Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said cities were the key to building a prosperous and inclusive South Africa.
He was speaking at the Gordon Institute for Business Studies (GIBS), where city managers have gathered to take part in a week-long course on executive leadership.
“When we talk about pushing our economy up that hill, we need the cities to be in gear and with a foot on the accelerator,” Nene said.
The minister of finance said 70% of South Africa was urbanised and that that figure is set to grow in the future.
“Our cities offer a rich mix of diverse people, diverse skills, infrastructure and capital to drive innovation and even to lead on emerging and long-ranging agendas from climate change to digital transformation,” Nene said.
He added that South Africa relied heavily on its cities because of their socioeconomic value, saying good governance is essential to ensure that the country’s cities do not collapse.
Nene said urbanisation, political and administrative challenges at times have the country’s cities, despite of their potential, close to collapse.
He said President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call for a new dawn means now was a time for renewal in the country.
“There is renewed confidence, and a sense of urgency across the continent,” Nene said.
The finance minister said calls for radical socioeconomic transformation, radical land reform and radical political change are all symptomatic of a deepening impatience with the pace of socioeconomic change.
National Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane said cities play an important role and are an important pillar for economic growth.
“If cities collapse, the country can collapse. Cities are an important engine for our economy. As cities, let us stretch the rand and enter into new negotiations with suppliers that will ensure that we stretch the rand. There is greed, both from government and suppliers,” Mogajane said.
The executive leadership programme is aimed at strengthening the role of cities in building an inclusive South Africa.