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-Organizing Local Economic Development: An Unforgettable Experience-

IHS Refresher Course, Cape Town, South Africa 2011

Acknowledgement

First, I would like to thank IHS for selecting me under the Netherlands Fellowship Program (NFP) to participate in this program that would enrich my professional experience beyond my expectations. I would like to thank Professors Maria Zwanenburg and Jan Fransen, IHS Refresher Course Coordinators, for their guidance and foresight and Professor Gordon Pirie, Deputy Director, African Centre for Cities (ACC) for facilitating the contribution of high calibre speakers to this program. Last but not least, I would like to thank Robert Nolan, Manager, and Randy Mclean, Director, City of Toronto Economic Development and Culture, for their support and encouragement.

The Program
Public, private and civil organizations have been contributing to the development the local economies by creating innovative forms of governance and suitable implementation mechanisms. Countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada and South Africa have been investing in local economic development policies, organizations and instruments. By linking South African professionals to professionals in those countries, said policies, organizations and instruments can be examined from different points of view, fresh perspectives can be brought to the table and new recommendations can be made for the continuous upgrading and updating of those policies, organizations and instruments. In a globalized world, cross-continental collaborations are of significant importance to address challenges such as the organization of big international events, in particular in cities such as Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro, where high economic and social inequalities exist.

The Course was focussed on 4 themes, all of which were illustrated with a case from Cape Town:
1.    Territorial competitiveness: "The Cape Town Central City Improvement District";
2.    Local innovation systems: "Creative Cape Town";
3.    City marketing & organizing events: "The World Cup infrastructure";
4.    Entrepreneurship and small scale enterprise development: "The Business Place, Philippi"

The objective of the Course was to provide its participants, the opportunity to learn first hand about:
•    Urban policies related to businesses productivity and development support, urban revitalization, finance and taxation, labour markets, land and housing;
•    Local organizations in cities and neighbourhoods that bring together economic actors at inner city level; and
•    Instruments or mechanisms available to implement economic development policies and initiatives.

This program was developed in partnership with Cape Higher Education Consortium (CHEC), Cape Town City Council and IHS Alumni Argentina, Brazil and South Africa. Participants were selected on the basis of their work experience in South Africa, Argentina, Brazil or other Latin American countries, their relevant professional background, their current work in areas related to Local Economic Development, e.g. land and infrastructure development for local economic development, employment creation, entrepreneurship development, competitiveness, value chain development and city marketing, amongst others.

The format of this Course consisted of a combination of lectures, key note speakers' presentations, roundtable discussions and site visits. All fifteen participants, professionals from Argentina, Brazil, Canada and South Africa, were given the opportunity to make their own presentations. Participants were eventually divided in 3 groups to produce the following research papers:

•    "Territorial competitiveness and innovation in Cape Town CBD: The Central Improvement District and Creative Cape Town" – This paper focuses on two agencies operating in the centre of Cape Town and on issues of competitiveness and innovation. It also acknowledges that a city is made up of a complex mix of spatial and economic configurations, infrastructure and most importantly of people;
•    "Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development: The Business Place in Philippi, Cape Town, South Africa" – This paper examines the Business Place in Philippi, its profile, its institutional set up and its sources of funding, in the context of other local economic development initiatives in the region; and
•    "Mega Events and Local Economic Development: The World Cup Case" – This paper examines the 2010 World Cup experience: its surrounding social and economic environments, its main players and decision makers and its legacy. It offers a comparison with other cases in the cities of Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro and Toronto and provides an insight into what went right and what could have gone better in the context of the City of Cape Town and its residents.

These papers were presented to local professionals, businesses, academia and other invitees at an event organized by the University of Cape Town's African Centre for Cities.

Key Learnings
This was the second fellowship that I received under the NFP, the first was many years ago, as an official of Argentina National government and this time as an official of the City of Toronto, Canada. My past experience in urban planning both in Argentina and in Canada coupled with my current experience in local economic development in Toronto, help me to make a meaningful contribution to this Refresher Course.

During the 2-week duration of the Course, we had the opportunity to first familiarize ourselves with the South African context, in particular with Cape Town. This was my first time ever in that continent and I tried to absorb as much as I could about its rich culture, magnificent geography, enviable weather and the graciousness of its people. The excellent speakers, which included Prof. Gordon Price and Prof. Ismail Farouk, African Centre for Cities, Prof. Christian M. Rogerson, University of Johannesburg, Prof. Wolfgang Thomas, University of Stellenbosch, Ms. Bulelwa Maklima-Ngewana and Mr. Andrew Fleming, Cape Town Partnership, Prof. Ivan Turok, Human Science Research Council, Mr. Peter Cronje, City of Cape Town, Prof. Maria Zwanenburg and Prof. Jan Fransen, IHS, and Mr. Zayd Minty, Cape Town Partnership, enlightened us with their knowledge and insight about matters related to the main themes of the Course.
Thus, we learned about Cape Town's social and economic inequalities, urban policy challenges,  inadequate urban infrastructure, economic development initiatives, geographical isolation, diversity, high unemployment rate, competitiveness challenges, key industries, security issues,  political context, white elephants, community initiatives, constraints and strategies, and other issues.
Through our site visits, lead by local professionals, businesses and decision makers, depending on the case, we learned about challenges and opportunities presented by each project, as well as how these projects were structured, financed and fit within the local economy. Site visits included Phillipi Business Place, the Central City District, the main World Cup Stadium, Creative Cape Town and the Cape Town Partnership area. We also had the opportunity to conduct "extra-curricular" site visits in our limited "free" time, which allowed us to meet local  people and explore places from a different perspective.

