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October 30, 2012

Future Cape Town: Regenerative, connected, strong and diverse

Rashiq Fataar takes a look at the future of Cape Town. Photo courtesy Bert Kaufmann

If we set aside our ideas and dreams for skytrains, spaceships and time travel, what are the values and beliefs which we should be working towards and embracing in Cape Town towards 2040 and beyond? Rashiq Fataar, founder and MD of Future Cape Town shares some ideals and principles that he believes should act as a guide and roadmap towards our shared future.

A regenerative city: Healthy and thriving

The Cape Town of our future is undergoing more than just a physical regeneration, but one, which takes shape socially, environmentally and economically. According to the World Futures Council,“the challenge is no longer just to create sustainable cities but truly regenerative cities, i.e. they must be planned and managed not just to be energy and resource-efficient and low carbon emitting, but also to become aware of ecosystem services they receive from beyond their boundaries, and to compensate for the environmental damage and resource exploitation associated with urban consumption patterns.”

In this kind of city, full awareness of the real-time state of its environment allows the city’s socio-economic and environmental strengths to work in unison to achieve broader aims with and for all the stakeholders and citizens. 

The oceans, and water bodies in this Cape Town are cleaner than ever before, more accessible than before, and part of a larger public-private citizen revitalisation project, which has already spanned two decades. This hard work has cemented Cape Town’s position as one of the leading cities for basic services, such as clean and drinkable tap water, while significant inroads have been made to ensure water security in years ahead.

The coming city has also kindled development in zones, such as the False Bay Coastline, reconnecting and integrating large communities including Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain with the oceanfront. Smaller communities enjoy more symbiotic relationships with their waterfronts and seas, less constrained by the tyranny of the landowners, and nurtured by the communities both near and far.

The earth has been decontaminated throughout the city, and innovative urban farms bear large crops that improve food security in tandem with sensible urban agriculture policies for the city-region. The unique topography and geography of our peninsula and hinterland have spurred designers and planners to serve a growing population in bold ways.

The economic engine of the city-region is roaring, its torque no longer solely defined by growth targets, but through a new set of economic values and a shared vision which has inclusive growth deep in its centre. The environment and the economy amplify and reinforce each other in lockstep such that few remember a time when the norm was antagonism.

The segregation and divisions amongst people, a legacy of apartheid and of the dual challenges of urbanisation and resource constraints, have been receding for years as a result of the ongoing stitching together of the social and urban fabric. The result is safer and more socially integrated communities, less defined by their history, and more so by the design interventions and innovation which have developed their identity, cultures and characters into the broader Cape Town artwork.

Continued investment in sustainable transport, under the aegis of a new urban planning and development agency, has seen transport-led urban regeneration accrue largely to the public, with lower but significant private benefit for the business nodes of varying size which now dot the city-region.

The 2040 Olympic and Paralympic Games are celebrated in Cape Town, as the culmination and celebration of a long period of urban regeneration, rather than a step towards global relevance. The tip of Africa once again welcomes the world to its shores.

Connected

The Cape Town city-region is no longer just a strategic port and harbour for goods and services, but a global centre in itself and a gateway for exciting ideas, which positively impact Africa and beyond. The port now routes people and ideas from from our continent to the world and brings visitors, investors and decision makers to the city and the South African Development Community.

The long travel distances have been reduced, at least experientially, by high-quality infrastructure using technology to virtually connect more people, more regularly with our city.

Cape Town begins to take full advantage of the new “oil rush” – its established position as a centre for advancement in renewable energy and fuel research. Bio-fuels, developed and improved here in Cape Town, in partnership with local and global organisations, along with the harnessing of other renewable energies, have been fully embraced by new airlines such that travel to and from Cape Town is made vastly more sustainable.

As an innovation centre, travel to the city is no longer defined by the two previous decades of tourism and business travel, but by the hunt for innovations, which have become one of the major exports of the region to a global network of academic institutions, governments and progressive civil society.

Beyond outward connections, the Western Cape Province and its various city-regions, along with towns and communities, have, through careful planning and implementation, created a strong physical and virtual network that can share and direct profits as seamlessly as it can knowledge.

Resilient: Strong communities, strong city

Aggressive climate change and energy policies written in the early millennium, fully implemented over the past two decades have “future-fitted” the city-region to adapt to a changing world and environment. The diversification of industry and a reduced reliance on external resources, among other strategies, has lent the city a deep resilience. This makes Cape Town less vulnerable to the local and global stresses and shocks to which no city remains immune.

Social sustainability, a key legacy of Cape Town’s designation as World Design Capital 2014, has embedded the transformative power of design within communities. As defined by the Creating Strong Communities report, commissioned by the Berkeley Group, the focus in Cape Town is “about people’s quality of life, now and in the future. It is a city where governance at all levels is concerned with the extent to which a neighbourhood supports individual and collective well-being.”

Strong communities, nodes and cities emerge within the city-region as housing, amenities, business and infrastructure start to intertwine and adjacencies are recognised and fostered. The form of the city, both formal and informal, is surprising and unusual, embracing the modular and temporary in full. The diminishing physical and psychological lines, which previously divided communities, have now yielded to dialogue and collaboration through which once-divided communities bring their unique skills and perspectives to bear on the search for durable solutions.

Citizens are well educated and informed, and thus able to participate directly in the continued development and improvement of the city-region, so promoting a vibrant and responsible public realm and civil society.

Architect Daniel Libeskind’s vision of  the empowered citizen as co-creator of “city” is embodied in the participatory planning and decision making that continues to differentiate our city-region from others. In his vision, “the city, therefore, will no longer be one with an "’authoritative centre’ but it will have a structure as 'messy‘ as democracy itself.”

Diverse: What is Cape Town?

Cape Town as a city or region is no longer strictly defined by any one element or asset. It has become but a slice of South Africa, Africa and the global village in which it competes and plays, and trades. People, cultures, traditions, as well as industries, architecture and landscapes are diverse, varied and interdependent; a reflection of the multiple sub-cultures and communities which have now been unlocked through narratives and brand building.

The city-region is a unique global centre of inspiration and yet it folds humbly into the rest of the world. Its drive to advertise its difference has subsided into a deeper drive that is centred on solving common problems in a way that is valid beyond our borders. For the more than 50% of Africans now living in cities, Cape Town has set the benchmark, which it uses to lead and share with others.

New traditions and ways of living emerge across old and newer districts. They mesh comfortably with those traditions, festivals and elements which have spanned decades or centuries. As the city powers into the future, its heritage becomes more present and more potent, a storehouse of know-how and perspective that regularly produces surprising contributions to the contemporary debate. Cape Town embraces its new label as a noisy, energetic and exciting city, with a space and place for all.

In 2040 and beyond, our Cape Town emerges as a regenerated, connected, strong and diverse city-region. 

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