Andrew Boraine knows making cities work requires partnership – but how one gets partnerships actually working is the key ingredient in an ever murkier soup of complexity around the urban space and the people in it.
Boraine, chief executive of the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership (EDP), has been involved in South Africa’s local government, urban and economic development and transition processes for the past 35 years, as activist, advisor, negotiator, government planner, city manager, chief executive, facilitator, communicator and writer.
He is attending the first ever Urban Assembly congress of place-makers next week at the Port Elizabeth Opera House where he – together with 20 other nationally acclaimed and internationally operating speakers and thought leaders – will debate a motion presented by the Eastern Cape Institute of Architects (ECIA).
Boraine said a critical part of the motion has stuck with him and he will be engaging on the ECIA suggestion that “the most significant obstacle to meaningful urban transformation in South Africa lies not in a shortage of academic ‘know how’, not in a shortage on public sector investment, not in a shortage of private sector mobilisation but rather in the entrenched dysfunctional relationship between these three sectors”.
“The motion has superbly identified the problem and having worked on these matters for over 15 years, we can offer practical and not only theoretical insights in how to overcome these problems and make this relationship functional through structured, permanent partnerships,” said Boraine.
“Basically, as I see it, two items to be addressed – how to sustain effective partnerships and how to get collaborative leadership – without which you cannot have meaningful partnerships.”
Successful partnerships are key to unlocking the potential in cities of the future and for that ‘place-making’ is critically important to the identity of an area. “Place-making, especially in an urban environment where we have inherited a complex melting pot of divergent identities, is critical. It is important to build a common citizen’s brand, which is not the same as a tourism or business brand, but in effect is a brand partnership where meaning is consistently renegotiated by the people.”
The Urban Assembly, presented by the ECIA, is a three-day conference of architects, academics administrators and the public in Nelson Mandela Bay aimed specifically at addressing challenges faced by South African cities, Port Elizabeth in particular.
Looking at city borders is therefore very important, says Boraine.
“We need a broader economic view of the future which not only looks at sectors, but at spaces, as the economy does not respect boundaries. The concept of the functional region becomes crucial here as the city and hinterland are seamlessly interconnected.
“In this way, urban and rural gain new meaning, as do town and township – and we really start to understand connected space and the people in it. This is where partnership becomes key,” said Boraine, whose collaborative intermediary organisation EDP, focuses on regional economic development by bringing together a variety of partners.
“This work is incredibly exciting and I look forward to sharing insights with the people of the city. There is a science and art to partnerships which helps people understand the different languages across various sectors of society,” he added.
The Urban Assembly boasts insight into cutting-edge thinking on urban design, networking opportunities, high-level debate and engagement, and the chance to meet leading national and local architects. It is complemented by a major exhibition of student and professional work, the annual Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) Milde McWilliams Memorial Lecture, and the launch of Professor Albrecht Herholdt’s new Coastal Contemporary book.
The Urban Assembly is sponsored by PPC Cement, Safintra Roofing and Steel, and the MBDA and awards place between October 14 and 16 at the Port Elizabeth Opera House from 9am each day.
Adult tickets are R300 for the duration of the conference and student tickets are R100. ECIA members pay R250. Some events are closed to the public.
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