CITY DESIRED BLOG
“The map outlines how and where the employees spent the money that they earned from the projects and follows the rand to various parts of South Africa ranging from the local economy to the Eastern Cape.”
The rapid urbanization that has occurred in sub-Saharan Africa in the past decades has forced governments to reconsider economic development beyond the traditional paradigms of capital-intensive economic growth. In South Africa, much of the economic growth has come from commodity driven mineral industry that contributes significantly to GDP growth but does little to deal with the high levels of unemployment in urban areas. Africa is 40 percent urbanized at present and expected to grow significantly in the decades to come reaching close to 60 percent by 2050. As the world seeks to find ways to deal with the effects of environmental degradation and climate change, questions are being raised on how to achieve economic growth in a sustainable eco-friendly way while providing employment that can lift people out of the cycle of poverty. In Cape Town, the metropolitan municipality has begun to experiment with projects that are labor intensive and ecologically friendly. The two projects examined with this map are the Shark Spotters Program and the Hout Bay Recycling Co-op. The Shark Spotters Program is based out of Muizenberg and seeks to balance the needs of people and white-shark conservation by monitoring the coastal waters from the hillside with a team of local employees. The program was established in 2004 and is 80 percent funded by the City of Cape Town and the remaining 20 percent is funded by a combination of fundraising and sponsors. The Hout Bay Recycling Co-op was founded in 2009 and collects recyclable waste from the township of Imizamo Yethu that would otherwise end up in a landfill producing both carbon dioxide and methane as well as well as placing further stress on Cape Town’s solid waste resources, land and water . Initially, the land and building used for the co-op were granted by the City of Cape Town but the income generated comes exclusively from the waste that is gathered and sold for recycling.
A total of 10 semi-structured interviews were conducted in order to understand the effect that these programs have had on both the lives of the employees as well as their local community. A data set was compiled that detailed basic information about each employee such as age, sex, number of dependants, education and time employed with the project. Approximately 10 questions were asked in interviews ranging from 20 minutes to 1 hour. The map outlines how and where the employees spent the money that they earned from the projects and follows the rand to various parts of South Africa ranging from the local economy to the Eastern Cape. Each employee’s spending is divided into 7 categories and is mapped to show where the money is spent and where it ends up. The rand is followed through five steps starting with the origin (City of Cape Town for Shark Spotters and waste collected for the Hout Bay Recycling Co-op) to the estimated final destination. The question at the center of this study is, what are the Keynesian multipliers on local government spending? Interestingly, much of the income goes into the informal economy which currently makes up 33 percent of South Africa’s total economy and contributes 10 percent to South Africa’s GDP. Also, the map shows different habits in spending vis-á-vis men and women, Xhosa and coloured, older and younger and so on. The landmark study, The Economic Lives of the Poor, by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo is a much larger study that focused on extreme poverty and covered 13 countries. This map draws inspiration from that study but on a micro scale and in a middle-income city. As Cape Town’s demographics have changed substantially over the past two decades it is important to try to understand what it means to be a Capetonian and how one interacts with the changing nature of urban space. In the end, the map gives a glimpse into the economic lives of lower income residents and tries to give narrative to the goal of making cities productive, healthy and happy.
By Brennan Camp | Illustration by Gaelen Pinnock