Balanced cities do best

The Cape Town Cities of Opportunity report, which PwC issued earlier this year, continues to gain traction. On Monday 13 August, PwC partner Jon Williams joined Cape Town City Councillor Brett Herron at an event hosted by Wesgro CEO Tim Harris, alongside the British Chamber, to discuss the report.

The report has rapidly gained traction as a key addition to thinking around the city’s future. It benchmarks Cape Town against 30 other international cities, from London to Lagos, and has found that while Cape Town is far from being the most developed city, it’s extremely competitive as a middle income country city, comparing favourably with peers such as Mumbai, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

The discussion was wide ranging, from topics such as Cape Town's strengths beyond tourism, to sweating city assets, to developing Muizenberg. A few key points were:

  1. While Cape Town’s traffic seems bad, the city ranks surprisingly well on transportation and infrastructure, coming in at 14th out of all 31 cities, and first among the middle income country cities. Traffic in cities is a global phenomenon – rush hour commutes in Los Angeles, Jakarta and Moscow are all awful – but Capetonians seem unusually concerned about the traffic situation, according to online search analysis. (City residents are more likely to search for ‘traffic’ on Google than residents of other major cities.) This is probably due to a high proportion of commuters travelling by road, but may also reflect a sort of ‘culture shock’, as Cape Town moves from being a relatively low density city, to one of the most desirable places to live on the continent. In other words, people just haven’t got used to it yet – which admittedly isn’t much comfort when you’re sitting on the M3 at 5pm on a rainy Tuesday, staring at a sea of red tail lights!
  2. The city has a long way to go when it comes to technology readiness, ranking 29th out of the 31 cities in the report. Cape Town is well known within South Africa as a tech hub, and ranks highly on the continent. Counsellor Herron noted that Cape Town employs more people in the technology sector than Lagos and Nairobi combined, but it still lags significantly behind international peers. Some of this has to do with background factors – poor digital penetration in South Africa, and low levels of business readiness for cyber security – but as Dominic Boyle, Senior Manager at PwC’s City Unit pointed out, the other cities in the report are also doing enormous amounts in this sector.
  3. Despite some methodological debates and probing discussions on what were viewed to be less than fair rankings in some areas, everyone who spoke thought the report was a really valuable addition to the thinking around these issues. One of the key points that emerged is that balanced cities do best. This means being able to deliver services and meet citizens’ needs across a wide range of areas, income levels and locations. Different citizens and economic areas have different needs, and cities of the future are going to have to increasingly improve their ability to improvise, innovate and adapt to these different demands, in a context of resource scarcity and rapidly urbanizing populations.


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Jon Williams

Jon Williams

City and Urbanisation Leader, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 21 529 2000

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Sanchia  Temkin

Sanchia Temkin

Senior Manager, Media Relations, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 11 797 4470

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