Building Economic Complexity in the South African Fibrous Plant Economy
Approximately 6000 mines have been abandoned over the past twenty years and a large number are expected to be closed in the coming decade. Once a mine closes, the locality of the mine is left in an economic vacuum, since mine operations drive both direct and indirect economic activity in the locality. Upon closure, most of the economic activity comes to a halt, thus resulting in unemployment and poverty. Post-mining land uses, such as agriculture and downstream manufacturing activity linked to agriculture, have the potential to mitigate the socio-economic consequences of mine closure through the generation of inclusive economic growth in these marginalised areas. This paper focuses on the potential to develop fibrous downstream activities that stem from fibrous plant production on degraded mining land. To investigate the economic potential of these fibrous downstream activities, we apply an intensely cross-disciplinary approach, which allows us to address the following research objectives: firstly, we examine the economic complexity of the South African fibrous plant economy, with specific focus on bamboo, hemp and kenaf. Secondly, we identify potential diversification opportunities that would build economic complexity through the development of downstream options in the fibrous plant economy. Thirdly, we identify capabilities/constraints that enable/hinder the development of these downstream options. This in turn allows us to generate a set of micro-industrial policy recommendations.