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In their rush to become ‘global’, cities risk creating spatial apartheid

Maboneng in Johannesburg represents one strand of the type of urban ‘development’ that’s advocated for by the proponents of “global cities”.

The first thing I saw when stepping out of the taxi was a sign advertising craft beer, popular with hipsters everywhere. Sidewalk tables were occupied by attractive young people; a pleasant tableau of the multiracial middle classes eating wood-fired pizza and playing with their smart phones.

It could have been a scene from gentrifying downtown Los Angeles or Shoreditch in London. It reminded me of New York but in reality it was Maboneng, Johannesburg. I am conducting research about the area and issues of spatial transformation.

Maboneng was carved out of Jeppestown, a working-class neighbourhood in Johannesburg’s CBD. It has developed rapidly since 2009. But surrounding Jeppestown is still mostly occupied by low-income black people. Maboneng is a distinctly hipster “cultural time zone” or microspace. Its upmarket bars, fashionable restaurants, creative work spaces and loft-style apartments have more in common with its equivalents in Euro-America than less developed local areas adjacent to it.

Maboneng represents one strand of the type of urban “development” that’s advocated for by the proponents of “global cities”. The problem with this type of development is that it often leads to cities becoming more spatially unequal as urban regeneration or gentrification displaces people.

The city’s core areas are occupied by the wealthy. Low-income residents are pushed to the urban peripheries in search of affordable housing. This trend is intensifying around the world: in New York, London, Sydney, Los Angeles and Vancouver as well as in globalising or emerging cities like Johannesburg, Accra, Beijing, Cape Town, Jakarta, Mumbai and Shanghai.

We have seen this model before. It was called the apartheid city.

Apartheid cities

South Africa’s apartheid architects wanted Johannesburg and nearby suburbs to be reserved for the white population. Economically disadvantaged black people, so-called “coloureds” and Indians were warehoused on the outskirts in segregated, under-resourced townships. They provided an underpaid labour force for white business.

Apartheid was also known to its critics as “racial capitalism”. It was a type of social engineering that both spatially and economically gave the white population an advantage to keep them wealthy.

In the era of globalisation since 1990, these same spatial dynamics have played out in cities around the world. They are no longer based on purely racial lines. Instead, they’re grounded in blatant socioeconomic segregation. Urban theorist Richard Florida wrote in 2008 that

the most successful cities and regions in the United States and around the world may increasingly be inhabited by a core of wealthy and highly mobile workers leading highly privileged lives, catered to by an underclass of service workers living farther and farther away.

Several scholars have warned that inequality is an inherent feature of the global city. Others, like Martin J. Murray, argue that post-apartheid Johannesburg has introduced “new patterns of social segregation that have further marginalised the largely black underclasses and urban poor.”

Yet many cities are striving to become more “global” – and ever more unequal. Why is this?

Defining “global”

Annual indices produced by groups headquartered in places like Chicago and London competitively rank global cities according to certain metrics. A city is “global” if it consists of very particular types of cultural time zones: skyscrapers, cafes and malls which adhere to western notions of “modernity” and “development”. Global cultural time zones in global(ising) cities create a network of geographically disparate but culturally similar spaces that allow for certain types of socio-economic transactions.

This sort of development has seen gentrification being generalised as “global urban policy”. In recent years major cities have witnessed a particular strand of gentrification that I call global hipsterification. A scholarly article on the subject has been accepted for publication in the journal New Left Review.

Knight Frank’s 2015 Global Cities report states that “former industrial districts” like London’s Shoreditch and Brooklyn’s DUMBO are some of the “new districts [which] are of increasing significance” because they attract “younger staff” who can find housing, an active social life and burgeoning employment opportunities in various technological or “creative” industries.

These youngsters often identify as hipsters, originally a counter-cultural movement that has now gone mainstream and global from Hauz Khas village, New Delhi to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They are defined by their consumption of particular types of beverages (coffee, craft beer) and food (quinoa, kale) as well as music, fashion, art and their distinctive aesthetic choices.

Meanwhile, cities in the global South use hipster areas like Dadar in Mumbai or Maboneng to beef up their global city credentials.

And while the hipsters move in, others are pushed aside. “Development-induced” migration is a growing phenomenon in many cities like Shanghai. There, authorities are removing millions of low-income residents from prime real estate in their quest to become more “global”.

But here’s the question if we are to reduce the global trend of increasing spatial inequality: who gets to define “global” and why does it only mean skyscrapers and hipster cafes?

A new definition

Instead, shouldn’t “global” be redefined to mean adequate and affordable housing for all income levels, good schools for all children, universal health care, a zero rate of homelessness and greater income equality? What if “global” was correlated with the Gini coefficient which measures equality?

City officials need to rely less on profit-driven, private developers and more on specific government policies to aggressively protect and create more low and middle-income housing in city centres.

The ConversationSpatial and economic inequality have many drawbacks and may negatively impact growth. Inclusive growth can only be achieved by rejecting the apartheid/global city model.

Melissa Tandiwe Myambo, 2017 Writing Fellow, Johannesburg Institute of Advanced Study, University of Johannesburg; Research Associate, Centre for Indian Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Johannesburg

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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This article is so typical of socialists. To have a cluster of excellence in a third world cesspit is not acceptable. Everything must be a socialist utopia with income equality and free everything for everyone paid for by the tooth fairy. One thing is certain about socialists is that it is all about equality of outcomes. Not equality of opportunity but outcomes. Profit and market economic are bad and more government interference is the solution.

Of course to demonstrate her point she uses a false analogy with apartheid. By implication, if you don’t agree with her model, then you are an apartheid supporter and thus an evil person. The issue is in the bad old days the colour of your skin dictated where you lived. These days it is your income and where you choose to live. A big difference.

