Re-stitching Johannesburg for the Future
The City of Johannesburg’s mandate and responsibility in respect of its citizens is to create and ensure a today that is better than yesterday, and a tomorrow that will be better than today, says Councillor Mpho Parks Tau, Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg.
Delivering his 2015 State of the City Address in May, he emphasised the fact that Johannesburg is the leading cosmopolitan city in Africa and, indeed, is Africa’s premier commercial hub. “We are a place that understands the value of freedom from hunger and exploitation, and that confronts and addresses poverty, inclusion and access. Johannesburg’s young people lead the call for transformation and we know that, with just a little help, our youth are not the challenge but our greatest asset,” he notes.
According to Councillor Tau, there are some one million unemployed young people in the City who are neither in education nor training. Cognisant of this apparent ticking time bomb, the City has transformed a challenge into an opportunity through Vulindlel’eJozi, an innovative response to the massive problem of youth unemployment. “Through this programme, the aim is to break down barriers to opportunities for 200 000 youths by 2016 and allow them to enter work, education and training, as well as improve their economic-participation potential gradually,” he shares. The programme will identify and create opportunities for young people based on their aptitudes and capabilities and they will then be placed in formal employment in companies of all sizes, in public-works programmes, in
national youth-service programmes, and in micro-enterprise channels such as Jozi@Work. He stresses that this builds on the work already done by the city governors to develop channels for economic inclusion, which find expression in the City’s 10 Integrated Development Plan priorities and are also based on the “job-intensive growth the City has made as part of the Joburg 2040 vision”.
Unveiled a few years ago, Jozi@Work has been used to demonstrate how Johannesburg can innovate in order to transform the challenges of unemployment and service backlogs into opportunities to create new enterprises and solve local problems. “Our Jozi@Work is now a reality on the ground, directly confronting poverty and inequality, while changing the way the City does business and produces services. It equips communities to partner with the City in responding to problems in their neighbourhoods and in becoming co-producers of municipal services,” Councillor Tau explains. In order to move the system into full co-production mode, communities themselves will also be able to propose innovative Jozi@Work projects in the areas where they live. To facilitate this, a community innovation fund has been set up and applications for funding are now open. Jozi@Work is not just a programme – it’s a movement. Councillor Tau maintains that it is mobilising the economically excluded, enabling them to take back their power and join the mainstream economy, thus improving the city in the process. “This, after all, is a hand-up, not a handout initiative,” he emphasises.
A Smart and Safe City
Digital access in Johannesburg and the greater South African community is becoming as much an equity issue as is access to water and electricity. In view of this, the City of Johannesburg has developed a public broadband network that will enable it to reindustrialise. This, Councillor Tau points out, will build a City that is able to compete and lead in both the old industries that are rapidly digitising and in the new weightless economy of digital services. The first citizen of the City further reveals that Johannesburg is “in the process of blanketing Braamfontein with Wi-Fi that provides high-speed broadband access. This goes beyond hotspot access at specific buildings and demonstrates how public Wi-Fi can work across a wide area.”
Even after more than two decades in a post democratic South Africa, access to education continues to be a challenge for the City. According to the 2011 Census from Statistics South Africa, only 13.2% of the City’s residents across all age groups have a post-high-school education. This percentage drops even further when narrowed down to those who have a bachelor’s degree or higher. “The challenge, here, is mobility up the higher-education ladder. This is the chasm that we must help our people to cross. As such, the introduction of massive, open online courses creates the opportunity for online university education through the City’s libraries.” Councillor Tau reveals that the Massive Open Online Varsity (MOOV) will provide the kind of learning gateway that is making all the difference across Africa. The MOOV programme, which currently has 40 youths enrolled, will expand to connect hundreds of students city-wide, with recognised online courses offered by institutions as prestigious and diverse as Wharton Business School, Rice University, the University of Adelaide and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This complements the City’s new range of programmes that directly support the new digital economy: the Tshimologong precinct, started in partnership with Wits University is a new area of Braamfontein dedicated to digital start-ups; the Hack.Jozi programme – also in partnership with Wits – is in the process of sourcing the best new app ideas to help the city run better, and will fund the winners; and the JEDI programme is sourcing 1 000 new digital interns who will learn their craft by working for the City.
