Volume 4 No 3 (2007)




IN RECENT YEARS, a new buzz word seems to have emerged on the South African development scene. We do not just read about cities or metropolitan areas; we are now also familiarised with the concept of a 'city region'. Gauteng has taken the lead in this regard by instigating discussions about a Gauteng Global City Region and, as the economic powerhouse of the country, whatever happens in Gauteng has to be taken seriously by other parts of the country. In fact, the 2006 National Spatial Development Perspective (NSDP) makes clear that focusing development action on improving the economic performance of the fast growing regions in the country (i.e. greater Durban and Cape Town areas and the urban conurbation of Gauteng) are important to realise the government's ambitions for accelerated and sustained growth. The NSDP further recognises that the concept of a region does not equate to current districts or metropolitan boundaries. Thus, the imperative for pursuing regional development, or a city-regional approach to development, has been articulated by national government. Yet, what such an approach means in practice and why adopting a regional strategy would be useful still needs to be explored in relation to particular areas or potential regions. Recently, a meeting was convened in Gauteng to discuss forms and models of city region governance. On 7-8 May, delegates attending the Western Cape IDP Conference organised by the provincial Department of Local Government and Housing in partnership with Isandla Institute will engage with the why, how and what of regional development. Given the importance of locating regional development in local realities and priorities, it is envisaged that the Western Cape and greater Cape Town region will not simply emulate the Gauteng approach, but rather pursue its own trajectory in this regard.

In Thought Matters Greg Clark comments on the prospects and imperatives for the Western Cape to think in (sub-)regional, rather than local or provincial terms, about development. Greg Clark is an advisor to the UK government, the OECD and to cities and regions in five continents. He is part of a team of consultants that have prepared a technical review of regional development options for the Western Cape government on behalf of Isandla Institute.



Cape futures

By Greg Clark

I am in the business of city and regional economic development, which means helping places to position themselves effectively for the opportunities of the global market, and to make it work for families and firms locally. The business of cities and regions is to provide the right combination of high quality public services and infrastructures, and high value economic opportunities for people, traders and investors, in an open dynamic system.


The global economy has both freed up cities and regions to define their role and identity in a more open world, and it has exposed them to new competitive pressures. Above all, it is a time not to be complacent, but to embrace change and to make planned adjustments that will pay dividends in the long term. Cities that have succeeded in the past 10 years, like Dublin, Helsinki, Ottawa, and Singapore have been within regions with a clear plan. A plan that makes sense of the open international future, but is rooted in their own unique attributes and assets.


The Cape region must do the same. It needs a long term plan that is devised by business and government working together, and one that embraces the whole regional market of the Cape, not just rooted in jurisdictional boundaries. Fundamental public services and infrastructures should be the business of government and its agencies, but economic development interventions require public and private collaboration. They are not public services, they involve shaping and securing benefits from complex and dynamic markets where business has much of the ‘know how’.


Some people seem to think that Gauteng’s efforts to promote a globally competitive city region represents a competitive threat to the Cape region. I disagree. Gauteng is not the competition, it is a partner in development, and its success is important for the Cape – from Gauteng’s achievements many good things will flow. But for this to work, the Cape needs a plan that gives it a complementary role to Gauteng, just as Singapore has to Hong Kong and Tokyo, San Francisco has to Chicago and New York, and Amsterdam has to London and Paris.


There should be one main economic plan for the Cape, not 100 plans that cover different things in microscopic detail and have different champions and sponsors. Investors want to know what business the Cape is in the global market, and the plan must also act as an investment prospectus for the Cape future, which can easily distinguish the Cape from other regions, and guide the investment decisions required.


London’s strategy is to be world first truly sustainable world city, Miami seeks to be the business capital of the pan-american market, and Singapore is pursuing a path towards being Asia’s technopole. Which way should the Cape turn?


This can only be determined if we know what the Cape uniquely is. I recently was a modest, and pretty under-informed, visitor for my first real exposure to business and government in the Cape.  I saw at least eight things that have potential to be part of a Cape future, which is both distinctive, and also complementary to the role of other centres.