As member of the World Cup Case Study group, I had the opportunity to familiarize myself in more detail, with the issues that arose during the 2010 World Cup. My interest in this case study is based on the fact that Toronto will be hosting the next Para/Pan American Games in 2015. These Games are considered the third in magnitude behind the Olympic Games and the World Cup. As a member of the Economic Development and Culture  team, I am involved in activities aiming at facilitating and stimulating new business opportunities related to the Games.

As part of the Course requirement, I co-authored a paper entitled: "Mega Events and Local Economic Development: The World Cup Case". For this paper, the study team reviewed relevant literature, held group discussions, interviewed stakeholders, conducted site visits and participated in seminars and presentations. Cape Town's World Cup turned out to be as contentious as all mega- sport events. As is often the case, there were those who benefited from it and those who did not. Our interviews with stakeholders made it clear that the beauty is in the eyes of the beholders. Events of the magnitude of the 2010 World Cup have the potential of generating business growth and employment opportunities if planned with a long term vision. The sense of urgency to deliver the "event" overshadowed the ability to plan ahead of it. Too often, short term imperatives and opportunities overwhelm long term plans. Events of this nature must not only be successful but must be perceived as such. Most of the efforts to promote the "event" were geared towards the success of the actual "event" while creating false expectations in the public at large.

The 2010 World Cup event succeeded in raising public pride and leaving a legacy of  new infrastructure and facilities, and a revamped the city of Cape Town's central district. However, it failed to leverage the full extent of potential business growth and permanent employment opportunities. Legacies must be planned, they do not accidentally happen because a mega-event is produced.  Over 40,000 jobs were lost after the World Cup was over. This means that 40,000 families with high hopes were left in limbo as there was no plan to retrain or re-deploy or re-employ people somewhere else. The short term approached prevailed.  It was clear from the research that a stadium alone, or a mega-event for that matter, cannot transform a community, in particular in a country with huge developmental challenges. This was a very interesting learning in particular for those of us that are currently involved in one way or another with upcoming mega sports events such as the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Para/Pan American Games and the 2016 Olympic Games.

We learned from each other
Our learning from each other amongst the participants in this Refresher Course was so incredible and poignant that merits a separate subtitle. There were 15 of us:
-    Silvia Arrais (Recife, Brazil)
-    Tali Brook (Cape Town, South Africa)
-    Alicia I. Bulwik (Toronto, Canada)
-    Marcelo Coccato (Resistencia, Argentina)
-    Kaylee Cooke (Cape Town, South Africa)
-    Jessica Cymerman (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
-    Pedro Humberto (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
-    Fred Kusambiza (East London, South Africa)
-    Maria Eugenia Sbrocco (Salta, Argentina)
-    Patrick Mlangeni (Johannesburg, South Africa)
-    Amira Osmon (Johannesburg, South Africa)
-    Simone Silva Costa (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
-    Yasmin Shapurjee (Johannesburg, South Africa)
-    Maria Amelia Texeira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
-    Rufino Wagner (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
-   
We are all professionals in diverse fields as architecture, tourism, urban studies, urban management, transportation planning, housing, economic development, and so on. We are all working in different capacities from government officials to independent consultants. It was this professional, occupational and geographical diversity put together that fostered an environment of energetic knowledge exchange and innovative ideas.

We learned from issues derived from flooding in a fishing village in Northern Argentina, tourism in Brazil and how the City of Rio de Janeiro is preparing for upcoming mega sport events, challenges for Recife's competitiveness, an economic development program to support the agriculture sector in rural Argentina, a program for SME's and micro enterprises in Northen South Africa, issues related to the "informal" business sector in Cape Town (and in other parts of South Africa), the challenge faced by small businesses in Eastern Cape, the role of small-scale rental housing in drafting Housing Policy in South Africa, urban branding and marketing in the City of Johannesburg and we learned about the economic development practices in the City of Toronto.

We all learned from each other: everyone benefited from this experience, as we were able to draw meaningful conclusions and produce well thought-out recommendations. However, while the broad expertise of the speakers and presenters of this Course provided the knowledge base for the development of this Course, it was the opportunity to gain from the interaction with such a diverse group of people that turned this Course into an unforgettable academic and life experience.

