South Africa’s future will be decided in our cities is a new report from CDE.  It is based on CDE’s work on cities over many years and five specially commissioned papers from leading local and international economists to generate new insights and inspire further research on the economics of cities in South Africa. The project was done in collaboration with Economic Research South Africa (ERSA) whose involvement and support were critical to the project’s success. We were fortunate to enlist the participation of Professor Ed Glaeser, one of the world’s leading urban economists and currently chairman of the Economics Department at Harvard University.

  • South Africa’s cities are the places where it could become possible to find opportunity for the poor and create prosperity for the many. If they are to become cities of hope, however, we will need significant changes to how we think about our urban areas and how we govern them.
  • Despite relatively rapid job growth in small towns and relatively slow job growth in Gauteng over the past decade, 35 percent of all residents in Gauteng were employed in 2019, compared to just 18 percent in secondary cities and a mere 5 percent in rural areas.
  • Many cities fail to deliver on their potential to become growth, jobs and opportunity generating machines. To succeed, cities need to maximise the benefits of increased human interaction by managing land use efficiently to make sure the physical environment facilitates growth and transport systems work effectively.
  • Cities should be lobbying for devolution for national and provincial powers and functions, including passenger rail and law enforcement, and making their voices heard much louder in the national debate on the necessity to improve the country’s approach to crime and prosecution.
  • Too many metro governments in South Africa do not know or fully appreciate what business needs to prosper. That deficiency can be partly rectified by well-structured and ongoing engagements that lay the groundwork for genuine partnerships with the private sector.