Amazon to Build New Office in South Africa Despite Fierce Legal Challenges by Environmentalist

In 2004, Amazon opened its first development center in Cape Town, South Africa for Amazon Web Services (AWS), despite its eCommerce services not being made available to Africa at that time. AWS has since increased its presence in South Africa, opening multiple offices.

This week, the retail giant has confirmed plans to open its new head office in the new River Club development space located in Cape Town, South Africa.

The $300 million real estate investment involves the use of 150,000 square meters of space, 31,900 square meters of which will be reserved for residential purposes, and will include the new Amazon office as well as office space, restaurants, and a 200-room hotel.

The project is expected to be completed over a three-to-five-year time span and is projected to create 19,500 tech-centered jobs for citizens of Cape Town. The construction phase alone is reported to create more than 5,000 jobs. It is hoped that the project will open doors for more investments into Cape Town’s emerging tech field.

​“Amazon really provides Cape Town with a huge opportunity,” Alderman James Vos, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management for the City of Cape Town, said during an interview with Cape Talk. “It positions Cape Town as a destination of choice for IT advancement … It will attract other tech companies to Cape Town, the tech capital of Africa,” he explained.

These developments come after years of legal challenges by environmental and civil society groups who believe that the project will negatively impact the local ecosystem.

The River Club development will fall within the Two Rivers Urban Park (TRUP), which was the site of the first conflict between European settlers and the indigenous Khoi people.

According to reports, environmentalists have argued that the project will dishonor the sacred heritage site of the Khoi people, who were forced onto the land after Dutch settlers arrived in the 1600s. They also say the development will contribute to climate change, bringing about drought and flooding.

The Observatory Civic Association (OCA) launched a fundraising appeal with the goal of taking the project developers, the Liesbeek Leisure Properties Trust, to court.

​The City of Cape Town has defended the project, saying that it is sustainable and offers a balance of ecological conservation and urban development.

“The City has carefully and thoroughly considered all of the submissions and concerns during the appeal process,” said Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato. “We are acutely aware of the need to balance investment and job creation, along with heritage and planning considerations.”

The project is expected to include an indigenous garden, cultural, heritage and media center for the Khoi people, as well as a “heritage-eco trail” and a garden amphitheater that the displaced community members can use.

Africa is moving towards becoming a key player in the global tech field. Last week, it was announced that social media giant Twitter would be opening its first African headquarters in the West African country of Ghana.

South Africa was one of the countries that suffered the worst because of the COVID-19 pandemic and it is believed that this project, based around Amazon, will help to recover the country’s damaged economy. 

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