On Tuesday 20 August, we hosted over 150 guests at our annual conference. Making a deliberate decision to move away from a traditional conference venue, we chose to host the event in an empty office space on the first floor of the Middestad Mall, in the heart of the Bellville CBD.
The space has been earmarked as a potential venue for one of our major projects, the Innovation and Development Centre. We transformed the space into a vibrant hub, with activities that reflect our vision for the creation of an innovation zone where design, innovation and entrepreneurship can thrive.
Speakers from the public and private sector led the conversations during the day, focusing on the plans currently on the table for Bellville and the Greater Tygerberg Area. The programme also showcased what could be possible when we combine strategic plans for sustainable urban development, effective partnerships, a culture of innovation and a commitment to celebrating diversity.
Highlighting the Bellville opportunity
Setting the scene for the day of discovery, Warren Hewitt, GTP CEO outlined the unique potential and inherent opportunity for Bellville as Cape Town’s secondary city. Secondary cities with a cluster specialization can offer the benefits of localized economies without the crowding effects of their main counterpart. They lie at the periphery of the centre but at the centre of the periphery. Highly accessible, Bellville is connected to other nodes across the metropole, with a well-established transport infrastructure. It supports a thriving health and education sector and is a mature centre for commerce.
“Private sector involvement holds potential for financing industrial and urban development, especially if there are large gaps in infrastructure to be plugged into. We need to make investors aware of this unique opportunity.” – Warren Hewitt
Public and private sector partnerships can maximise what already exists.
Representing the City of Cape Town, Alderman Grant Twigg and Alderman James Vos offered their insights into the City’s plans for Bellville. They also reiterated the City’s commitment to working closely with the GTP, as well as other stakeholders in the area such as the Voortrekker Road Corridor Improvement District, to unlock opportunities in in Bellville.
“We need to start thinking out of the box about our spaces and using more of what we have already.” – Alderman Grant Twigg
“Bellville has been identified as one of the five nodes to receive investment incentives. Through the GTP there can be a focused investment drive into the Greater Tygerberg area.” – Alderman James Vos
Donald Grant, Special Advisor to the Premier of the Western Cape, continued the public sector’s overview of the role that the Greater Tygerberg Area generally, and Bellville specifically, has to play in the future development of the Metropole. The Greater Tygerberg area lies at the centre of the Western Cape Governments plans to connect national, regional and city-level economic nodes. It has allocated resources to capitalise on the province’s strengths and maximise its spatial assets.
“The Western Cape Government’s Spatial Investment and Action Strategy has the Greater Tygerberg region at the heart of its Cape Town metro region. We have to repurpose what we have, and not build from scratch, while also opening up for investment public sector assets that are expensive to maintain.” – Donald Grant
President of the South African Institute for Architects, Luyanda Mpahlwa, highlighted the significant challenge facing cities in terms of transformation, particularly cities in South Africa that are still grappling with the lingering effects of apartheid-era spatial segregation. Key to this is civic involvement and consultation, which should lie at the heart of efforts to build cities that serve the people who live there.
“Transformation is about creating the future that we want. We need to rethink what we really want and how we get it. Public participation needs to go beyond asking for comment. Cities need a plan and a vision with consultation from the public who will live there.” –Luyanda Mpahlwa
Innovative thinking can unlock untapped potential
Anita Nel, CEO of InnovUS at the University of Stellenbosch drove home the importance of harnessing the knowledge, energy and entrepreneurial spirit that students bring to an area.
“Bellville has all the ingredients to become a major knowledge hub as investment in tech has begun to zone in on Cape Town. The concept of a Knowledge Region could be a key one for Bellville as it creates a tech and investment eco-system between universities and private investors.” – Anita Nel
Founding director of Our Future Cities, Rashiq Fataar, reflected on Bellville, as a strategic location with significant inherent opportunities for investment. He highlighted the steady growth in property over the last decade. Over R4 billion has been invested in the past five years, and R1 billion has been earmarked for future infrastructure developments alone. New public and private sector developments have added to the value of planned developments, too.
