BoP solutions for building inclusive cities in South Africa

  • New Economy Accelerator (NEA) hosts dialogue series
  • NEA discusses the future of cities with Prof Edgar Pieterse

Cape Town, 4 November 2015 – The New Economy Accelerator, a programme supporting enterprises that service or operate at the base of the pyramid (BoP), on Thursday 22nd of October held yet another successful dialogue about the role of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in building a new and inclusive economy. The key theme of the dialogue was Building Inclusive Cities in Africa. Prof. Edgar Pieterse holder of DST/NRF South African Research Chair in Urban Policy, director of African Centre for cities and Professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics at the University of Cape Town, shared key insights on the importance of the role of an inclusive economy in creating more sustainable cities. Four of the NEA entrepreneurs shared the actions they were taking through their businesses to create more inclusive cities. The focus areas of each business ranged from mass employment and skills for unemployed youth , recycled construction waste being converted into affordable housing, converting illegal dump sites into community gardens to digital inclusion for users at BoP.

Dr Mao Amis, convenor of the NEA and director of the African Centre for a Green Economy opened up the evening by introducing the NEA and its goals. Firstly, the NEA plays an important role in creating an alternative narrative of the economic system, one that is more inclusive and efficient than the current one. The second goal is to build a critical mass of like-minded people passionate about new economy issues and developing solutions “… because when you have a critical mass, you are able to put the message out collectively and bring about real and relevant change…” Dr Amis stated. As part of the NEA’s theory of change, the third goal is to experiment with ideas and models of the new economy with a mandate to take real action on the ground. The NEA provides the platform for enterprises to go beyond business as usual, supporting and fostering businesses that want to bring about change in meaningful ways in communities that need it the most. Each of the ten enterprises is undergoing 9 months of business training including one-on-one coaching and peer mentoring, with expected outcomes being experienced at the BoP rather than change trickling down from the top.

Prof Edgar Pieterse shared important insights in his extensive research on African cities. The Professor stated that one of the greatest challenges was the denial by African governemnts of the rapid urbanisation of the African population. This meant that issues of employment, infrastructure, food security, education and growing inequality were not adequately addressed. Only recently did government recognise the urgent need to understand the realities of urbanisation, its complexity and assess its own capacity to deal with it. Professor Pieterse stated that because of this rapid urbanisation, the bulk of the continent’s population lives in slums and participates in the informal economy. A great opportunity lies in rethinking the way the economy works, a possibility for the formal and informal economy to be valued equally and utilised to create sustainable cities. Therein lies the opportunity for programmes such as the NEA to bridge this gap.

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