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Research insights steer Coega’s success

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THE Coega Development Corporation’s (Coega) research unit is one of the driving forces behind Coega’s success story over the past 15 years and has assisted the organisation to maintain its competitive advantage through invaluable, accurate, and sound market insights and data-based evidence for informed decision-making and market development, says Coega’s head of research and senior economist, Semiyou Rafiou.

Aligned with Coega’s vision and mission, the organisation’s research prowess has made significant strides in refining its value proposition and market intelligence, while providing a research and consulting service to external clients throughout the African continent.

Established in 2008, the Coega research unit was initially designed to support and improve the business outlook of the 9003-hectare Coega Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Fast forward to today, based on 15 years of experience, capabilities, high concentration of skilled researchers and industry-leading economists, the Coega research unit has evolved to offer a service to several external clients in South Africa, and the rest of the continent. Additionally, Coega’s research unit comprises a well-versed technical team of researchers and economists who are specialists in the areas of statistics, economics, and analysis; qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-approach research methodologies; and market intelligence analysis with in-depth knowledge of local and global economic and market trends.

In 2010, the first Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Outlook was conceptualised and developed by Coega’s research unit. The unit has also assisted other organisations with several legislative processes and applications in the development and operations of SEZs in the country. The applications include, amongst others, the department of trade, industry, and competition (the dtic) SEZ designation status; infrastructure and project funding applications; formulation of company profiles using economic analyses; economic periodic reviews; trends on foreign direct investment, industry, and sectorial reports, including investor leads.

The Coega research unit also provides the flagship Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Analysis and Forecast Report, which presents an analysis on the macroeconomic performance of the global and domestic economy. The report provides a granular view of the Eastern Cape’s economy at the district municipality level, sectoral performance, investment potential, labour market analysis and initiatives to uplift growth and socio-economic development. This year, Coega’s research unit also made a successful contribution to the Eastern Cape Provincial Treasury for Budget Facility for Infrastructure (BFI) Project,  in the form of the Coega Return Effluent (RE) Scheme.

The Coega RE Scheme is an innovative water sustainability initiative that involves infrastructure upgrades in zones 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the SEZ and the construction of a pipeline to convey treated effluent or industrial quality water from the Fishwater Flats Wastewater Treatment Works to the Coega SEZ for industrial use. Coega made a successful application through the BFI, meeting the stringent project preparation requirements. Out of the R3,1 billion required for the full scheme, the allocation of R1,8 billion for phase 1 is an important investment that will impact the water supply in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro in the medium term.  This investment will reaffirm Coega as a leading SEZ on the continent and a preferred sustainable investment destination for investors.  External stakeholders and clients can benefit from Coega’s research unit capabilities, as consultants.

The agility of Coega’s research unit value proposition and service offering is driven primarily by a changing competitive environment and a rising demand from both internal and external clients. Currently, the unit has several primary functions, namely,

(a) providing market insights and intelligence to attract investors to the Coega SEZ;

(b) quantifying the socio-economic benefit spillover of the Coega SEZ to the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, including the Eastern Cape’s economy;

(c) analysing and simplifying the interpretation of operational data to assist Coega to formulate its strategic initiatives;

(d) optimising processes to easily identify opportunities for organisational growth; and

(e) providing quantitative assessments, quantitative economic research, and other advisory services to help achieve financial sustainability.

Coega’s research unit has also contributed to the organisation’s Diversification Strategy, which saw the introduction of new product lines, including project management and infrastructure development (non-SEZ services) to meet client needs. The unit also prides itself on its involvement in various groundbreaking projects through the provision of socio-economic and impact assessments (SEIA), market insights, as well as a cost-benefit analysis for the Aquaculture Development Zone and Multi-User Facility within the Coega SEZ.

Several other initiatives, including the lead that the research unit takes on the Coega SEZ Census, internal and external client perception and satisfaction surveys, and internal and external feasibility studies, are testament to the success of the Coega research unit in its generation of data-driven insights to ensure that Coega remains competitive in a dynamic global economy.

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