We need an animating vision of how to position Johannesburg as a dynamic and job-creating city that can surf the opportunities offered by Africa’s rise.
Winning the 2016 election on August 3 is therefore only the DA’s first step to transforming Johannesburg into a job-creating metro.
If elected, I will personally oversee the creation of the Small Business Support Unit to promote entrepreneurship and job creation. Small business owners will be able to access support services from a network of business partners, financiers, and smart business tools in the city. I will follow the open data policy as was implemented in Cape Town, leading to the publication of quarterly city reports on the state of the economy. This will save entrepreneurs valuable time and ensure that they have the correct and most up-to-date information to enable them to thrive.
My special focus will be on the youth, because we need to address what Harvard academic, Ricardo Hausmann, describes as the “decay of human capital” in South Africa. Hausmann and the Centre for Development and Enterprise established that the average South African matric graduate is about 18 when they finish school, but they get their first job at 30. That is 12 years of lost potential. This goes against the grain of the great African story, especially in east Africa, where young people are helping drive fast rates of economic growth of up to 8%.
At last week’s WEF Forum in Kigali, policymakers were dazzled by what has been achieved by landlocked Rwanda. At the kLab (knowledge lab) in Kigali, students and entrepreneurs come to work on their ideas to turn them into viable business models.
The DA government in Cape Town has also helped create one of Africa’s leading technological hubs. The Bandwidth Barn in Woodstock is pioneering tech incubators and accelerators. In the same way, Johannesburg needs to urgently expand what Hausmann calls the “tradeable” sector of the economy.
Simultaneously, the DA-led local government will lay pipelines of opportunity to reverse the decay of human capital and to replicate the Kigali and Cape Town approach.
The back-to-work, lifelong learning, and the “schools to skills” programmes coupled with the new top performing schools and technical colleges for the poor, which I’ve proposed, are designed to encourage young people to develop start-ups and to contribute to building a sustainable city. I tend to think that generally, prosperous districts look after themselves, so these projects will be landed in the inner city and the townships.
The world is changing fast, and soon the old ways of learning will become as obsolete as the daily commute is destined to become – especially as smart cities seek to mitigate climate change. Replicating other progressive cities, the mayor’s office will directly link young people and apprentices with experts, professionals from DA-led municipalities, SMEs and incubator facilities, and researchers and teaching staff at Wits and the University of Johannesburg. In the longer term, teaching material will be accessible in modular form on an electronic learning platform. We need to look at new ways of learning and formalising qualifications. I will also personally sponsor an annual start-up competition for student entrepreneurship, because this is close to my heart.
Perhaps the most neglected part of Johannesburg’s economy is the informal sector, which is a vital part of our society. This is the other component of building the tradeable economy. Despite its key position, the informal sector is regularly subject to abuse by city officials (one cannot forget Operation Clean Sweep of 2013).
Johannesburg’s Informal Trading Policy states that within 60 days of an application to trade, an applicant should be granted a smart card allowing him to operate in the CBD, or be given valid a reason why the application was declined. However, the delivery of smart cards is inconsistent. When traders do receive cards, JMPD officers have been accused of confiscating the cards and failing to return them. We will cut the application process down to one week, and stamp out JMPD harassment.
The comparison to Cape Town is dramatic. Last quarter’s results show that a total of 161,000 people in the Mother City are employed in the informal sector, making up at least 11.3% of the total workforce of the city. The 4.5 percentage point reduction in Cape Town’s poverty rate, owing to informal trading, is equivalent to pulling 186,000 individuals out of poverty.
Johannesburg can realise its true potential only when grand visions are backed up by real action. This is my grand vision for the City of Gold. DM