Heritage Forum

South Africa’s future is in the city

May 5, 2016 | Forum, News

Download full report in PDF.

The Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) launched seven seminal reports on growth in South Africa.
Each one of these reports are significant. We enclose the report on growth in cities. Stellenbosch is technically already a city more than it is a town. It is in any case part of the Cape metropole.

Stellenbosch. Picture: F Malan, Wikipedia.

Stellenbosch. Picture: F Malan, Wikipedia.

Excerpts from the report:

  • Cities produce more than 80 per cent of global economic output. Cities are key platforms for national, regional and global growth.
  • It is now widely accepted that our public housing spend would have been far more effective if it had been used to densify the cities. Too much housing money has been spent outside the cities, much of it in small towns and rural areas with very limited economic prospects.
  • Cities have far too little say about how state-owned enterprises (SOEs) plan their investments.
  • Cities must play a greater role in national policy-making and budget processes.
  • The bottom line is this: South Africa needs accelerated growth that is urban-led, private sector-driven, enabled by a smart state, and targeted at mass employment.
  • If the South African economy is to grow more rapidly, and if it is to do so in a way that creates mass employment, this can only happen in our cities.
  • Many post-apartheid policies have unintentionally reinforced and reproduced apartheid spatial patterns through badly designed patterns of investment in housing, transport and other infrastructure.
  • Despite the superior performance of South Africa’s cities (especially the metros), national leaders have never fully embraced urbanisation and the merits of urban growth.
  • One of the consequences of low density is that public transport systems tend to be inefficient and expensive. No one involved in the transport sector believes enough has been done to develop workable solutions.
  • Township economies would be stimulated by expanding employment across the city as well as improving transport.
  • South Africa’s cities are already a comparative strength, envied by many other developing countries, whose urban areas are characterised by congestion and poor infrastructure, which choke growth.
  • The success of cities is ultimately about people and about creating an environment in which entrepreneurs can flourish.
  • We need to think about amending the constitution so that our largest metros have the same political and fiscal status as the provinces.
  • If mayors were directly elected, whether as a member of a political party or as an independent, this would change the way they think about their duties and responsibilities and how they interact with residents, different spheres of government and local business people.
  • Raising the density of South Africa’s cities remains the key challenge for creating more efficient and dynamic urban economies.
  • Cities need to plan the expansion of the city well in advance because it is much easier and cheaper to lay out the requirements for low-cost settlement and for infrastructure in informal settlements before they are established rather than afterwards.
  • Building integrated city transport systems will do far more to improve the lives of the poor than attempts to stimulate township economies through direct intervention in the processes of local business formation and growth.
  • Instead of building more RDP houses, existing home owners should be provided with incentives to build second or third dwellings on their properties.
  • South Africa needs to shake off its ambivalence about increased urbanisation and expanding city regions.
  • South Africa’s dynamic urban areas and system of cities represent one of the country’s strengths. Cities are the future. It is time to act.
Ann Bernstein. Photo: Brendan Croft

Ann Bernstein. Photo: Brendan Croft

The Growth Agenda: Priorities for mass employment and inclusion, is researched and written under the guidance of Ann Bernstein, with support of members of the board of the CDE. Michiel le Roux from Stellenbosch is a member of the board of the CDE.

Read the complete report on cities.


You might also enjoy these articles…