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For South Africa’s youth, cities are key to economic prosperity

Zaks began an arts program called Township Glory for unemployed youth in Johannesburg. (Kyle Taylor/ flickr/ CC)

Can South Africa design “cities of hope” brimming with opportunities for entrepreneurial youth? The Centre for Development and Enterprise, a Johannesburg-based think tank, concludes in a recent report that the goal is achievable with policies that stimulate urban economic activity.

Cities of Hope: Young people and opportunity in South Africa’s cities argues that job creation in major urban areas is crucial because the nation’s youth are heavily concentrated there.

Africa’s urbanization “has not generated the kind of productivity growth needed to raise living standards,” the authors lament. That’s because African economies emphasize agriculture and natural resources rather than manufacturing, which drives urbanization.

Thirty-eight percent of South Africa’s population — 19.5 million people — are age 15 to 34, with the largest concentration in impoverished Soweto, the report says. Since South Africa’s cities hold the greatest promise of prosperity for this demographic, policies are needed that encourage businesses and factories. Examples include “special economic zones” and high-density development.

The report, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation (a Citiscope funder), builds on topics the centre explored during a 2013 roundtable. 

Centre for Development and Enterprise

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