Biofibre Hub to Support upscaling of Biofibre Products in Eastern Cape

Gqeberha, 04 June 2021 – The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) in the Eastern Cape, will work together in the development of an industrial research facility dedicated to the production of commercially viable biofibre products and applications.

On Friday, 4 June 2021, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Thulani Dlamini, and CDC CEO, Mr Khwezi Tiya, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that paves the way for a public-private partnership that will allow the local industry to make headway in the undersupplied global market of biofibres.

A biofibre facility will be established in the Coega Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a 9 003-hectare prime serviced industrial piece of land that focuses on multiple business sectors and is divided into 14 zones, which provides a conducive investment environment for both local and foreign investors. The initial set up will comprise the relocation of CSIR fibre processing equipment to the Coega SEZ. The facility will be a full-scale multipurpose manufacturing plant capable of fibre processing, air lathe for making non-woven composites, seed dehulling and cracking bio-oils, including hemp and flax to produce bio-composites.

“As a preferred investment destination on the African continent, the Coega SEZ creates sustainable value for local and global investors in accordance with the Industrial Policy Action Plan, which identifies SEZs as key contributors to economic development and growth engines towards government’s strategic objectives of industrialisation, regional development, and employment creation”, says Mr Khwezi Tiya.

Khwezi Tiya, CDC Chief Executive Officer

The partnership aims to boost government’s strategic intent to create a future cannabis (hemp) industry, in line with the national draft master plan to commercialise South Africa’s cannabis industry, which includes both dagga and hemp. The initiative will create 25 000 jobs in the Eastern Cape over the next five years, while simultaneously rekindling industrial growth in South Africa by prioritising investments towards labour absorptive potential and high multiplier effects. In addition to this, the exciting venture will add potentially 1% to the provincial gross domestic product of the Eastern Cape over the next five years.

The joint venture comes after both parties identified the strategic value of relocating the CSIR-owned fibre textile research unit, currently based at the Nelson Mandela University Campus, a predominantly academic setting, to the industry-oriented Coega SEZ, in order to boost the province’s employment rate and the incipient fibre-based composites industry in South Africa. Speaking during the virtual signing event, Dr Dlamini expressed the importance of using available resources to strengthen industrial development to create much-needed jobs in the country.

“The CSIR Strategy seeks to support South African industries to develop products and services that will translate into value-added production and the commercialisation of intellectual property. We hope that, out of this partnership, new enterprises will emerge and that this will contribute to economic growth and job creation.”

Dr Thulani Dlamini, CSIR Chief Executive Officer

Mr Tiya further elaborated on and emphasised the CDC’s role in deepening state capacity to deliver on socioeconomic development, in accordance with the National Development Plan, Vision 2030 and in line with the organisation’s vision. Therefore, the partnership with the CSIR is evidence that Coega continues to prioritise attracting partners and investors into the Coega SEZ that will develop products and services, in order to not only create employment opportunities, but also provide training and development for local citizens.

As part of the agreement, the CSIR and CDC will also establish an incubation programme, which will support manufacturers by fostering industrial partnerships; availing skills and technology to entrepreneurs from the research and product development facility; and providing business advice, capital and market opportunities. This facility will allow emerging manufacturers that intend to produce for export to locate on the SEZ and enjoy the existing range of SEZ benefits from where they can also access the range of services offered.

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