iLembe is located immediately to the north of the metropolitan area of eThekwini and to the south of the uThungulu District Municipality. It is strategically placed between the two major harbours of South Africa in eThekwini (Durban Harbour) and uMhlathuze Municipality (Richards Bay Harbour), which is the highest priority development corridor in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. iLembe Municipality is dissected by the N2 national highway running from Durban up through Richards Bay to Swaziland and Mozambique. The district is also located within 10 kilometres of the newly developed King Shaka Airport and Dube Trade Port that will connect the province directly to international markets.
This sector is characterised by two main distinct types:
- Commercial agriculture, such as sugar cane farming along the coastal strip
- Subsistence agriculture in the rural hinterland and inland areas
The sugar industry makes an important contribution to the local and national economy, given its industrial and agricultural investment, foreign exchange earnings and high employment linkages with major suppliers, support industries and customers. It also makes an important contribution to direct employment in cane production and processing, and provides indirect employment for numerous support industries. Supporting agricultural activities include forestry, fruit and vegetable farming, tunnel farming, and fresh cut flowers. The National Schools Nutrition Programme with the Department of Education has seen a significant increase in agricultural activity targeting local co-operatives and small scale farmers not just in iLembe District but across the KwaZulu-Natal province.
This sector is mainly characterised by the following types of industries:
- Primary sector comprises of heavy industries, such as sugar and paper mill production in the Isithebe Industrial Estate in Mandeni
- Secondary sector activities include light industries that are prevalent throughout the district and with a focus on the rural areas of the district.
The manufacturing sector is clustered in Isithebe and is surrounded by informal settlements created by employment opportunities within the area. The manufacturing sector processes raw materials into finished products such as paper, clothing, furniture and electrical appliances. The sector comprises of heavy industries such as sugar and paper mills. The Compensation/Ballito area north of the new King Shaka International Airport has been identified as a special economic opportunity zone. Several light industrial parks such as Imbonini offer high quality mini – factories and stand-alone factory ware- house developments for lease or purchase.