November 25th, 2010
10:29 AM GMT
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We have just filmed this week’s Marketplace Africa program in Braamfontein, a peripheral urban area on the outskirts of central Johannesburg.

It is quite staggering how much of Johannesburg’s inner city has changed in recent years. Juta Street, where we shot, has in the past few months blossomed into a groovy design hotspot with good coffee, an art gallery, and trendy furniture and fashion stores.

The apartments bordering this area have some of the best views of Johannesburg’s skyline and have been turned into expensive loft-style living quarters.

Across the city, a development called Arts on Main is another example of how a rundown, dodgy section of Johannesburg has been developed into a safe, fun place where South Africans of all sorts go to hangout, watch movies and shop.

Someone reading this might think, “So what? Urban regeneration is nothing new.” However, Johannesburg’s shift from a crime-ridden, dirty, overcrowded no-go zone to a place with potential is quite radical to those of us who live here.

That said, there is still a bit of a “Wild-West” feel to Johannesburg.

Some areas are still chaotic and dirty; apartment blocks are unsanitary and overcrowded like any urban slum, where drug lords seem to own the street.

However, at least once a week we film on Joburg’s streets, loiter with expensive film equipment on sidewalks, and chat to locals, and it has become increasingly obvious that slowly, many areas of Johannesburg have been reclaimed from the criminals and blossomed into a place to do business.

The success of this project was pioneered by the local authorities, which positioned a guard or policeman on nearly every corner and installed a high-tech CCTV network covering the city.

However, the business community - the big banks and mining houses - have also played a major part in bank-rolling the regeneration. This shift was also due to the long-sighted, often inspired influence of the country’s artistic community, who were looking for edgy urban lifestyle not found in the suburbs.

So my question is, do you think changing the face of a city is worth it? Tell us which other African cities are developing in ways that make you think, “Wow, this place has changed.”



soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. sipho Nukeri

    well,with tht said.our country has really changed a lot.even the attitude of the citizens and people at large.look what the world cup did.it has united us as a nation,how i wish that even the T shirt of bafana bafana which is commonly worn on fridays,can be made traditional for all of us.thre has been a lot of development and still continues.i'm really proud of my country and love it more.thank God the negative myth of crime was proven wrong during world cup,tourist loved us and our country....,its just few silly poloiticians who just speaks without thinking

    November 26, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
  2. Luke Lomax

    Hi Bumped into the filming 3 times already and now glad to know wha t is about. It is truly amazing how Jozi is transforming. It really exciting.

    November 26, 2010 at 8:28 pm |
  3. Enock Owusu

    Most other African cities are changing these days. The city of Accra is also seeing high rised buildings, malls, international standard hotels and world class estates in recent times. Most of these changes happened within the last 10yrs of Ghana's history.

    November 27, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
  4. emmanuel oga

    ABUJA.....

    November 29, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
  5. Ruth Wood

    Having not been into central Johannesburg for 15 years, I took myself there and had a fascinating day in the city, walking around and exploring – seeing a much more real , intense and more interesting city than I'd recalled (where I'd worked for much of my working life).

    What struck me most was not the urban decay in parts, but the melting pot of different people from all over Africa making their mark in an area previously dominated by White businesses and organisations. What was very clear was that many of the people working in the city (certainly those selling goods and services like hairdressing on the pavements), were working for other people rather than working for themselves. So in some respects, some things never change. Perhaps people given political freedom don't necessarily gain economic freedoms – a thought that's been left with me since.

    One thing's for sure: it's a more interesting, more 'viby' place than it's ever been! Yes, I DO think that there is hope.

    November 30, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  6. JF Gagne

    Arusha – without a doubt.

    December 1, 2010 at 6:58 am |
  7. Ursula

    I just LOOOVE Joburg

    December 1, 2010 at 9:58 am |
  8. Wake Up

    Johannesburg has changed over the last 2 decades, but it most definitely hasn't improved. Over this last decade violent crime and corruption has escalated beyond that which is unacceptable and inhumane. By placing a focus on the few areas where urban regeneration have worked and deliberately not placing this in the bigger UGLY context, this article cannot be anything but biased and promotional.

