“Our ability to harness and play to our collective strengths will be crucial to developing Cape Town as a global African city of innovation and inspiration.” – Chris Whelan, CEO, Accelerate Cape Town
80% of all urban growth over the next 20 years will take place in Asia and Africa and business leaders and other players invested in South Africa’s economy need to join forces to address the challenges this poses, says Chris Whelan, CEO of business think-tank, Accelerate Cape Town (ACT).
Whelan was speaking at an ACT networking breakfast hosted by urban planning and design consultancy, ARUP, and attended by local government and business decision makers from across Cape Town. The City’s stewardship as World Design Capital 2014 (WDC2014) formed the backdrop of a discussion around the role and value of design-led thinking in preparing Cape Town for the future needs of its approximately 4 million citizens.
In a particularly well-received comment, Whelan threw down the gauntlet to Mayor Patricia de Lille in regards the city-wide rollout of broadband connectivity: “Business needs to be connected 24/7 as we’re all working from our smartphones, on the move. Broadband needs to be available to us. The City needs to more rapidly break out its fibre to leverage its economic potential,” he stressed.
“WDC2014 is a remarkable opportunity for Cape Town to address these challenges, and to re-build, re-position and re-connect for a future that works for all its citizens. For that to happen, we need to have a city that is well connected with an excellent public transport system, direct flights to other African and global cities and access to the kind of technology, particularly broadband, that acts as a catalyst for growth,” he explained.
“The value of technology is critical to businesses hoping to be involved in our collaborative process where ‘design-led’ thinking informs a new wave of effective problem-solving. This will span active citizenry talking with city planners in making Cape Town a city that works for its citizens, where everyone has a stake in a collective future,” Whelan added.
Alayne Reesberg, CEO of Cape Town Design, the organising body overseeing the implementation of Cape Town’s WDC2014 campaign, was one of three speakers at the event. Reesberg remarked on the need for collaborative conversations between designers who introduce new ideas and modes of thinking, and business, who are best-placed to support WDC2014 initiatives. She made the point that without business support, design-led ventures to improves modes of implementing effective processes for the future needs of Cape Town’s citizens simply cannot flourish.
Laura Aalto, director of WDC2012 previous incumbent city, Helsinki, delivered an address where she outlined how that city has benefitted from “designing for success in 2012.” Aalto commented that the economic benefit of WDC2012 will continue over the coming years. “Helsinki raised its international profile as a result of WDC2012 – and Cape Town can do the same,” she said.
In his closing remarks, Whelan called for a collaborative effort between the public and private sectors in planning to serve Cape Town’s future needs as a city working towards a sustainable future that is economically inclusive for all its citizens. “2014 will be a pivotal year for South Africa. Our ability to harness and play to our collective strengths will be crucial to developing Cape Town as a global African city of innovation and inspiration,” he concluded.
Accelerate Cape Town is a business-led initiative aimed at bringing together stakeholders in the Cape Town region to develop and implement a long-term vision for sustainable, inclusive and economic growth.
For more information about Accelerate Cape Town, please visit www.acceleratecapetown.co.za