Economic Benefits in Social Cohesion
Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana is an urban revivalist who has been instrumental in creating economically thriving and creative public and private spaces in which to live, work and play in Cape Town’s Central City. Expertise that the City of Windhoek has called upon to see what concepts would work to create more social cohesion in Windhoek.
Bulelwa is the CEO of the Cape Town Partnership, and on the invitation of the City of Windhoek, came to share her experiences and lessons from Cape Town and the cities all over the world she has worked with; cities that have revamped their communal spaces to the benefit of communities and also the economy.
99FM’s MYD Smart sat down with Bulelwa whilst she was in Windhoek to talk about what economic opportunities lie in the spaces in and around our cities.
“We work with the public sector, the private sector and civic society. Our main mandate is to manage the spaces in between the buildings. We don’t manage buildings themselves in the CBD of Cape Town, we manage the space in between, the roads; networks; the public spaces especially. All of this we do to ensure that we are able to get Capetonians together to congregate in public spaces and have an enjoyment of public spaces.”
“It’s almost like a social cohesion strategy because, as you know our cities are separated because we come from an apartheid background. So cities have been designed for separation meaning different groups of society don’t have a chance to get to know each other.”
“In the long run what we see is, that by creating these public spaces, we are able to turn around the space for economic benefit.”
While mandated to revive spaces within the City of Cape Town, the spin off of these spaces has not only been social cohesion but also economic boom. “There is a very strong economic strategy, because when public spaces are created there is more buying power in terms of people wanting to enjoy the experience; people wanting to eat; people wanting to shop etcetera. In the long run what we see is, that by creating these public spaces, we are able to turn around the space for economic benefit.”
“To me there is no better example of what a public space can do because living in an apartheid built city means that the infrastructure has been designed to separate you. Even if you build bridges etcetera, hearts and minds are still left behind.”
Bulelwa explains that to revamp areas of Windhoek for more social cohesion does not have to require major capital expenditure, “People think all these things cost money. It doesn’t. You start small and let the partners, the collaborations, build up the project, the campaign or the movement. A good example is that in Cape Town we have First Thursdays. On the first Thursday of each month, in the centre of town, galleries are open, offering a free glass of wine to anyone who comes to visit them, the restaurants are open until late, the public spaces are animated with music and with poetry. When it started, it was a few restaurants that were involved. Right now we have thirty to forty thousand people in town at that time. Restaurants have stopped taking bookings. Even tourists coming to town, make sure they time their arrival on the first Thursday of the month because on that day, everyone becomes a Capetonian. Whether you speak German, French or Swahili, it doesn’t matter, you are in the centre of town and you love Cape Town. It’s dynamic; it’s black and white; it’s rich and poor; all enjoying the same public space. To me there is no better example of what a public space can do because living in an apartheid built city means that the infrastructure has been designed to separate you. Even if you build bridges etcetera, hearts and minds are still left behind. What you need is to have face-to-face interaction, opportunities to observe; to participate; to feel part of the bigger home.”
“I see the River Walk in Windhoek as a catalytic project. I think there is an opportunity here is to start opening dialogue.”
Here in Windhoek, one such project in process is aiming to facilitate the improvement of the socio-economic life of Windhoek through the rehabilitation of the numerous river courses, enabling additional development opportunities for the city. The project is the Riverwalk project, which plans to connect Windhoek, from the East to the West. Starting from Goreangab Dam leading along the main river system all the way to Avis Dam.
“I see the River Walk in Windhoek as a catalytic project. I think there is an opportunity here is to start opening dialogue.” Says Bulelwa. The Riverwalk initiative in Windhoek aims to be a multi-layered urban spine that not only provides greater economic returns, jobs and wealth creation, but also connects communities and provides spaces for social and recreational activity through the city.
For more information about the River walk, or to join in the dialogue about developing spaces in Windhoek, find the River Walk Facebook page, by clicking here
Article written by Kirsty Watermeyer