What is Next?
The 2011 South Africa IHS Refresher Course experience proved that we cannot compare apples with oranges, but we can mix them and come up with an enhanced product. Analogies apart, my experience in the South Africa Course served not only to add knowledge and expertise by others to my professional practice "toolkit" but to confirm my views about the merits of cross-cultural/cross-professional collaborations. In this respect, the city of Toronto, where I live and work is a city leader in fostering cross-cultural pollination of people and their communities and taking advantage of this to create business opportunities, employment and an enhanced quality of life for its residents.
Almost half of the close to quarter million immigrants that arrive in Canada every year, settle in the Toronto area. This immigration pattern coupled with Federal government policies about multiculturalism has made Toronto become one of the most diverse cities in the world. Over 50% of Toronto's 2.7 million residents were born outside Canada. They come from about 200 different countries of origin and speak more than 100 languages. It is this diversity that facilitates innovation and business growth because the majority of Toronto residents speak at least a second language and maintain their contacts overseas. Moreover, this diversity of life experience makes Toronto residents open-minded with respect to engaging with people from a different community and or background.

When I add what I learned and experienced in South Africa, to my own experience in Toronto, I conclude that if 15 people from diverse backgrounds and experience can have productive discussions, work together, generate new ideas and produce great results in such a short time, it is a model relatively easy to replicate. For instance, collaborative approaches could be created and used for either specific purposes e.g. a special project involving different communities or as a matter of practice e.g. public consultations, to resolve certain issues e.g. the 15 participants could well be 15 ethnic groups, 15 communities, 15 business organizations and so on.

Another important learning acquired through my NFP experiences is the value of forging long-lasting relationships with colleagues around the globe. Relationship-building is key to establishing a solid platform and setting the launching board for collaborations amongst individuals and institutions. In fact, had it not been for Ms. Dolores Alemany-Vega, a NFP IHS alumni whom I met in my previous NFP experience and who facilitated my re-connecting with IHS a couple of years ago, I may not have been invited to participate in this course.

As for the future, the door is now open to new Inter-continental collaborative efforts. I trust that my participation in the South Africa program will enhance the potential for linkages between the Cities of Cape Town and Toronto. Furthermore, opportunities are open for cross-continental collaborations amongst Higher Education Institutions in areas such as curriculum for economic development. Moreover, as Rio de Janeiro is preparing to host 2  mega- sport events (2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics) and Toronto is preparing to host the Para/Pan American Games in 2015, there are synergies to be explored. Both the City of Toronto and the City of Rio de Janeiro could benefit from a collaborative approach. These collaborations will foster a climate for the generation of business opportunities and job creation in the countries involved.

by Alicia I. Bulwik, MRAIC, MCIP, RPP
Senior Advisor,
City of Toronto, Economic Development and Culture

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Alicia Bulwik is a Senior Advisor with the City of Toronto Economic Development and Culture Division. She is a creative professional with international experience in economic development, policy formulation, land use and strategic planning, architecture and urban design in both the public and private sectors. Ms. Bulwik holds a Master of Science degree in Urban and Regional Planning
from the University of Toronto, and degrees in Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. She holds a Diploma in Housing, Planning and Buildings from the University of Rotterdam (former Bouwcentrum International Education), Holland; and studied Economic Development at the University of Waterloo, Canada.

Ms. Bulwik’s career in Argentina includes 5 years as an architect at the National Urban Development and Housing Secretariat, teaching assistant at the University of Buenos Aires and researcher at the Argentina National Research Council. For 2 years Ms Bulwik managed her own consulting firm in Buenos Aires. Alicia Bulwik joined the City of Toronto in 1986 as a Senior Planner with the former City of Scarborough. She led significant urban development and special projects, including the Agincourt Centre Plan. In her 12-year tenure with Toronto’s Economic Development, Ms. Bulwik managed a number of strategic sectors, including Food & Beverages, Design, Information and Communication Technology, Renewable Energy and Green Technology. For two years, she was the Manager of Incubators and Commercialization Programs at the former Toronto Economic Development Corporation (TEDCO). Her accomplishments include: the creation of the Economic Development Sectors Initiatives Program (EDSIP); the development of a Sector Development Strategy for Toronto’s ICT sector; the review, redesign and management of the City’s Incubators Program; the development and implementation of the “Food Industry Growth Trends in Toronto” study; the creation of the Design Industry Advisory Committee; and the design and production of the “Regenerating Urban Employment” Study”. Ms. Bulwik serves in Task Forces and Committees, most recently as member of the Program Committee of the 2010 Canadian Institute of Planners International Conference in Montreal.

Currently, Ms Bulwik manages the Business and Professional Services Sector and facilitates business opportunities related to the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games. Ms. Bulwik speaks at academic and
professional forums and makes contributions to professional and trade publications. She is fluent in English, French and Spanish.


Publication date: 29 March 2012