Joburg aims to diversify its nightlife economy and become a 24-hour city

Johannesburg has the potential to unleash endless opportunities for efficiency, growth and employment in the city.

Businesses and property investors are exploring ways that could give residents and visitors more options to enjoy Johannesburg outside the 9-5 hours under a new strategy.

Julie Suddaby, Mayor’s Committee Member (MMC) responsible for finance, hosted an engagement session Monday, June 13, where businesses urged the city to reinvent a 24-hour city to unlock opportunities.

Leaders said it was possible for Johannesburg to model other first-world cities such as New York, Buenos Aires or Tokyo that benefit significantly from a night-time economy. Residents and tourists in these cities enjoy 24-hour cafes, supermarkets, cinemas, gyms, public transportation, and other services.

Suddaby added that Johannesburg has a population of about 6.2 million, which matches cities like New York, Hong Kong and London.

However, unlike those cities, it has a much higher unemployment rate which could partly be solved by a night economy.

“Johannesburg has an unemployment rate of 40% and the youth unemployment rate is a devastating 55%. Our poverty rate is 52% and only 71% of households have access to electricity”.

Vuyiswa Ramokgopa, chairman of the National Property Practitioners Council, said Johannesburg was the heart of South Africa’s economy and it was vital that the city’s growth be launched.

“Johannesburg has to work, we have no choice. It is imperative that government, business and stakeholders realize the urgency of getting things right.

“We have to start thinking about the multi-use of buildings in the city centre. We need to start moving to a 24 hour city. There are so many old industrial areas, with abandoned factory buildings. We need to start thinking about how we can reuse them,”

Professor Peter Baur, an associate professor at the University of Johannesburg’s School of Economics, said the city should also consider scaling up the Expanded Public Works Program (EPWP) to both repair damaged infrastructure and exit people of poverty.

“The type of EPWP that was used by the United States during the Great Depression successfully pulled the country out of the economic depression, that’s the model we need to follow. We must pay EPWP registrants living wages, not stipends. We need to spend more on infrastructure repairs to grow the economy.

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