With a population of over 1.7 million, Soweto needs to be re-established as a True City District rather than be trapped in its apartheid era sobriquet. This makeover is one of the priorities of the Johannesburg Spatial Development Framework 2040, delegates heard at the 7th Africities Summit currently being held at the Sandton Convention Centre.
According to Herman Pienaar, Director, City Transformation and Spatial Planning at the City of Johannesburg, the Brics Bank may eventually find its home in the Nasrec area in Soweto. The establishment of the development bank there would in itself drive economic opportunities to the region.
As part of the spatial framework, there are proposals for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to be established in Soweto, as well as an Information and Communications Zone(ICZ) amongst other key interventions that could be included in the future’ smart city’. Already Soweto is an emerging commercial and retail hub. Some of the areas earmarked include Nasrec, Jabulani, Kliptown and Devland.
Soweto’s makeover is part of the City’s large- scale effort to address the legacies of the past and counter the rapid urbanisation Gauteng is experiencing –especially in Johannesburg, the Summit heard.
One of the main problems with the way the City of Johannesburg has grown is that it ended up isolating the city centre. The ideal polycentric model for development provides for borders to be eliminated between the city and its satellites and development of a dedicated transport infrastructure between the new centres and the city centre.
In this context, improved economic performance and social cohesion will be most difficult to achieve for Johannesburg. One of the mechanisms through which this can be addressed is transport. For the inverted polycentric model to succeed, multi-modal transport infrastructure will be critical for the goals of greater inclusivity and access to be realised.
Through this new approach, the needs of all those who work and live in this city will be addressed more fully. In pursuing the polycentric model, the City will look at strategies that will enable atleast 26% of the city population to be housed less that 1km from a transit point by 2040 compared to 11% today. Over the next 25 years, the City has ambitious plans to further house 64% of the city’s residents less than 2km from transit, compared to only 18% today.
Johannesburg’s current structure is unique and inherited from its complex history. It displays inverted polycentricity, purposefully designed with satellites urban areas much larger than the core of the city. The 2040 spatial framework is very interesting in that it will involve turning the model on its head, and finding ways to reconnect the burgeoning suburbia to the city core.