    December 2, 2010 at 2:09 am |
  9. Bryan S

    Kampala! Sky scrapers are coming up everywhere and new, trendy restaurants and clubs sprout up all over the city.

    December 2, 2010 at 9:08 pm |
  10. Ruth Wood

    Wake-Up's comments place emphasis on the wider social problems which, while correct, highlight the negative side of SA life. The article isn't biased & focuses on the positive side of what was awful urban decay .

    Johannesburg isn't the only city that has suffered – fairly recently Time magazine had a cover story on the decline of Detroit and the poverty, crime and degradation that accompanied it.

    What Robyn Curnow's piece has highlighted is what Frank Lloyd Wright (I think) predicted would become of cities – that they become like the hole in the centre of a donut – while the heart of what was the city then disperses to the suburbs. This is what happened to Johannesburg from about the late '80s – and proof of this conurbation process can be seen in the melding of the surrounding areas of Pretoria to the furthest edges of northern Johannesburg (leaving central Johannesburg a chaotic hellhole for many years).

    During the World Cup I even heard an English tourist on Sky News referring to Sandton as the 'centre of Johannesburg'.

    I think it IS 'wow!' – the place has changed, for all sorts of reasons and with various results. Good and bad. But very interesting, which I think is what the article has managed to convey!

    December 2, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  11. paul isaak

    For me the city that stands out in the whole Africa is WINDHOEK, Namibia. It is the cleanest city in Africa and the architecture is just a beauty for the eye.

    December 3, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
  12. marto

    We all like to see sky-crappers and multi-lane roads. Infransructure is important but it is usually accompanied by traffic jams, crime and grime. Think Nairobi or Lagos.

    For me, a city is about how it makes you feel. Can you imagine a big city in Africa where you do not have to lock your home or car? Think Dar-es-sallam or Mombasa.

    Marto.

    December 4, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
  13. dudi

    Kigali. I'll tell you what, if you visited the ruins of this hilly city 15 years ago after a devastating genocide, and you go back today you will find yourself in a different place. I think Kigali is the the cleanest city in East Africa. There are skyscrapers rising, highways being built. Very impressive for a recovering country like Rwanda.

    December 5, 2010 at 1:55 am |
  14. ehshank

    i had a big apprehension visiting joburg for two days,recently.I have heard and read about it being a particularly violent and dangerous city.Much to my amazement,i visited quite a cool city.I had a guided tour of the inner city and went to some suburbs of Soweto.At no point in time did i feel any tension in the air or feel some form of insecurity.In sandton a beautiful predominately white "country in town" area ,with private security at every corner,i met with a young black at the massive ultra modern Nelson Mandela square cum mall.He offered to accompany me to my hotel .I accepted semi heartedly.He told me along the way that he was unemployed(apparently 20% of the blacks are)how he pass most of his time at a local library,how black youth were "squeezed "between corrupt politics and private security guards.He appeared to be so well informed both about matters in his country and international affairs.He even talked to me about Obama and ..the tea party.We parted at the gate of my hotel.I gave him a piece of the carrot cake i purchased earlier and a few rands.He taught me such a lesson:take your precaution but never prejudge people.I will definitely go back to Joburg.

    December 5, 2010 at 8:34 am |
  15. fox

    hi and exelent job turning around a city that should and could be a great place to live ;if no one makes the first step it will never happen ;so keep up the good work and fight back the crime and coruption and maybe as shakiras song says ;;its time for affrica;;

    December 6, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
  16. cassyricky

    It should be pretty obvious to everyone by now that FIFA's interests lie not in the game of football but in wealth generation. FIFA has long since abandoned its core principles of "promoting the game of football" for a more lucrative business model of lining the pockets of its directors. If FIFA had a genuine interest in the game of football they would have intervened in the farce that saw France qualify over Ireland for the last WC – but that would have been a distraction over their main objective which was maximising its own money. FIFA is not particulary concerned whether these funds are legal or otherwise as long as the flow is one way: into their coffers. The whole world wants a TV ref but FIfA steadfastly refuses – why?
    I was in SA during the last WC and the regulations imposed by FIFA for the sole aim of maximising its ill gotten gains was astounding – in many cases unbelieveable!
    SA has been left holding the baby while the playboy Blatter rides off into the sunset in his Ferrari. The sooner these self enriching parasites are driven off the game of football the better it will be for the beutiful game.

