Driving workforce development and poverty reduction through a roads upgrading project, and distilling lessons for policy development

Policy Support to KwaZulu Natal Department of Transport

Country: South Africa
Contract Period: March 2006 - present
Client: KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport

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KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is beset by socioeconomic problems such as high unemployment and daunting rates of HIV/AIDS infection - the highest in South Africa. Poor as it is, KwaZulu-Natal plays a pivotal role in the nation's economy because its major ports and road corridors serve as the conduit for 80 percent of freight moving in and out of the country.

In 2001, KZN's Department of Transport (DoT) launched the African Renaissance Roads Upgrade Programme (ARRUP), a building and maintenance initiative that engages poor rural communities in workforce development, poverty reduction, and the infrastructure improvements necessary to broader economic growth. Representing an investment of R4.6 billion over 10 years, DoT took a two-pronged approach under ARRUP: 1) recruiting people - especially women and youth - from communities surrounding the seven major road corridors to bid as contractors on road preparation and construction tenders; and 2) encouraging emerging black-owned engineering firms to form joint ventures with established engineering companies. Certain amounts of work were reserved exclusively for these joint ventures.

ECIAfrica has been assisting the Strategic Planning Directorate of the KZN DoT with two key assignments. First, ECIAfrica has evaluated the ARRUP programme and distilled its lessons learnt, with a view to developing a set of policy guidelines. Second, ECIAfrica is further investigating policy and participatory consultation to help develop KZN's Provincial White Paper on Transport Policy. Under ARRUP, KZN DoT tested ways to support the nationwide goals of preferential procurement and promoting emerging contractors and labour-based works, while also ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in infrastructure delivery. These themes will filter through to the new provincial policy document.