Mining and tourism are anchors in a town which has one of the deepest natural harbours in Africa
Situated on a 30km² lagoon, which is part of the Mhlatuze River, the northern KwaZulu-Natal town of Richards Bay boasts one of the country’s largest and the deepest natural harbour in Africa.
The town began as a makeshift harbour established by commodore of the Cape, Sir Frederick Richards, during the AngloZulu War, and the town was laid out on the shores of the lagoon in 1954. In the 1970s dredging in the harbour converted the facility into a deep water one with railway and an oil/gas pipeline linking the port to Joburg.
Richards Bay port contains what was once the world’s largest coal export facility. South32 operates the two aluminium smelters Hillside Aluminum and Bayside Aluminium, while Foskor operates a fertiliser plant erected at the harbour.
Rio Tinto-owned Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) mines iron ore, titanium oxide and zircon from the sanddunes and local exports include coal, aluminium, titanium and other heavy minerals, granite, ferrochrome, paper pulp, wood chips and phosphoric acid.
The Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone is one of two provincial industrial development zones and is a fully serviced industrial site comprising heavy, medium and light industries linked to the adjacent Port of Richards Bay. The John Ross Parkway linking the town to Empangeni and the N2 is named for John Ross (real name Charles Rawden Maclean), the 15-year-old boy who walked from Port Natal to Maputo and back to procure medicine and supplies for the early settlers.
Tourism forms the second anchor for Richards Bay’s economy, with the town viewed as a gateway to Zululand and the game reserves. The Tuzi Gazi Waterfront offers a range of tourism attractions.
Property opportunities incorporate high-end residential developments and bespoke office and commercial space ranging from 30m² to 1 000m². Broll Broking KwaZuluNatal’s Anthon van Weers says the mixed-use development John Ross Eco Junction is the Liberty Properties’ answer to the increased demand for mixed-use commercial and industrial development.
The 195 000m² site comprises two land parcels situated at the junction of the N2 and the John Ross Highway and provides easy access to multiple logistics facilities and offers a high visibility profile.
Van Weers says with more than 30 sites, the prime location has been billed as a highpotential development node in the greater uMhlathuze area, with the development corridor expected to benefit from Transnet’s R33 billion planned infrastructure spend over the next seven years.
This will potentially increase investment in the region and correspondingly drive up the demand for real estate and land. Identified as a special zone business park development, the site is appropriate for commercial workshops, light industrial, motor dealerships, general showrooms, warehousing, wholesale shops, office buildings, a hotel and a hospital.
There are various investment and rental opportunities available in Richards Bay. Coming to the market last month was a luxury nine-bedroom guest suite lodge in Birdswood for R3.9 million.
Another commercial property and business for sale is located at Meerensee that currently functions as a pre-school and has an asking price of R2.3m. In Richards Bay Central is a recently renovated commercial property measuring 310m² on the market for R9m. On the rental front there is a 160m² office for R150/m² and a 36m² office in a shopping mall in Richards Bay Central demanding R18 400/month.
Businesses operating include many hotels and restaurants
Bon Hotels Group
The group operates a chain of hotels across South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria and Ethiopia catering for the accommodatin demands of business and leisure tourism.
The franchised restaurant brand honouring the Stellenbosch-based Drostdy landmark was launched in 1996 to bring a combination wine cellar/restaurant to the market. The concept combines Stellenbosch wine cellars with food and a warm ambience using decor distinctive of the Cape Wine Route.
The company provides solar energy solutions to industry, residential and automotives, providing clients with an opportunity to secure their energy requirements independent of the national power grid.
Now owned by Mark and Rozy Henderson, The Ridge Guesthouse has a history dating to the 1950s when Jack and Agnes Davidson bought the first Richards Bay Hotel. At the time the property consisted of a few rondavels and Richards Bay was a quaint fishing village, home to only 36 permanent dwellers. The guest house walls record this history through a collection of old photographs.
Premier Hotel Richards Bay
From only 40 bedrooms, the Premier Group’s portfolio has grown to encompass hotels and resorts throughout South Africa. The company now offers more than 2 000 bedrooms and employs a staff of 1 500.
Rene Bekker Properties
An established family-oriented real estate agency, Rene Bekker specialises in property sales and services in Richards Bay and surrounding areas along the KwaZulu-Natal north coast.
Advantages of work, life or leisure
Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone (RBIDZ)
One of two provincial industrial development zones offering investors various incentives, the RBIDZ recently announced plans for a feasibility study into the viability of a natural gas hub. The long-term view includes developing a liquefied natural gas storage and regasification terminal in the port by 2024. Investments worth more than R11 billion have already been made into the initiative.
The town is situated about 15km from the N2 national freeway and 180km north of Durban. The upgraded John Ross Highway and the N2 approaching Richards Bay have boosted accessibility into the town. The King Shaka International Airport and Dube Tradeport are fewer than two hours’ travel away for tourism and trade-related requirements.
While Richards Bay was built on large-scale industrial development, the town is considered a gateway to Zululand and the game parks. This offers investors opportunities for building tourism-based businesses ranging from restaurants to hotels and smaller accommodation options as well as speciality tour requirements.
The reality of a struggling economy is the availability of labour across the board. High unemployment rates mean investors can secure employees from unskilled to semi-skilled and skilled with relative ease.