Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

A Competitive Assessment of South Africa's Leading Cities-National, Continental and Global Perspectives

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

A Competitive Assessment of South Africa's Leading Cities-National, Continental and Global Perspectives

Article excerpt


South Africa's cities are focal points in any contemporary snapshot of the country. Their swift transformation within the national landscape means that they now affect or even dominate every other element within it. Its cities and their burgeoning populations have become defining characteristics of the country with their increasing political sway and growing contribution to the national economy. For many people living in cities, their urban affiliation is stronger and more meaningful than an increasingly abstract and distant national affiliation. Cities are important to national branding because they are localised and tangible points where national perception and reputation often originate or are reinforced. For many stakeholders it is city brands that contribute most directly to their perceptions of the national brand in areas such as ease and security of investment, economic status, liveability, tourism, personal interaction or safety and security. This article considers South Africa's largest cities, their competitive positions within the country, in Africa and across the globe, and it does so with a measure of inclusive urbanisation that is relevant to a wide spectrum of South Africa's stakeholders--national and international business and investors, institutions, government and citizens.

1. Introduction

The imprint of the human species in the southern region of Africa is first evident between 100 and 200 thousand years ago with the first identifiable societies--those of the San--appearing between 25 and 40 thousand years ago (Marean et al 2007; Tishkoff et al 2009). In this historical context, the country of South Africa is very new. Its geographical area was named 'South Africa' barely a century ago with the unification of its constituent states in 1910, it severed its colonial ties to Britain in 1961 and it only became an egalitarian political system with its first democratic elections in 1994. The country is a very recent phenomenon and its short history is particularly characterised by an extremely swift transformation in two dimensions--demographic growth and urbanisation.

Demographic growth and urbanisation are most evident in the contrast between the provinces of Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. Predominantly urban Gauteng has a rural population smaller than 10 per cent of its total and it has grown organically and through migration by almost a third between 2001 and 2011, with one in ten residents originating outside South Africa. During the same period the predominantly rural Eastern Cape shrank by a quarter of a million people (Donnelly 2012; South 2014; Statistics South Africa 2012). Similar patterns are evident throughout South Africa. In the country as a whole, 63 per cent of the population was urbanised by 2011, with the figure expected to reach 71 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050, with this shift occurring in a population that is itself growing fast (COGTA 2016; World Bank 2016). Today two-thirds of South Africa's youth live in urban areas (SA Government 2015).

Growth, urbanisation and a predominantly young population are demographic trends that South Africa shares with Africa as a whole. Forty per cent of the continent's population is under the age of 14 and Africa's overall population growth is the highest in the world at 2.4 per cent per year. In 2010 Africa's population constituted 15 per cent of all people on earth and this is expected to reach 25 per cent by 2050, and 40 per cent of the world's population by 2100 (United Nations 2015). These national and continental factors point to strong and continuous urban growth in South Africa in the decades ahead and possibly into the next century.

For many people living in cities, visiting a country for the first time, or simply conceptualising and thinking about a city, city perceptions often dominate or determine their opinion of the broader country in which those cities are located. …

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