City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality: Delivering on a big city vision

Johannesburg is not only the financial and commercial heart of South Africa, but also represents one of the most powerful economic centres on the African Continent. Covering an area of over 1,644 square kilometres, the Metropolitan area is the most densely populated and urbanised municipality in South Africa, home to over 3.8 million people. That puts an enormous onus on the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality.

Johannesburg city centre at sunset.Available data suggests that the economy of Johannesburg has grown by more than 5 per cent per year since 2001, with a number of sectors helping to stimulate this growth.

According to reports, construction has played an important role, with growth in excess of 19 per cent per year, while finance and business services, which have been identified as the largest contributors to economic value, have been growing at over 9 per cent.

Johannesburg is one of the youngest major cities in the world and was founded in October 1886. The city today generates 16 per cent of South Africa’s GDP and employs 12 per cent of the national workforce.

The City of Johannesburg is home to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and accounts for about 17 per cent of the national output and employment as well as 48 per cent of the Provincial output.

The most important economic sectors are the finance and business services, manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade and community and personal services.

Construction has enjoyed growth within the confines of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality with a number of major projects completed in recent years.

One of the most recent developments, and amongst the most symbolic, is the R38-million Nelson Mandela Bridge, which has emerged as a landmark in the Gauteng province.

The 284-metre long bridge crosses over 42 operational railway lines in linking Braamfontein and the north of Johannesburg to Newtown in the heart of the city’s central business district, and is the centrepiece of a R300 million inner city renewal project driven by the province’s economic development initiative, Blue IQ.

Other relatively recent projects have included the first phase of the Mary Fitzgerald Square, situated in the Newtown Cultural Precinct, and the Metro Mall, a multi-modal transport and retail centre catering for 150 000 daily commuters. Work is under way on the construction of new on- and off-ramps from the M1 highway, to give direct access to Newtown for motorists from the north and south of the city.

The City of Johannesburg has set aside R1-billion for more than 170 projects to upgrade and rejuvenate the inner city and the previously disadvantaged areas.

The lack of appropriate skills in the labour force to meet the needs of industry and business is a serious impediment to economic growth. Poor educational standards in mathematics and science make it difficult to supply industry with these important skills, and people have not been educated to develop the kind of skills and insight that business needs.

In July of this year, the City of Johannesburg unveiled the first JoziMyBeginning Community Innovation Fund Micro-Mall in Ivory Park, Tembisa, in a bid to enable township entrepreneurs and community-based enterprises to join the mainstream economy.

The Ivory Park Micro-Mall, an initiative by the City, in partnership with the University of Johannesburg (UJ), was unveiled as an extension of [email protected] – a municipality initiative designed to empower community-based enterprises.

The City said this followed a lengthy process of proof of concept by Resolution Circle, a company which is owned by UJ and the implementing experts of the JoziMyBeginning Community Innovation Fund.

At the event, Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau said the Ivory Park Micro-Mall was a container facility that would see township businesses in the servicesretail and manufacturing sectors incubated to develop into sustainable operations.

“The site of the micro-mall is owned by 61 local community members who have been given equity in the micro-mall,” Tau said in a statement.

Up to 20 township businesses were expected to be incubated in the new Ivory Park Micro-Mall, and these would be supported by the City’s JoziMyBeginning Community Innovation Fund and the youth initiative, Vulindlel’e Jozi programme.

Tau said these community members also had an option of running a store alongside other retailers, supported by the municipality’s entrepreneurship skills development programmes.

He said that the equity entitled them to a share of the profits earned by the stores or businesses which were part of the City’s initiative.

These community enterprises were also set to receive support from corporate companies, including Telkom.

Tau said the Ivory Park Micro-Mall contained a training centre and common facilities for all the businesses.

“It is designed to operate totally off-grid with respect to electricity, and has a minimal reliance on the local water system,” Tau said.

Such initiatives serve as evidence of the Municipality’s work towards its Johannesburg 2040 goals, which were set out in 2011.

At the time, Councillor Mpho Franklyn (Parks) Tau, Executive Mayor, stated:

“Johannesburg has always been and continues to remain a city of stark contrasts – between those who enjoy the highest standard of living, and those who struggle to make ends meet. It is a city of colliding worlds and visions; a city divided and a city that still bears the spatial scars of the unjust and immoral system of Apartheid.

“However, this cannot be Johannesburg’s only story and it cannot be the story that prevails into the future. Johannesburg needs to change course. Joburg 2040 provides the basis for this change – as we continually strive to become an equitable, non-racial, prosperous, non-sexist and just society.

“I announced the GDS outreach process precisely because I was aware of the large social, economic and environmental challenges facing this city. I was also aware of the parallel truth: that Johannesburg is a city of immense potential. This city’s greatest assets are its people.

“Through the outreach process, the contributions of thousands of citizens have been heard – with the final Joburg 2040 GDS providing clear evidence of the immense power of collective voices, and the enduring commitment of all those who have contributed.

“We all want to live in a great city – a city that inspires everyone to achieve more than is immediately possible. These aspirations are expressed in the vision developed from the outreach process – a vision the City chooses to adopt for the path ahead: “Johannesburg – a World Class African City of the Future – a vibrant, equitable African city, strengthened through its diversity; a city that provides real quality of life; a city that provides sustainability for all its citizens; a resilient and adaptive society.””

The goals set out by Joburg 2040 are: Improved quality of life and development-driven resilience for all; to provide a resilient, liveable, sustainable urban environment – underpinned by infrastructure supportive of a low-carbon economy; an inclusive, job-intensive, resilient and competitive economy that harnesses the potential of citizens; a high performing metropolitan government that pro-actively contributes to and builds a sustainable, socially inclusive, locally integrated and globally competitive Gauteng City Region.

“The Joburg 2040 GDS responds to the multiple challenges and uncertain futures faced by the city. To cope with change, the City of Johannesburg aims to strengthen the adaptive capacity of the City and its citizens, so that it may become more resilient to potential and unpredictable futures. Rather than develop a blueprint plan for the future, the Joburg 2040 GDS lays the foundation for multi-level, multi-scalar and integrated responses to the challenges the city faces.

“It is hoped that a systemic shift towards a ‘business unusual’ approach and culture will emanate from the Joburg 2040 GDS – thereby increasing the resilience, liveability and sustainability of the city. This can, however, only be achieved if three conditions are in place. Uncertainties must be addressed as opportunities, through which innovative technological and developmental solutions can be developed and implemented, in support of a more social, equitable, economically just and environmentally sustainable city. All arms of the City – whether responsible for planning, delivery or governance – must play a part in the development of a cross-sectoral strategic response, through which co-ordinated decisions and actions can be facilitated. Ongoing involvement of stakeholders and decision-makers across all sectors within the City (including business, civil society and government) is also necessary, if the process is to lead to truly effective outcomes, while also encouraging personal reflection behaviour change oriented towards ‘sustainability’, in all. The Joburg 2040 GDS is a step in this direction.”