Two of the goals as set out in the National Development Plan (NDP) are (1) the transformation of urban and rural spaces in South Africa and (2) investment into a strong network of economic infrastructure designed to support medium to long-term objectives.

One of the main points alluded to by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation address is the government’s focus on improving infrastructure. He also emphasised the need for a national integrated urban development framework to assist municipalities to effectively manage rapid urbanisation.

Kobus Fourie, KPMG partner and leader of the KPMG South African Centre of Excellence for Cities, says: “Cities are critical for the successful implementation of the NDP. Already, 37% of the South African population live in the eight metropolitan cities and produce 62% of the national GDP.”

Lullu Krugel, senior economist at KPMG in South Africa reemphasised that cities have a key role in making the NDP happen, especially with regard to infrastructure.
“Almost two thirds of South Africa’s population live in urban areas, with the rate of urbanisation expected to continue. Cities, as economic hubs, can contribute to economic growth and employment creation and have an important role to play as centres of economic infrastructure provision to the rest of the country,” says Krugel.
KPMG’s chairman for the Global Centre of Excellence for Cities, Mick Allworth, explained some of the reasons which lead to the establishment of the Cities Centre of Excellence.

“When we launched the Global Centre of Excellence for Cities last year, our research showed that there had not been enough of a holistic view to address city issues, planning around cities was not long-term enough, and traffic congestion and other side effects of cities contributed negatively on productivity of citizens.” He added: “We realised we had to assemble a team of people who can talk to cities about cities”.

Drawing from his previous experience as city manager for close to 30 years, David O’ Brien, leader for KPMG’s Global Centre of Excellence for Cities, applauded South Africa’s planning structure.

“The NDP, provinces and cities all try and link together. As a matter of fact, the President said in his recent State of the Nation address that cities have to be given the ability and responsibility to do their own planning and developing their own strategies. Also, unlike many countries around the world, South Africa’s cities have been recognised in the Constitution,” says O’Brien.

O’Brien further emphasises that every piece of infrastructure spending is usually in a city, or connects cities.

Key to infrastructure development is the role of water. Kim Adonis, KPMG’s Water Sector leader, notes that South Africa can really celebrate its water quality.
“The key issue surrounding water is its availability. A significant factor is the complexity of getting water to the end user. The amount of unaccounted for water, due to leakages, incorrect billing and theft is in the region of 40% in some areas.” notes Adonis.

O’Brien adds, “Water treatment plants are deteriorating, a common problem around the world. The difference, however, is that in developed countries, it is recognised as a problem.”

The importance of skills and capacity to the successes of cities is emphasised by O’Brien, to which Fourie responds that this critical issue needs to be addressed on multiple levels.

O’Brien maintains that cities are the future of the world and “the most important level of government as it is the closest to the people.”