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Chinese delegation visits Makhanda

GROCOTTS / 02 OCTOBER 2019 - 15.37 / SUE MACLENNAN

On a hot Tuesday afternoon recently, delegates from Yuhang District in China’s Zheijiang Province were introduced to Makhanda during what was billed as a friendship programme. The visit was the extension of a two-day tour to the Eastern Cape by Governor Dr Yuan Jiajun and officials of the Province of Zheijiang.

Makhanda was introduced as primarily a cultural and educational hub and their visit later to the newly opened Observatory Museum was a contrast to an industry focused time with Premier Oscar Mabuyane the previous day.

Delegates from Zhejiang Province learned about some of Makana's cultural and economic treasures during a friendship meeting with Makana Municipality at the Monument on 10 September 2019. Photo: Sue Maclennan

The underlying message was essentially the same as the one Mabuyane expressed in his welcoming address though: “We need investors to come and locate within our province and manufacture goods for global markets. Our doors are open for the businesses of Zhejiang to come and invest in our province and create the jobs that our people yearn for,” Mabuyane had told Dr Yuan Jiajun at a welcome dinner the night before.

In his address distributed by his media team, Mabuyane described Zhejiang as one of the most economically advanced provinces in China, contributing to 6.3% the country’s economy and ranking 4th in economic strength among the country’s 23 provinces. Highly industrialised, Zhejiang was a leader in critical industries such as textiles, consumer goods, automobiles, shipbuilding, hardware and machinery, photovoltaic power generation, telecommunication, modern agriculture and biomedicine, Mabuyane said. Like the Eastern Cape, Zhejiang is a coastal province.

Here in Makhanda, the Yuhang District of Zheijiang has already made itself known through colourful and skilful performances by its artists at the National Arts Festival.

Delegates in the gathering at the Monument alongside the Makana and Sarah Baartman Mayors and Municipal Managers included Nafcoc Chairperson Ali Adam and National Arts Festival CEO Tony Lankester. District Mayor Rugen Chen told them he’d signed a memorandum of co-operation with Sarah Baartman Mayor Eunice Kekana the previous day.

Makana Mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa and Yuhang district Mayor Rugen Chen exchange gifts during a friendship visit on 10 September 2019. Photo: Sue Maclennan

“Our [districts]share much in common,” the Yuhang Mayor said.

While much smaller (2 228 square kilometres compared to Makana’s 4 375), the Province’s district of Yuhang had 1.6 million residents. It was known as a fashion district, Dr Yuan Jiajun said, and while it was a Unesco World Heritage Site because of it special archaeological significance, it was also a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Makana’s presentation was the kind that councillors could do with hearing – to remind them of the massive value of what’s under their curatorship, alongside the enormous responsibility of the welfare of a mostly poor citizenry.

Excellent state and private schools featured high on Makhanda’s selling points in presentations.

Along with the National Arts Festival, Mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa told the Chinese delegation about Fingo Festival, Scifest Africa and the Schools Festival. Makhanda was the seat of the high court, home to Rhodes University and the significant 6SAI Military Base, surrounded by world-class game reserves, sitting on R2 billion worth of kaolin and strategically located midway between the metropolitan areas of Port Elizabeth and East London.

Significant among Makhanda and Makana’s valuable assets, the Mayor told the Chinese, were its excellent private and state schools and a “very vibrant stakeholder society”.

Under ‘leverage projects’ – local economic development initiatives planned to provide a socio-economic injection – the Mayor listed:

* The Creative City (at the stage of a business plan); * Inner city regeneration (feasibility plan stage); * Kaolin (business plan); * Airfield precinct site plan (terms of reference for a feasibility study); * Waste management and recycling/ waste to energy (proposals); * Egazini Memorial Precinct (proposal).

Outgoing CEO Tony Lankester cited Festival figures that include:

* 200 000 visitors to the Festival every year; * An enormous number of performances (a full six months’ worth, laid back to back); * A contribution of R377 million a year to the Eastern Cape’s GDP and R94m a year to the city’s; * Seasonal jobs for 1000 local people.

The only constraint on the growth of the Festival was a shortage of accommodation, Lankester said.

Picking up on Yuhang’s fashion reputation, Lankester said clothing – particularly traditional attire – and textiles were an untapped part of Makhanda’s Creative City mix.

The delegation from Yuhang District comprised Mayor of Jingshan Town Mrs Ping Shen, Mr Yaoping Wang (Director, Linping New city management committee), Mr Rugen Chen (Mayor, Yuhang district), Mr Qin Xu (Director, Bureau of city planning and construction, Yuhang), Mr Chengtao Xia (Section chief, Yuhang district government) and Mrs Ludan Xu (Section chief, Yuhang district foreign affairs office).

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LINK : https://www.grocotts.co.za/2019/10/02/chinese-delegation-visits-makhanda/

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