    December 7, 2010 at 12:16 am |
  17. edgar

    Great city by all standards, i would say the equivalent of new york. sadly cant say the same for obuasi town in ghana where gold has been mined for over a century with nothing to show for it

    December 7, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
  18. Reality

    Imbalances are still too evident. Did anyone read the article; Africa's high rollers – how much 'bling' is too much?" perhaps we should not loose sight of everyones prosperity and the promises that were made. Are these coffee shops and markets looking after the people who really need it the most or only lining the pockets of the high rollers . . . at what cost?

    December 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
  19. Jan

    During all the years since the founding of Johannesburg, it was the white governments on South Africa that made it a wolrd-class city. Now, under the black ANC terrorist governmet, it has become a ghost town, wrecked by violence. Why not call it Beirut-2? I doubt whether the present and future black governments can really bring Johannesburg back into the real world, to make it what it was – a great and safe place to live. Viva die buiteland!!!

    December 10, 2010 at 9:49 am |
  20. Roger

    @wake up
    Have you actually been in central Johannesburg lately or are you one of those disgruntled whites that I met that left South Africa because you couldn't bear the thought of sharing your ill-gotten gains with the other 90% of the population?

    December 10, 2010 at 10:06 am |
  21. jean-louis

    This is biased, I think that the media must start exposing the ugly parts of SA, the hi-jackings,, breakin's, Rape's and brutal murders. Government is sitting on their laurenls, spending millions on cars, and stating that there is no money for Policing, education, reform... As long as their pockets are being lined, they dont care about the people, black, or white, and when anyone complains, they blame it on apartheid. They refuse to look in the mirror for what their government has done in the past 20 odd years, which roughly relates to higher levels of crime, rape, murder and more poverty, as BEE only enriches a few people. There is no equality and again, when questioned, they blame it on apartheid.

    December 13, 2010 at 8:21 am |
  22. felix

    i think that the regeneration of Jo'burg is a massive step in the direction of changing peoples opinions of South Africa as this poverty sticken country like the rest of africa, this is not true, i live 30 mins from the city centre and think that it is a wonderful place to live in. It is the fact that so many people think that it is a dangerous place to live and we are changing the steriotype of this country. keep up the good work !!!!

    December 13, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  23. Shaun

    Roger, If your not South African I suggest you shut up, because you have absolutly no place to judge white people or any Citizen of South Africa, Im proud of this Country, if it wasnt for Brittish oppresion, we would never have sparked a proud nation of white african people, had is not been for Aparthied proud leaders like nelson Mandela would also not exist. BEE affects us all, that sparked me to start my own business, which employs other people, which provides taxes that builds this nation. The wealth I have build however small, has not come from "ill-gotten gains' as you put it, but rather self gotten gains. As for the Crime prophets, its affects us all, white and black! Jan, I feal sorry for you, because you will never know what it feels like to be a true citizen of any country, your a coward, and at the same time Im glad you no longer live in or represent South Africa, at the end of the day, you are nothing more than dead useless weight! Have a look at the world cup people, this is somthing build by both black and white South Africans, Can anyone argue the success this nation has build and how far we have come. If you have nothing good to say about us, rather shut up or do somthing constructive!!!

    December 15, 2010 at 8:38 am |
  24. halliemollie

    I think that it is wonderful that Johannesburg has been fixed up so people can actually have a home there.

    December 16, 2010 at 12:37 am |
  25. Gideon K

    Well done Jozi- You are building a feeling of trust. South Africa (Jo'burg city) has indeed positioned itself as a world class city that is by far better than most cities in the so called first world countries. My best opinion in being constructive and tactiful when combating inner city crime. Perharps introduce cameras at every street conner.

