Joburg on the Rebound, But Who Will Benefit?

June 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

CNN.com recently ran an interesting feature on the city of Johannesburg’s nascent resurgence following decades of post-apartheid decline.

Hillbrow-Tower-Johannesburg-South-Africa-skyline

Click to see CNN feature on Johannesburg. (Source: CNN.com)

As a casual student of urban redevelopment and a resident of a vibrant U.S. city that was considered dying in the 1950s, I’m happy to see Joburg on the mend and coming back. But I wonder if and when the benefits will make their way to people like Mtuseni’s family. Will hip new cafes and airy lofts eventually lead to electricity and toilets in his house and those of his neighbors? I recently learned that his little brother has pneumonia — and the boy’s rural public school by the river has no heat.

In my visit to South Africa earlier this year, I stayed out of downtown Joburg after repeated warnings about violent crime. I spent a few days in the bland, wealthy, office-park suburb of Sandton where Mtuseni goes to school before we flew off to Cape Town. I was glad to be in a lively city environment again! Perhaps on my trip there next winter I will explore downtown Joburg to see some of this new economic vitality. But I don’t expect to see any related improvements in Mtuseni’s neighborhood. Maybe some day…


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