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Planning the future of Johannesburg

The Johannesburg skyline

Johannesburg, South Africa

02 October 2015 - The goal of the City of Johannesburg’s Growth and Development Strategy is to create a future city that is people focused, caring, smart, sustainable, democratic, financially successful and institutionally functional. 

However, Johannesburg’s administration and its residents face a number of challenges in order to achieve these goals.

Aurecon has been appointed to create a Consolidated Infrastructure Plan (CIP) for the City of Johannesburg. Aurecon Strategic and Integrated Planner, Johan van den Berg, discusses some of the key challenges that South Africa’s economic hub is currently facing and how the City of Johannesburg is planning to future-proof the city.

The goal of this CIP is to consolidate and integrate planning, implementation and management of infrastructure-related programmes in order to meet the city’s current infrastructure backlogs and future growth needs.  Infrastructure acts as the enabler for economic development to attract investment to an area and assist in social upliftment. Two of the biggest challenges that the City of Johannesburg is currently facing – and will continue to face without a CIP – are uncoordinated spending on infrastructure and not effectively accommodating the growing population. 

“In 2011, it was determined that the city, cognisant of its ageing infrastructure, capacity constraints and backlogs, would need to spend in excess of R100 billion on the provision of infrastructure over a ten year period. Adding to this complexity is a rapidly growing population,” says Van den Berg.

The population growth is largely due to migration and while Hong Kong is often cited as the most densely populated city, there are areas of Johannesburg that are more densely populated than Hong Kong.  It has been estimated that Johannesburg’s population will increase with approximately 12 000 new people each month. To add to the problem, over 80% of these people are economically disadvantaged, without jobs and an income.

“According to The Economist: Megachange: The world in 2050, a quickly rising population in Africa is going to put strain on a number of economies on the continent. The research in this book, which was done by The Economist contributors, has shown that ten new cities will sprawl in Africa over the next 50 years in order to accommodate the influx of people to urban areas. In southern Africa, people are drawn to the bright lights and the promise of financial security and jobs that Johannesburg has to offer, but the population keeps growing and infrastructure such as water and sanitation, electricity and roads is struggling to keep up,” says Van den Berg.

Well-located available land for housing is one of the key shortages that the city is currently facing. While the housing department is addressing the shortage by delivering housing units in a number of developments, socio-economic projections have shown that the population migration into the municipal area outstrips delivery and results in a growing backlog.

“Besides the shortage of houses, there are also challenges related to the distance that people need to travel from where they stay to where they need to work. People living in informal settlements on the periphery of the city often spend over 40% of their income on transport to get to work, which doesn’t leave much for living costs such as food. This is a problem that the City of Johannesburg is addressing through its spatial strategy, the Corridors of Freedom, which is supported by the CIP,” comments Van den Berg.

The population growth and housing location, programme and project identification and prioritisation, infrastructure capacity requirements and investment, are being analysed as part of the CIP. Van den Berg says that the CIP is far more than a plan to address infrastructure maintenance and upgrades over the next decade – it’s a plan that will better the lives of the people of Johannesburg and future generations.

“Instead of only addressing issues such as supplying houses and updating water and electricity lines, the City of Johannesburg has a long-term vision with this plan. Sustainability is a key principle in the CIP, so we’re investing a lot of resources in developing a strategy that will ensure people are able to live well, work well and move well in a prosperous, vibrant city,” Van den Berg adds.

A new approach to city planning

The way that Aurecon is developing the CIP is different to how city planning has been done in the past. Van den Berg says that the traditional approach comprised planning the infrastructure needs of various sectors in isolation, without looking at the development of the region and its people as a whole.

“Aurecon developed a socio-economic model that projects population growth, available land space, the density of suburbs and settlements, as well as the movement of people within the municipal boundary. This approach allowed us to create a baseline of what is available, how the needs of the city and the people will change, and how each sector’s plans need to be updated in order to accommodate the growth and planned expansions,” says Van den Berg.

The CIP enables all types of information to be spatially aggregated and disaggregated according to each sector’s reporting requirements. This also assists with sector funding consolidation in order to create an investment cash flow forecast for the various types of infrastructure that will be needed over the next decade.

“Our model has helped the City of Johannesburg to integrate and prioritise its infrastructure spending over the next 10 years. This includes new infrastructure development that will accommodate growth, as well as maintenance of existing infrastructure. This CIP project is an example of how strategic planning could be done in South Africa. We’ve essentially integrated the planning, financial, institutional, sector and system dimensions to develop a custom-made, consolidated CIP,” he says.

The City of Johannesburg is currently working on the third phase of the CIP. While the first two phases focused on strategic, socio-economic planning and sector master planning to establish a strong baseline for infrastructure investment requirements, the third phase addresses the need for improved management decision-making information.

“Developing a plan such as this for a city like Johannesburg requires commitment and support from the City, together with a competent and effective consultant group that acts as a development partner of the client. To develop a good balance between social upliftment projects and economic projects that will stimulate economic growth, we are assessing the potential impact of all the proposed projects on the economy. The City of Johannesburg wants to embark on a plan that will offer maximum social and economic impact for the people of the City. Aurecon is proud to be assisting the City of Johannesburg with this project,” concludes Van den Berg.

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