International meeting to focus on building inclusive cities

On Monday morning in Sandton, Johannesburg, mayors and city bosses from 137 metropoles across the world will be settling into their seats for the Metropolis Annual Meeting.

Hosted by the Gauteng government this year, the focus is on the "elements, policies, processes and practices necessary to build inclusive cities".

"An inclusive city means different things to different countries," said the meeting's organiser, Rashid Seedat, the head of planning for the province, working from the office of Premier David Makhura.

"In the global North, it could mean allowing refugees economic opportunities and a right to the city. In the global South, the challenges could be more fundamental. All cities must deal with urbanisation as there are now more people living in cities than in rural areas across the world," he said.

In harnessing infrastructure and spatial development to combat inequality, South Africa must also try to undo the legacy of apartheid city planning. Working in tandem with the National Development Plan, Gauteng will be presenting its strategies for 2030 and beyond.

The future Gauteng City Region forges a giant urban centre with Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni at its core. Developing in five giant corridors, the plan is to build urban nodes in townships and suburbs, which will include building up housing, information and communication technology, transport and service delivery infrastructure in these nodes to form a polycentric system or network with several centres.

Agritropolis, aerotropolis

Some of the headlines off the Gauteng City Region Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan 2030 propose an agritropolis in the Sedibeng region in the south of the province, with agricultural processing plants and a new marketplace. Ekurhuleni will house the ever-developing aerotropolis, which will add housing and business infrastructure to the freight and logistics hubs of Tambo Springs. Kopanong becomes a fully developed inner city next to Tembisa. Lion Park and Lanseria houses new sanitation schemes, social housing, and mixed use and commercial development.

The Masingita City development node in the West Rand is to include mega human settlements, an industrial corridor and logistics hub, a regional airport and waste water works. As mining bottoms out and mining land is rehabilitated, areas such as Magaliesberg are being earmarked to grow the tourism sector and incentives are being offered for manufacturing businesses. Tshwane and Centurion, for example, and Rosslyn in particular, are being targeted for automative manufacturing, with companies like Ford planning new factories there in the next five years.

The recommissioning of power stations in Kelvin and Pretoria West will generate 880 megawatts for the grid to improve energy security.

In its next phase, the Gautrain adds 12 more trainsets, a new maintenance depot and its next extension. Centurion and Midrand are to become the next Sandtons.

Economic inclusion

The challenges facing the future Gauteng are considerable, not the least of them being the impact of state capture on national entities such as Eskom, Transnet and the Passenger Rail Agency of SA. Then there's Gauteng's ever growing population, which rose from 13 million to 14 million in the past year alone.

"Economic inclusion is at the core," said Seedat. "Poverty, unemployment, inequality. Job opportunities are central to how the province is being planned."

The proposed nodes in the network are there to bring people closer to economic opportunities. The RDP house is being phased out, replaced by three- or four-storey social housing developments often built along major transport corridors. In Johannesburg, look out for these on the run between Soweto and Johannesburg, and between the city along Louis Botha Avenue to Alexandra township. The plan is for mixed use, mixed income housing hubs that include access to clinics and schools.

There was a strong new emphasis, said Seedat, on youth employment with projects like Harambee and Tshepo 1 Million.

Alongside economic inclusion must come spatial inclusion. With 1.1 million houses built, a further 1 million are needed. The Bus Rapid Transport system will continue to grow and the rail networks will be increasingly utilised for freight to relieve the pressure of trucks on the province's roads, and there are also plans to renew passenger rail services.

Social inclusion

When it comes to social inclusion, Seedat said healthcare was the biggest crisis facing the Gauteng City Region, more even than education. Positive developments are under way, he said, to improve the availability of medicines, to take medical records online, improve staff attendance at hospitals and clinics, and cut down on patient waiting times.

Four hundred township schools are needed to alleviate the overcrowded education system in a province already home to 2 000 schools. Seedat listed numerous social welfare initiatives being rolled out in the province, including 100 000 dignity packs handed out to girls every month.

Countering factors like xenophobia and racism, maintaining good governance, listening to communities, and countering corruption through things like probity auditors to monitor tenders are the final pillars of a social cohesion plan for 2030, which Seedat remains resolutely upbeat about, despite the challenges.

- There will be free public activities alongside the conference at the Sandton Convention Centre from tomorrow to Wednesday. An exhibition space includes talks, physical activities for the disabled, science demonstrations, book launches, art exhibitions and the Urban Film Festival, which will screen African Metropolis, six short films from across the continent



Have all the bases been covered to create an inclusive city? What would you add or take away? SMS us on 35697 using the keyword CITY and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

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