Gauteng’s development think-tank

10 September 2008

The Gauteng government has entered a multi-million rand partnership with the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the University of Johannesburg to set up a think-tank to help the province achieve its vision of becoming a leading global city-region.

To be established at a cost of R4-million, the Gauteng City-Region Observatory will be run by a research advisory committee consisting of representatives from the two universities, the Gauteng provincial government and local and metropolitan municipalities.

“The idea of establishing an observatory is to ensure that leading universities play a full role in developing a prime city-region in the province,” said Professor Peter Alexander, a director at the Centre for Sociological Research at the University of Johannesburg.

“The observatory will assist in developing a research-based approach to long-term strategic planning related to economic, social and other areas of development for the province.”

Catalyst for cooperation

In keeping with similar successful knowledge-intensive observatory initiatives implemented globally, Gauteng’s observatory – to be based at Wits – is expected to become a catalyst for further co-operation between universities and the government in various fields of scientific endeavour.

“The key objective of the observatory is to make use of the intellectual capacity of institutions of higher learning and research institutions towards the achievement of the global city-region objectives, including socio-economic development,” said Professor Rob Moore, deputy vice-chancellor for advancement and partnerships at Wits.

Gauteng’s global city-region strategy, which features the province as a major metropolitan conurbation ranked in the world hierarchy of urban settlements, was influenced by the growing centrality of cities in modern economies like London, New York, Paris and Tokyo.

It was also a response to development challenges affecting the province, the ongoing divide between the first and second economies and the high levels of poverty in the province.

Prioritising resources

Moore described the establishment of the observatory as “unprecedented” in the province. “The establishment of the city-region perspective will prove the province as an economic power that drives the economic and social development of not only the region but of the continent as well.”

As part of its mandate, the observatory will collect data from Gauteng government departments to assess the progress made in implementing global initiatives to enhance socio-economic growth.

This data will also enable the province to make intelligent decisions that help to balance investment in new initiatives against maintaining existing infrastructure.

“In a resource-scarce context like Gauteng, the observatory will be key to helping the province prioritise in resource allocations,” he said.

The observatory, expected to be fully up and running before June 2009, is further expected to help Gauteng lay a firm foundation for the province’s Vision 2014, which aims to halve unemployment and poverty by 2014, among other things.

Source: City of Johannesburg