By Mdu Mbada
Last month, Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, had the honour of being elected Co-President of the Association of Major Metropolises, representing the African Continent. The Association of Major Metropolises, otherwise known as the Metropolis, is a global body comprising of the world’s major cities and urban regions. Currently, 138 cities and metropolitan areas in Africa, the Americas, Europe, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, are members of the Metropolis.
The Gauteng Provincial Government, together with the metro municipalities have been members of the Metropolis since 2008. The province’s participation in the Metropolis will strengthen ongoing efforts to build a globally competitive Gauteng City Region – a decision the province took in 2004. This decision was in recognition of the reality that Gauteng is a highly urbanised and densely populated province with an increasingly integrated cluster of cities and towns and constellation of industries that constitute a single regional economy, and that the best way to govern the province was through the model of a City Region.
Gauteng’s participation in the Metropolis will also help the province to benchmark its performance among the best of its peers in the world with regard to managing urbanisation; building smart, green, inclusive and live-able cities, promoting social cohesion and inclusive economic growth as well as implementing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Premier Makhura’s ascendancy to the helm of this important global organisation – the Metropolis – comes at a time when major cities and city regions across the globe are increasingly becoming engines of economic growth, job creation, innovation, invention and ultimately all round prosperity. Cities, City Regions or Mega Cities are emerging as major and even dominant players in their respective national economies. As Global management consultancy firm AT Kearney puts it; the world today is more about cities than countries!
This emerging trend is in line with the findings of a 2015 Report by the United Nations Population Fund that: “The world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history. More than half of the world’s population (currently standing at 7.3 billion) now lives in towns and cities, and by 2030 this number will swell to about 5 billion”. The Report goes on to say; “History’s largest-ever urbanisation wave will continue for many years to come.” Much of this urbanisation will unfold in Africa and Asia. These two regions will, over the next forty years, account for 86% of the world’s urban population growth. By 2030, more than 50% of Africa’s population will be living in cities, while by 2050 this number will increase to 60%. Accordingly the state of cities, city regions and megacities will become a national matter as more citizens move into cities.
African mega Cities such as Lagos in Nigeria, Cairo in Egypt, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Nairobi in Kenya, Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as our own City of Johannesburg are leading the charge towards changing Africa’s fortunes for the better – they are at the heart of our continent’s economic reconfiguration and are an integral part of unlocking its potential.
The Gauteng City Region in particular continues to be a magnet for all those in South Africa, in the African Continent and elsewhere in the world seeking opportunities to better their lives – annually more than 200 000 people migrate to Gauteng’s cities every year. For this reason Gauteng is South Africa’s most Afropolitan and cosmopolitan province; a melting pot of various cultures. Gauteng’s Cities, especially the Metros, are among the top five most populous cities in South Africa, with the City of Joburg occupying a leading position as the home to about 9% of South Africa’s population.
In addition Gauteng’s Metros are the drivers not only of the economy of the Gauteng City Region, but also of the national economy and employment. For instance, the City of Johannesburg contributes about 17% to South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product and 46% to the Gauteng economy. The City of Johannesburg is the hub of financial and services industries. It also has a strong retail and pharmaceutical industries presence.
The City of Ekurhuleni, South Africa and SADC’s manufacturing hub, contributes 7.8% to national GDP and 19% to the provincial economy. The City of Tshwane, the nation’s administrative capital, contributes about 9% to SA’s GDP and 27% to the provincial economy. It is the hub of our burgeoning automotive sector and government services.
In pursuit of the goal of building Gauteng as a Global City Region, a decision was taken in 2014 to reconfigure Gauteng’s space and economy along five development Corridors, each with its own unique comparative and competitive advantages; the Northern Development Corridor anchored around the economy of the City of Tshwane, the Southern Development Corridor in Sedibeng, the Central Development Corridor in the City of Johannesburg, the Western Development Corridor in the West Rand and the Eastern Development Corridor in Ekurhuleni.
The provincial government opted for the corridor approach in line with its determination to ensure balanced and even economic growth and development, infrastructure investment, sustained employment creation and significant economic empowerment across the Gauteng City Region. The intention is to build an economy for all the citizens of Gauteng, regardless of where geographically they are located – no one must be left behind.
More significantly, the corridor approach is a direct response to one of the major challenges urban regions are grappling with – the challenge of building inclusive cities underpinned by inclusive economies; a necessary prerequisite in promoting social cohesion. For its part the Gauteng Provincial Government has always insisted that the Gauteng City Region must be economically and socially inclusive. Drawing lessons from its peers across the world, Gauteng should make considerable strides in promoting inclusion and building a globally competitive City Region for the benefit of all its citizens.
Premier Makhura’s Co-Presidency of the Metropolis places Gauteng and its cities at the cutting edge of finding innovative, sustainable solutions to challenges facing urban regions, including reducing urban imbalances as well as strengthening the position and role of city-regions and regional governments in advancing the human development effort. It also places the province at the centre stage of pursuing the SDG’s, NEPAD and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the Urban Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Overall, participation in the Metropolis will definitely help Cities and City Regions and States at a subnational and sub-regional level to play their new envisaged role that of becoming key centres for social and economic inclusion. Gauteng citizens can only be better off from their government’s leadership role in the Metropolis – a better and more inclusive Gauteng is possible.
Comrade Mduduzi Mbada is the ANC Mzala Branch Chairperson in Ward 54, Joburg