The Eastern Cape as a South African Province came into being in 1994 and incorporated areas from the former Xhosa homelands of the Transkei and Ciskei, together with what was previously part of the Cape Province.
There is much fertile land in the Eastern Cape, and agriculture is important. The fertile Langkloof Valley in the southwest has enormous deciduous fruit orchards, while sheep farming predominates in the Karoo. The Alexandria-Grahamstown area produces pineapples, chicory and dairy products, while coffee and tea are cultivated at Magwa. People in the former Transkei region are dependent on cattle, maize and sorghum-farming. An olive nursery has been developed in collaboration with the University of Fort Hare to form a nucleus of olive production in the Eastern Cape.
The basis of the province’s fishing industry is squid, some recreational and commercial fishing for line fish, the collection of marine resources, and access to line-catches of hake.
The two major industrial centres, Port Elizabeth and East London have well-developed economies based on the automotive industry. General Motors and Volkswagen both have major assembly lines in the Port Elizabeth area, while East London is dominated by the large DaimlerChrysler plant. The largest construction project in Africa is currently underway at Coega, about 20 km north of Port Elizabeth, where a new harbour is being built. It is expected that this development will give the province a major economic boost.
With two harbours and three airports offering direct flights to the main centres, and an excellent road and rail infrastructure, the province has been earmarked as a key area for growth and economic development. Environmentally friendly projects include the Fish River Spatial Development Initiative, the Wild Coast SDI, and two industrial development zones, the West Bank in East London and, near Port Elizabeth, Coega – the largest infrastructure development in post-apartheid South Africa. Plans for the development of the area as an export-orientated zone include the construction of the deepwater Port of Ngqura.
Other important sectors include finance, real estate, business services, wholesale and retail trade, and hotels and restaurants.