The current economic malaise can be turned around provided that there is a mind shift regarding the role of South Africa’s cities and towns and the correct policies put into place to enable an economic recovery.
With Gross Domestic Product (GDP) projected at below 1%, unemployment at an all high of 27% and key economic sectors like mining, manufacturing and agriculture performing well below expectation, our budget deficit is edging close to unsustainable levels.
The recent downgrading of the country’s Global Sovereign (GS) rating by two rating agencies to sub investment grade is making the room to manoeuvre on the macro-economic front exceedingly difficult.
While the South African Reserve Bank monetary policy has been able to keep interests rate steady and inflation within the target range the prospect and outlook may change. It seems that the era of steady or falling interest rates may have come to an abrupt end.
Gauteng constitutes about 40% of the GDP with a population of 12 million people and the province is also seen as the gateway to the rest of the continent. Gauteng as well as the 25 cities scattered throughout the nine provinces must become globally competitive. A number of secondary cities such as Emfuleni, Lephalale, Emalahleni, Mbombela, Thulamela, George, Richards Bay, Rustenburg, Saldana Bay and many more are hives of economic concentration and activity. With the correct policies and investment, the potential economic output of these regions can be significantly enhanced to realise their true potential. There needs to be a clear strategy that will shape the role of these cities and town with each other.
The linkages between the cities must be complementary and within a defined value chain. For this to happen there must be a recognition about the importance of the cities in the economy and the cities themselves must be prepared to punch above their weight.