“Mega trends are reshaping how we plan and use cities – let’s ask big questions, but demonstrated small steps towards a masterplan that can rebuild and modernise the city. Bellville and the Tygerberg Area could become a test site for the future city we need and want, an iconic African hub that unlocks human potential beyond the built environment.” – Rashiq Fataar
Lesley Donna Williams, CEO of Tshimologong Precinct in downtown Joburg, shared her experience of what can be achieved through the development of a successful innovation precinct. An innovation hub should be informed by its context and various factors need to be present to ensure success for innovation hubs, including infrastructure, transport, research universities, government policies, connectivity and good after work environment are key factors for innovation hubs. Bellville has all of this.
We need to reimagine the future of work. Technology can support multiple sectors in their labour transition and the development of new jobs in the face of the fourth industrial revolution. Innovation spaces are places where we can experiment with this.– Lesley Donna Williams
Do more with less – because we can
Speaking as Chairman of the GTP, Justin Coetzee issued a compelling call to action to delegates, to do more to achieve more, even if current circumstances mean we have less. The GTP has been able to connect people and make our collective marketing for the region louder, facilitating investors into the area and introduce them to the incentives to be here.
Capetonians have a track record of managing a crisis but only when we realize that no one is coming to save us. The time for planning is past – let’s start doing! Let’s roll up our sleeves and get it done! We can create a truly African city – stop waiting for someone to save you, we need to do this ourselves.” – Justin Coetzee
The day was facilitated by Cape Talk 567 breakfast show host, and entrepreneur, Kieno Kammies, who also rounded off the programme with a showcase of the GTP’s projects and a strong called for participation and commitment to partnership. In an auction-style challenge, guests were urged to raise their hands and commit to getting involved in driving the GTP’s agenda forward, both on the ground and also at a higher strategic level. We were excited to see the overwhelming response from delegates and their encouragement to take these projects forward.
While the dust has settled on the conference arrangements, our work will continue, to progress the conversations started on the day of the conference. We urge all partners, from the City of Cape Town to local residents in Bellville and all stakeholders in between, to get involved.
We are connecting people, places and partners, and expanding all possibilities.
What others said of the conference
“I want to congratulate you on an excellent event. I really enjoyed the speakers and think the topics were very stimulating. So was the venue.”
“There is no doubt that the challenges are big, but one has to start and I think to make everybody aware is a good way to start.”
“Just from my side, thank you for a very informative, well put together event.”
“You have covered a lot of ground since your appointment, which is consistent with your words “small team, limited resources but loud voices”. Your passion is infectious, well done!”
“The event afforded me the opportunity to move out of my silo, listen to very interesting people from interesting backgrounds, thus opening my mind to new ideas, thinking….. There’s the exciting possibility to partner and engage further with people that I met at the GTP Conference.”
“I sincerely hope that some of the commitments made yesterday come to fruition.”
“I think the space and mix of speakers worked really well and having been to many conferences, this definitely stood out as a format and way forward.”
“The topics covered were very interesting and varied and provided new insight in a number of areas.”
“Given that the GTP is a significant sector and developmental advocate in the greater area…we feel it appropriate to meet with you to discuss our proposed development, get your insights and identify how we can collaborate to achieve an improved Northern Suburbs, facilitate economic growth and create more jobs.”
“The venue and overall organisation along with the various exhibitions and publications made available.”
“Auctioning project involvement – with or without financial commitment is an excellent idea.”
“The programme was very informative and the details shared were motivational and positive in respect of the future planning of the GTP.”
“I attended the 2019 GTP Conference last week and what impressed me most was the positive vibe exuded by all of the speakers. I found that so refreshingly different from the usual flow of bad news about the economy.”
“The programme and speakers were of note and the line-up of presentations very informative.”