First, the Cape has a quality of life and a quality of place that is inspiring and unique. The tip of Africa is a place that creates a compelling sense of purpose and awe, and provides a perfect location to serve the world differently. This can be enhanced to drive endeavour. 

Second, the human history of the Cape is dramatic and rich, with both glory and injustice in large measures. This has now produced a diverse and tenacious population which is a asset when working in a global system. This human diversity connects the Cape to four continents, and that is important in a global system. The competitive advantage of diversity in the Cape is that it can serve global markets from a single location: China and Brazil, Hollywood and Bollywood.
Third, the development context of Southern Africa offers the potential for substantial growth and long term international interest, and the Cape has an advanced infrastructure and logistics capability that can both tap and shape that potential.
Four, the eco system and cultural pluralism act as fuel for innovation and creativity, offering new kinds of content, products, technologies, and firms that the world has not seen before. Whether they are new visual and verbal stories, or new technologies for making the world better, the Cape offers a laboratory where they can be created and sold to a global market. 
Five, the Cape is a seat of learning, with massive potential for new science, new art, and a new sense of wonder at what the human mind can create. Bringing the universities, writers, scientists, and thinkers into the development partnership for the region is key, and inviting the world to learn, think, and exchange ideas in the cape is essential. 
Six, the Cape is a seat of power, it houses the South African Parliament and is a logical venue for inter-governmental discourse, for international institutions, and for global media to gather to report on the making of decisions and judgements that will shape our world. 
Seven, the Cape is fertile. With food, grapes, wine, and the fruits of the Oceans, which when coupled with advances in science and creativity will provide a place of enduring taste and nutrition for many years, and can be at the forefront of sustainable food and nutrition for the whole continent. 
Eight, the Cape remains a great trading post, and a visitor attraction, and can build this role for many years. There is tremendous scope to build a high value visitor economy in the Cape drawing upon the convention/exhibition, trade, creative, environmental, academic, and inter-government roles that the Cape should play.


There are more roles that the Cape can play, and this is the beginning of setting them out. If these are some of the ingredients that make the Cape different and distinctive it suggests that the Cape can become ‘Africa’s ingenious region’ with a compelling Cape Town surrounded by vibrant coastal settlements, distinctive cities and towns, and advanced logistics.


The shape of the region will change as it grows, it wil begin as a city-region with a single major node in Cape Town, but over time other larger regional centres will grow to complement, and work with, Cape Town. This growth must be planned for now.


So, at least three things are needed at this point. Firstly, a strong vision and identity for the Cape’s Future around which many parties can organise. Secondly, a clear plan for managing growth and infrastructure combined with smart interventions to attract private investment and to grow economic niches. And finally, organising to succeed, with a better co-ordinated and greater scale of efforts, to deliver on the plan. Put simply, it is time for confident action over a 20 year period by committed and collaborative Cape regional leadership.



THE CONFERENCE PAPERS presented at the international conference 'Living on the Margins: Vulnerability, social exclusion and the state in the informal economy', co-hosted by PLAAS and Isandla Institute in March 2007, are currently being formatted and will be posted onto the website in due course.



ON 24 MAY Isandla Institute and the Open Society Foundation for South Africa will convene a Development Dialogue on 'Crime and public (m)morality'. Invited speakers are Matsilo Motsei, Anthony Altbeker and Eddie Makue, SACC's General Secretary. As usual, the event will take place at the Centre for the Book in Cape Town, between 16h30 and 18h00. For more information, contact Letitia Manter on admin@isandla.org.za.

Isandla Institute is wrapping up a research project into how the urban poor access, use and trade urban land. The purpose of the study, conducted on behalf of Urban LandMark, was to unravel how informal urban land markets work and to formulate recommendations on how to improve access to urban land (and thus security of tenure) for the poor. The study investigated nine case studies in three metropolitan areas: Ekurhuleni, Ethekwini and Cape Town. The findings are expected to be made available by Urban LandMark within the next few weeks.



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