| Economic Pathways

Economic Pathways for the Metro Central Area

The mandate to support economic pathways in the metro central area of Cape Town originated from the City of Cape Town (CCT) who identified a need for a supporting structure for the Blue Downs Integration Zone. Another informant is the feasibility study into an Aerotropolis concept for Cape Town International Airport commissioned by the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) completed by service provider AECOM.

The above processes merged into a signed an MOU between CCT and ACSA for the establishment of a governance structure that will coordinate and align their plans for the Metro Central Area.

As a part of the initial formation, three Economic Pathway workshops were conducted to better understand the economic opportunities in the area and to guide the City’s Enterprise and Investment interventions in the area. The first workshop looked at

  • understanding the Metro-Central economic system in context;
  • building capacity for new ways of looking at enterprise and investment in the Metro-Central area; and
  • clarifying how the City of Cape Town Enterprise and Investment team viewed the area and map the work they do in the area.

The second workshop looked at:

  • examining the leverage points in the system for E&I,
  • unpacking what opportunities and constraints the E&I team can manage, and
  • what they need to be able to influence in the process.

Points of leverage in the system were identified and evaluated in terms of their greatest impact on constraints to growth in the Metro-Central area.

The third  workshop focused on the partnering lens for economic opportunities in the area, i.e.

  • Who the other stakeholders in the area are, who have influence and mandates to operate there
  • How the City of Cape Town and the E&I team could best partner with these stakeholders
  • What the role of the E&I team in these activities should be.

The above process created the understanding that there are key constraints to investment and business growth in the Metro Central area. These related to factors such as:

  • Infrastructural and geographic constraints to access to markets
  • Skills level, youth unemployment and crime constraints to good social returns and inclusion in the economy
  • Information constraints for new businesses or markets

At the same time, there are many informal and micro businesses doing well in the area. These included food retail, fast-food retail, construction, landlords, cleansing services, childcare services, transport services, mechanics and light manufacturing (for example, welding, furniture, clothing and crafts). There are also two significant industrial parks on the edges of the Metro Central area – Blackheath, and Airport Industria.

Additionally, the “aerotropolis” process is a collective effort towards unlocking the role of an international airport in attracting investment and stimulating new, or stronger, value chains. It is a long-term process that requires vision, flexibility and, most importantly, integration and coordination of efforts. With each new passenger flight, comes new trade potential, with both sectoral and land-use implications.

While some of the constraints are best addressed through coordinated spatial and transport planning, and through social interventions, the Economic Pathways programme adopted a two-pronged approach.

Lesson 1: Focus on within-area opportunities and growth through a township economies programme

Related to understanding the economic opportunities in the area, the EDP in partnership with the HSRC convened and conducted a four months township economies programme ( on behalf of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism/DEDAT)to have a better grasp of the bottom up processes needed for investment to land in a manner that is conducive to the socio-economic development of the Metro Central Area. Different relevant township economy researchers and data projects, policy makers and practitioners were invited to co-evaluate:

  • State of research, including definitions, frameworks, strategies, case studies, surveys, etc.
  • Policy proposals over the past few years, what has been implemented to date, what has worked/ not worked.
  • Current township economy projects and strategies being implemented.
  • You can read more about this project here:
  • Understanding of roles and functions of different stakeholders, including the three spheres of government.

Lesson 2: Improving access to information about broader opportunities, by connecting township manufacturers to export opportunities presented through the AirAccess project.

ACSA, Wesgro and DEDATs AirAccess project has been successful in increasing the number of direct international flights to and from Cape Town International Airport. With this, is an increasing diversity of market access as well as increased freight capacity. The MCP team have initiated a process to align these opportunities with local businesses. A process to connect Freight Forwarders to the surrounding small and emerging businesses, which have been discovered via the Township Economies workstream has commenced. The aim is to deepen the impact of AirAccess to include township-based businesses, by bridging the gap in knowledge and information on air cargo and destination markets