South African research and development organization, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and public entity, the Coega Development Corporation (Coega), have partnered for the development of an industrial research facility dedicated to the production of biofiber products and applications. The Biofiber Hub set to be developed in the Coega Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province will include a small-scale industrial plant and large-scale manufacturing plant.
The project, currently in its preparatory stages, is expected to pave the way for the southern African country to meet the global market demand of biofibers.
“The CSIR views this partnership as a necessary doorway to industrialization,” stated Group Executive for CSIR Advanced Chemistry and Life Sciences, Dr. Rachel Chikwamba, adding, “It supports the realization of the many years of CSIR investment in the natural fiber and composite materials and will further enable rapid commercialization of other technologies across the CSIR.”
CSIR and Coega formed a cooperation agreement in 2022, laying the groundwork for the partnership, which will see the commercialization and industrialization of biofibers for international markets. Under the agreement, the CSIR will serve as an official research and development partner and assist in the development of the Coega SEZ’s manufacturing areas.
Poised to attract foreign direct investment to South Africa’s knowledge-intensive and advanced industrial sectors, the project’s total capital deployment has exceeded $50 million over three phases and will assist emerging industrialists in the country reach global markets.
“The availability of advanced research and development capability was key in the industrialization of global technology leaders like South Korea, China, Europe, and the United States of America,” explained Meike Wetsch, Unit Head of Coega’s Capital and Funding Office, adding, “These commodities are currently exported in their raw or primary form as inputs to industrial processes elsewhere in the world – we need to bring those manufacturing jobs here.”
The project is expected to create up to 6,000 sustainable and non-seasonal agricultural jobs in the Eastern Cape during the initial phase of development, while a further 14,000 jobs will be added upon completion and implementation of the full value chain.
With a considerable capacity for technological innovation in South Africa, the Biofiber Hub is poised to contribute towards the development of a sustainable automotive value chain while leading to the expansion and improvement of new economic sectors in the country.