Plans were under way to launch Gauteng as a Global City Region (GCR) at a joint sitting of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, local government structures, and civil society representatives, an official said on Tuesday.

Delivering a speech on behalf of Gauteng Transport MEC Ignatius Jacobs, Impophoma CEO Mzwandile Kibi, said that promoting Gauteng as a GCR would establish the province as an economic hub for Africa, where economic activities complemented each other.

“It is a known fact that the economic growth potential of fast-growing and established cities make such cities a critical role player in ensuring shared, equitable socioeconomic growth and development, and in reducing poverty.”

Kibi stated that increasing the economic growth potential of cities, if managed from a developmental perspective, could automatically also create medium- to long-term employment opportunities. “We believe a developmental approach to a GCR is necessary to prevent inadvertent urbanisation of poverty, growing inequalities, and other such contradictions.”

He also added that the GCR Academy and the Gauteng City Region Observatory (GCRO) had been established. The academy, which would operate under the auspices of the Gauteng Department of Education, was tasked with building the skills and capacity of the public service across all spheres of government, to implement and ensure the sustainability of Gauteng as a GCR.

“The GCRO will, among other tasks, benchmark Gauteng as a GCR against other global city regions and develop a research-based approach to long-term socioeconomic development, based on strategic planning,” he added.

Kibi noted that the GCRO initiative was a partnership between the Gauteng provincial government, and the Universities of the Witwatersrand, and of Johannesburg.

“We believe that the courses to be offered at this academy will be credible, internationally recognised, and will provide the necessary skills and knowledge to develop our society and our economy. It is also envisaged that other tertiary institutions will soon become a part of the GCRO initiative.”

Kibi noted some challenges that may interfere with the results of the GCR. The first challenge was that the concept of a GCR would be interpreted as a separate, or stand-alone strategy, policy intervention, and programme.

“In other words, at an implementation level, role-players begin to talk about implementing the GCR as if it is a new initiative. Based on this understanding, they begin to develop new plans and allocate financial and other resources to this task. Such an approach will be counter-productive in that it will inevitably lead to confusion and duplicated use of already scarce resources.”

A second challenge was to avoid the perception that the focus on urban regeneration and growth would reduce attention, and therefore resource allocation, away from rural development. “A negative perception can also be created that the emphasis of a GCR on building economic competitiveness could lead to a greater focus on so-called first economy growth, at the expense of, or with very little involvement of the so-called second economy.”

Kibi concluded that all alignment, integration and cooperation between the concept of Gauteng as a GCR, and the existing economic growth and development strategies had to move out of the realm of theoretical debates into what would translate into a uniquely South African practice.