I would give this article 0/10.

Author Melissa Tandiwe Myambo needs to lose her poison pen and seek anger management. This is the sort of thing one would find on ANN7 and not in respectable publications and sites like Moneyweb.

Absolutely. JHB CBD is an example of disinvestment on a mass scale. Then you have a group of entrepreneurs who have a vision and wish to shift the trajectory of a filthy, unsafe and ugly city with a dysfunctional government. They take a risk and tie hundreds of millions of capital into said city. Personally, I wouldn’t tie a cent into rand denominated fixed assets in JHB. These entrepreneurs ought to be praised for trying to make a difference. Instead, they are critisised for creating “spatial apartheid”. Now I’ve heard it all. It’s no wonder our universities continue to decline in global rankings with this type of socialist propaganda being taught.

RG, anyone being a “realist” is branded a “racist”, Just as u say, I work in multicultural environment. I live in the suburbs, while my black colleague life in the township. We earn the same on (pay scale), I commute 10 minutes to work, he nearly half to an hour. I pay more on descent housing, he choose to live in township RDP housing. I choose to drive a cash bought affordable Japanese car, while he drive the shiny 320i BMW. When I ask him he don’t move to the suburbs…reply – it’s to expensive, when ask why he bought an expensive car, he said its a cultural status thing, the people see him in his BMW and smart clothes, that image is what important, the perception of status, that’s what the people see,- the car, laptop, smartphone, and clothing brands.

It’s not just income that determine where you live, but just as much a choice between a RDP house or BMW.

Absolute junk, obviously nothing else to write about.

Write something that can change lives, like stopping corruption, rape, farm murders…….

I would have thought it was high time that generally unknown authors (much like Melissa Tandiwe Myambo) when writing would create articles which carry positive energy in the story they are trying to tell. Of course, Melissa, when a city is in the process of changing, the changes happen as the architects of the project manage two rebuild and redesign section by section and day by day. If is unfortunate that you seem to think it is as easy as waving a magic wand and the Utopia appears. That only happens in fairy tales. In the type of story you are hoping to portray, your writing evokes a needless sense of anger and hatred. Don’t blame the legacies of past administrations because you think it makes nice reading. Rather blame the people who are holding power and for more than 2 decade have done nothing to transform systems and areas because it never paid them enough in the way of fraudulent tenders, bribes, etc. Or, the powers in positions of decision making never deemed it time to revamp areas such as the ones you are writing about.

Before you write again, take a spoon of sugar and try and sweeten your opinions so as not to rile people who have bad memories of the past and who unlike many others have made the decision to move forward. Not backwards. Then, if you have to make yourself feel better, lay the blame where it is presently deserved and not on things that were officially abolished nearly 30 years ago.

One of the very worst articles ever on MW.

This writer imho is filled with self loathing and unimaginable envy that there are people and organisations all over the world that can do wonders that she cannot even imagine. So the race card is played and it fails spectacularly.

BTW just who is gong to pay for these uneconomic housing units in the centre of cities?

Let me be honest. Living in Joburg for 8 months now I have seen the results of rampant crime and is a typical third-world city – not anything close to the ‘world class African city’ nonsense.

The only way to stop the rot in this country is to prevent the birthrate from exceeding the economic growth rate. This is the problem at hand NOT apartheid propaganda. Start talking about the problem and NOT the symptoms of Joburg’s issues.

Imagine what Joburg would be if there were more jobs, more educated people and a forward-thinking populace. Ask the question why there is such inequality and is growing since 1994 – most fools would say apartheid is the problem but Japan rebuilt itself in a few decades after taking two nuclear bombs and lost millions of people.

It is time to stop the blame game and demand more from the masses

That is a thought. Maybe one or two nuclear bombs might make the people of this country wake up and smell the roses.

If we could have somehow stopped population growth after 1994 we could have had near full employment now and be halfway to a developed country.

As unchecked population growth is almost certain to continue for the next couple of decades, SA can look forward in 2040 to the population rising to 75-80 million, with 20-25 million unemployed and unemployable while it is likely that the economy and tax base would have barely increased.

Even scarier than that is that the likely political response will be even more populist politicians and policies.

The opposite of “populist politicians and policies” is “made up trite that’s hoped to be scientific”

The comments made about this article makes me worried about the Moneyweb readership. What Melissa is writing about, is a global problem, not just a South African problem. The gentrification of the inner cities pushes working class people out far from the jobs they have to service the hipster class. What she proposes is that the state intervenes to create housing and services for working class people closer to their work. No-one seems to care that their domestic worker gets up at 5:00 to get to work by 8:00 using multiple forms of public transport.

There is a simple solution to your problem and guilt – don’t employ a domestic – do it yourself, – no transport issues to worry about and no guilt about the fact that the person has to get up at 5.00 a.m. – but then maybe you will have some guilt about the unemployment numbers. The writer and the government are far to concerned about looking in the rear view mirror and are losing their way on where they want to get to

@ Vallisneria

The serious spatial problems of SA cities will not be solved by stopping gentrification.

In SA, we should welcome any development that provides work and income. The fact that gradually an area gentrifies and some people might have to move is very secondary. The sheer fact that someone is willing to get up at 5am to get to work by 8am means that must be better than the alternative: unemployment.

Joburg CBD has vast amounts of cheap property that could be used for huge-scale, dense worker housing. The fact that is generally not yet viable is down to the fact that average worker incomes are still too low. This can be gradually improved by the investment and development mentioned above.

We actually do care about that and what is the problem? Quite simple: NO PUBLIC TRANSPORT!

Everything in this country is held to ransom by Taxi operators and the regime. If we had adequate public transport, the poor would spend less time and money on transport

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