The City of Johannesburg is innovating in order to transform how it is run for the 21st century. Gone are the days when citizens will feel unsafe while walking the streets of the inner city. “Our new intelligent operations centre links with our upgraded CCTV cameras and gives us eyes on the street. The intelligent predictive software and the new cameras can detect patterns of behaviour that arouse suspicion. This allows us to see and prevent crime more quickly, and link criminals and their vehicles to specific crime sites. This will improve the performance of our JMPD [Johannesburg Metro Police Department] 10-plus programme of localised deployment,” observes Councillor Tau. Closely linked to this innovation is the City’s effort to improve mobility and traffic flow in the City. He says that, to achieve this, 75% of the City’s traffic lights are now part of a remote monitoring system. “This allows for early detection and automatic reporting of faults, thus providing for quicker response and repair times. The process of ensuring that tomorrow is better than today is increasingly a digital one calling for the transformative innovation of a smart city. Though it certainly helps, being a smart city is not only about the clever use of technology. It’s also about using smart innovation to solve complex problems.”
he Blue Economy
It is common knowledge that South Africans in general and Johannesburg citizens in particular consume significant quantities of bread, most of it very high in sugar content even by international standards. Thus, as a local economic development initiative, the City is looking at options to introduce fruit trimmings as a flour replacement in the bread-making process. Councillor Tau notes that this will result in a vast new community production sector selling cheaper, healthier bread city-wide. Concomitantly, “we will be enabling new mushroom farms that will turn nutrition into a viable business for thousands of community-based operators.” According to him, this is part of the city’s blue-economy initiatives where the aim is to shift society from scarcity to abundance using locally available resources. In terms of the blue-economy initiatives, he says, the city is working with renowned international systems engineer and author of The Blue Economy, Professor Gunter Pauli, as well as an international network of 130 experts.
Increasingly, South Africa is becoming a water-scarce country where water shortages may soon be drastic if people do not change their behaviour regarding consuming and saving the precious resource. In this regard, Johannesburg has, in recent years, invested extensively in maintenance to prevent unaccounted-for water in the City, thereby enabling it to maintain reliability of supply. “We have maintained the same water reserve margin for several years, despite our increasing population. This, notwithstanding, with the same supply, we have met increasing household demand. However, we have reached an equilibrium point between demand and supply and, unless we change our behaviour, demand will outstrip supply,” states Councillor Tau. To confront this, the city will incentivise and regulate the installation of low-flush toilets and water-saving urinals as a standard feature in Johannesburg homes, offices and commercial sites.
It goes without saying that the energy crisis in South Africa is real and that the City of Johannesburg is not immune to the crisis. Therefore, indicates Councillor Tau, “given the energy constraints we face, we will be harnessing energy from the water flowing through our pipe system city-wide, using in-pipe turbines. By taking advantage of the opportunities presented by our investments in waste separation, we will be diverting organic waste to biodigesters in order to harvest gas for fuel and energy, adding material from the sewerage system.” The City will be converting most of the 250 000 tons of rubble it collects from illegal dumpsites into a new form of stone paper. “Using this approach, we will unlock the value in such rubble and subsidise the cost of removing it.” Many of these innovations are designed as catalytic investments by the city, proving a business case that the private sector can finance to create new viable businesses across the length and breadth of the City. He adds that the blue-economy agenda is concerned with local environmental conditions, but that the consequences of climate change must also be considered. “We contribute to climate change systematically through carbon emissions, and the reliance by Johannesburg commuters on single-passenger vehicles is an inefficiency we must confront.”
Corridors of Freedom
A drive through the city will reveal that there is extensive construction under way. All the work that one sees, whether it be the expansion of the roads or the creation of pedestrian and cycle lanes, is being carried out under the auspices of the City’s Corridors of Freedom Programme. This is the City’s next area of acceleration. The corridors programme and its wider public-transport overhaul constitute the leading edge of an approach that will alter the spatial destiny of the City. Says Councillor Tau: “Left to the forces of the market alone, the poor would be cast to the edges of the City, huddled together in crowded shacks and trapped there by the cost of mobility. This is exactly what we seek to disrupt and transform when we speak of confronting apartheid spatial patterns.” The corridors programme uses public transport as the backbone of a new kind of mixed-use, mixed-class development and focuses on location and affordability of housing as an enabler to embrace economic vitality and the diversity of Joburg. According to Councillor Tau, the City’s budget gives priority to the first three corridors – Empire-Perth, Louis Botha and Turffontein – and the planning frameworks for these areas have been finalised and approved by the Council. These set out the development vision for the corridors and will be the basis on which land-use rights applications are considered. “We are on track in rolling out the third phase of the Bus Rapid Transit [BRT] between Alexandra, Sandton, Midrand, Ivory Park and the central business district,” he concludes.
CASE IN POINT | City of Johannesburg
by Andrew Ngozo