Cape Town--not just a pretty face any more.

Author:Jackson, Tom
Position:Urban Africa

The city of Cape Town is undergoing a makeover. While it wants to retain its beauty and great lifestyle, it now wants to attract investments and become a business centre as well. Tom Jackson tells the story.

Cape Town is seen by most South Africans and international visitors as a tourist destination. The total number of arrivals at Cape Town International Airport in 2013 was over 4.1m. The visitors come to take the cable car up Table Mountain, hike to Cape Point, visit Robben Island, enjoy the beaches and some of the finest food and wine in the world.

According to the most recent Cape Town Tourism Industry Performance Report, December last year was a record-breaking month for all five of the major Cape Town attractions, with Cape Point and the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway both reporting more than 100,000 visitors and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden seeing record growth.

The city's share of foreign arrivals into South Africa has been between 91% and 97% over the last five years, with the economic value of tourism in Cape Town estimated at R14.6bn ($1.32bn) in 2012, the last year for which figures are available. This huge popularity has earned Cape Town the reputation of being a 'weekend city' among South Africans, while Johannesburg, the business capital, is well established as the 'week city'. Johannesburg is the most powerful commercial centre in Africa, alone generating 16% of South Africa's GDP and employing 12% of its workforce. The city is home to 74% of corporate headquarters in South Africa.

But Tim Harris, former shadow Finance Minister for the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party is battling hard to change this image of Cape Town.

The idea that Johannesburg is for the week and Cape Town is for the weekend is one that Cape Town is fighting to change. In May last year, Harris left national politics to become head of investments for the City of Cape Town. In December, it was announced that he would be leaving that post in March 2015 to head up Wesgro, the province's trade and investment promotion agency.

Harris' current job is to position Cape Town, and the Western Cape generally, as a destination for investment as well as tourism, with a focus on job creation. Shrugging off the 'weekend city' tag is central to these ambitions, and something he admits will be a challenge.

"When you find yourself running a city that is more famous for the way it looks than the businesses based there, or when creativity is really valued...

To continue reading