A dynamic and multi-faceted project has been launched in the Camdeboo region in the Karoo, as a solution to combating poverty and unemployment.
The project was designed by green activist Guy Lieberman, to uplift impoverished communities by introducing tourism as a way of job creation and positive economic development.
A conference and tourism precinct, and a 4MW solar panel field are added bonuses to the show stopping Giant Flag, comprised of 2.5 million Karoo succulents forming the South African flag covering 66 hectares.
Attending the launch South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa, praised the project as being a ‘game-changing initiative’ which is showing the tourism industry in a different light, where innovations are driving local content and job creation.
‘There are myriad challenges facing the tourism and hospitality industry worldwide. In most countries, these are pretty standard, and include economic uncertainty, new patterns of consumer behaviour and demands, keeping pace with technology, for example.’…
‘In South Africa, the challenges are different, rooted in historical inequality. The Giant Flag, with its strong desire to level the playing field has broken the mould to significantly change the game. It’s innovative, it’s unique, and the model on which it is based has the potential to do the same in other countries where change is necessary.’…
‘In addition to these socio-economic issues, there are also the questions of climate change, food security and the health of the local ecology. That we can explore innovative tourism initiatives that also address these issues, in blended and robust developments such as the Giant Flag, we begin to ensure that we can — and should — look at things holistically moving forward’, she said.
The project is made of three parts:
- The first phase: the initiation phase
- The second phase: the activation phase
- The third phase: the build phase
The first phase and more than half of the second phase has been successfully completed. The third phase is said to commence early next year, costing R170 million. The solar panel field which will cover 60 000m2 will be allocated R100 million and the remainder R70 million will facilitate the development of the tourism precinct, succulents, administrations and the white road.
There is a pool of various financial institutions and investors who will be funding much of this project including significant involvement from the Development Bank of Southern Africa.
Crowd funding schemes will be launched shortly to make up the balance of the funds.
The Giant flag was a vision motivated by achieving harmony in developing regions, encompassing the importance of the environment and climate change, promoting economic development and socio-economic balance.
This initiative should be modelled by regions who face similar challenges.
Trustee and Legal Counsel, Derek Light, highlighted the importance of skill building and training programmes of the beneficiaries of the Endowment Fund in order to support their applications for microloans. This is a requirement.
Lieberman was optimistic in saying that ‘the sky’s the limit…I see opportunity upon opportunity upon opportunity when I visualise the flag and the communities that live around it’.
He continued by saying that ‘local labour will be employed for the construction and planting. In the 18 months it will take to establish just the botanical elements of the Giant Flag, over R5 million would go toward local labour, creating jobs for over 700 people. Up to 60% employed could be women, double the national standard’…
‘South Africa needs initiatives that create ecologically sustainable employment opportunities. The Giant Flag precinct will deliver more than 700 direct jobs, potentially many more, while generating 4 megawatts of electricity which it will sell into the grid and harvesting rainwater for use in the precinct or channelling elsewhere. I cannot think of a more desirable outcome.'