City also slow to make decisions, fact-finding visitors say
A radically divided city, with no urgency for decision-making. This is what officials from the World Bank found after a week-long fact-finding mission in Nelson Mandela Bay in July. The officials, led by Carli Bunding-Venter, also found that the famous “Friendly City” tagline hampered growth.
Nelson Mandela Bay was the first municipality to be chosen for the Competitive Cities Programme – which is aimed at growing city economies through the national Treasury and the World Bank.
As part of its fact-finding mission, the World Bank officials also found:
- A widespread lack of collaboration and a “silo” mentality such as the municipality and Mandela Bay Development Agency;
- Action by government officials was often hampered by fear of misstepping, which led to a fear of disciplinary actions.
- The use of buzzwords such as the “oceans economy” and “smart city” without officials understanding the concept and details.
Bunding-Venter presented her reportback to the economic development committee yesterday.
Other municipalities participating in the programme include the City of Johannesburg and Ethekwini Municipality.
The three cities have been included in a database of 750 competitive cities around the world.
“One of the key findings was that in all of these successful cities [in the case study], there was some kind of coalition or collaboration that went beyond political cycles,” Bunding-Venter said.
“In some places it was between private sector and government, in some cases it was across national government and localities working together.
“But without fail, in every successful city there was some kind of collaboration.”
In its application, the municipality identified the Baakens Valley and the Port Waterfront Project as catalytic projects aimed at accelerating growth.
But Bunding-Venter said they later discovered the Baakens Valley was not a suitable project, as it might not be in demand.
“You might have a beautiful Baakens Valley, but just because it’s beautiful and it’s there doesn’t mean there is a demand to use it,” she said.
“We did find a very racially divided city, that was our observation, and a stuckness in the system. There was no urgency to move and very little decision-making happening.”
In her presentation, Bunding-Venter said during the week spent in the Bay her team also had to change a flat tyre and watched a protest from a building in the city centre.
ANC councillor Buyelwa Mayafa said she did not understand why the city lagged behind other cities.
“I know that we are the economic hub of the Eastern Cape, and I understand that we are among competitive cities which means there is a lot of potential, but I don’t understand why we are still lagging behind other cities. What are we not doing right?” Mafaya asked.
But Bunding-Venter said being called an “economic hub” did not guarantee that the city had a strong economy.
“The political environment might have something to do with why the city is still lagging behind, and the psyche of the city and how you sell Nelson Mandela Bay.
“But the more we engage with the city, the more we are optimistic about it.”