Gold Reef City
Johannesburg is at a crossroads. South
Africa’s largest and arguably most vital city is
on the cusp of becoming a world-class player.
But to make the grade, “Joburg” must overcome pressing issues such as high crime, an
unskilled workforce, a restrictive urban plan and a legacy
of the discriminatory practice of apartheid.
Fortunately, Johannesburg’s leaders are acutely aware
of the city’s troubles, and they have a plan: Joburg 2030.
The ambitious economic roadmap aims to radically
remake the city through a series of coordinated programs
geared at creating sustainable economic growth.
But the city’s timing may not be ideal.
As the global economic crisis deepens, Johannesburg
is forced to confront vulnerabilities in its traditional
economic sectors. The once-mighty mining sector—the
city’s economic bulwark—is struggling, and despite a
move towards diversification in media, finance and telecom, Johannesburg has a long way to go.
One bright spot is the Fédération Internationale de
Football World Cup 2010, which will be hosted in
South Africa. Johannesburg will feature prominently
during the tournament, which has prompted a wide
array of projects that have helped prop up the city’s
economy—at least for the short term. But to improve
its long-term prospects, the city will have to tackle
some deep-seated issues.
“The road ahead, given the difficult global environment, is indeed going to be a tough one,” said
Johannesburg’s mayor, Amos Masondo, in his State of
the City address in February. “Part of our response
should seek to ensure that government, business and
labor work together to keep the damage to our economy
at an absolute minimum.”
That may be easier said than done.
Although South Africa has shown continued growth
for the past decade, the global economic downturn is
clearly taking a toll. During the final three months of 2008,
the country’s GDP shrank by 1. 8 percent. South Africa’s
Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel doesn’t expect that
trend to continue, though. In a speech earlier this year, Mr.
Manuel predicted the country’s economy would grow 1. 2
percent in 2009—the lowest growth rate since 1998. But
to some, even that’s too optimistic.
Research conducted by Bank of America Corp. suggests the country’s economy could actually shrink 0.6 percent. That’s no surprise, considering more than half of
South Africa’s export market depends on the United
States, Japan and Europe—nations currently reeling from
the economic slump.
Despite the grim forecasts, Mr. Masondo is determined to see Johannesburg defy the trend. In his
February address, he said the South African government plans to spend more than ZAR780 billion on large
infrastructure projects during the next three years,
>>JUMPING ON THE BROADBAND WAGON
Johannesburg’s infrastructure over- committee for finance and economic A robust broadband network
haul isn’t limited to big new sports development, in a press release. will help address telecom needs
stadiums. City officials announced The city began assessing poten- during the 2010 World Cup, but city
in February that the first phase of a tial technology partners in October officials are also focused on the
broadband network project would 2007, when it launched the first of 11 long-term payoff.
launch in April, with the entire roll- trial networks. In 2007, the project “The benefits and possibilities
out expectedtotakethree years. budget was estimated at ZAR500 of a digital city are numerous for
“This is as essential as the pro- million; by 2009, that figure had not only the city and its entities, but
vision of water and electricity, and doubled. Eventually Johannesburg for residents, business, hospitals,
will also help improve response chosetopartnerwith Ericsson,and, educational institutions, tourism
times to crime and emergencies although a service fee hadn’t yet and entertainment,” said Jason
because the city’s closed-circuit been announced in early 2009, the Ngobeni, executive director for
television network will be linked,” said project has been touted as offering Johannesburg’s economic develop-Parks Tau, member of the mayoral “affordable broadband access.” ment, in a press release.