Joburg a megacity in 20 years?

JOHANNESBURG could become South Africa’s first megacity within the next 20 to 30 years.

A megacity is defined as an urban area with a population of 10 million people or more. Only three African cities – Lagos, Cairo and Kinshasa – currently qualify.

According to a KPMG report, “The role of cities in Africa’s rise”, five other African cities could boast 10 million people within this time frame. These include Luanda, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Casablanca and Khartoum.

Speaking to CitiBusiness on the sidelines of the 9th Africa Conversation this week, DeBuys Scott, head of infrastructure Africa at KPMG, said Cape Town and Durban could follow suit, however, it could easily take twice as long.

He estimates that broader Johannesburg presently has between 6,5 million and 7,5 million inhabitants, although he stresses that it is a very difficult number to pinpoint.

Internationally there has been a growing trend towards urbanisation as people move to cities in search of work and better opportunities. However, the trend is also accompanied by massive infrastructure challenges.

Scott said in order to deal with the growing population of Johannesburg, the city will need to go back to its master plan, think proactively and ensure that it doesn’t focus on short-term projects. “We have to do a couple of long-term projects that will make a contribution to a longer sustainable future city,” he said.

A long-term sustainable city will need proper transport infrastructure. Scott said the city still has major work to do on transport to really enable people to get from their residence to work, thereby becoming more GDP-generative and paying more tax.

“I think there is lots of evidence that we are working towards getting it right,” he said.

These include the Bus Rapid Transport projects, the ring-road highways around Johannesburg, “as controversial as they may be”, which will go a long way in shortening travel time to and from work, he said. –