    Loitering in the city should also become a crime if the improving city wants to fully create the culture and interest its communicating now.

    December 20, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  26. Ferdie

    Thanks Shaun, SA needs more ambassadors like yourslelf. It is because of people like yourself that this our Proud SA can make the progress that it is making, be it big or small. I am always proud when I talk about Joburg with some of my colleages overseas, as it is truly positive to see the new development of our International City.

    Viva Joburg Viva South Africa Viva to all the citizens of SA

    December 21, 2010 at 11:26 am |
  27. joey

    i, as a white kid, have made a pact with myself to go into the inner city once a week and do something new. 23 weeks in and i still have new, fun places to go to. i have eaten in an ethiopian, cantonese, thai, morrocan and a southern indian restaurant. i have toured the world of beer, been to the sci bono building, visited the joburg arts gallery. i have taken the new rapid transit system and eagerly await its arrival in the rest of the city. i have shopped at the mary fitzgerald square flea market. i have watched a performance at the market theatre. and these are just off the top of my head.

    this week i plan to do juta street. reviving inner city? i think so!! keep up the good work johannesburg!!!!

    December 22, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
  28. Benny Steyn

    J'Burg is no different from any other major cities around the World but it is definately being internationilised and improved. Once Beki Ncele sorts out the police force it will be a jewel of a city.

    December 31, 2010 at 6:39 am |
  29. mshoza

    Its good that 'Jozi', now stands for what it was, when the Italian Architects built it; 'a Mega Metropolis!' of beauty to be enjoyed and marvelled.

    After all the hoolabaloo; of the poor grabbing what they do not have by force 'Hilbrow style', opposition parties blaming it on the ANC; Blacks blaming Whites and vice-versa. Remember the gold/opportunity it glitters as an attraction across to other Africans, making them to descend on it from the three corners of the Continent.

    Now it is time to make 'IGoli' better; cleaner, more organised; replace old biuldings; this will in-turn create jobs, and better education.
    Lets get to work, everybody who, involved!

    January 4, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  30. Steve

    what are you people smoking? there are people urninating at the corners, faeces in the streets.....

    jeez man, a beauty? you people are crazy. I saw some tourists walking down those streets, all in terror.... itsz a friggin nigerian gangland!

    January 6, 2011 at 7:50 am |
  31. Kyle Lauf

    Great article. Yes, there's crime and corruption and urban blight etc. but the writer is pointing out that here is something more and exciting.

    I went to the Arts on Main area – there is a Joburg themed boutique hotel, a 'bioscope' – independent movie house, coffee shops, boutiques, besides artists workshops, photographers studios, galleries...up the road there is the Diamond City development....drive towards town and you will come across a Fashion Design District with lots of small independent fashion designers and clothing manufacturers jostling and hustling, there's even talk of an outdoor fashion ramp for modelling new designs.

    In the Braamfontein area the re-developments of old office buildings into lofts and student accommodation is what has driven the regeneration...Check out the Lemunu Hotel (all Orange) and you can clearly see that the whole area south and east of Wits University has become a vibrant quarter.

    Then you've got the Newtown district with it's theatres and art workshops, also check out the Mill – with marketing and PR companies along with TV production studios and architects...not to mention 44 Stanley Ave with its furniture and book shops, free-trade coffee seller and journalists, graphic designers, studio space etc.

    Joburg is definitely on the up and up. Brave entrepreneurs have been investing in properties all over the place over the last 10 years, renovating, re-purposing buildings or even just buying flats...

    And if you want to see what's happening in Hillbrow check out Madulamoho housing project and the MES projects – reclaiming abandoned buildings, going the legal route to buy high-rises that were hijacked, then renovating and providing simple and affordable housing that is safe, well run, and assistance to get a foot in the job market...

    I haven't even mentioned the sections of the city around the banking houses and mining companies. Sure there are rough areas, poverty, crime etc. but that is what we are addressing slowly but surely.

    January 7, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  32. Kebaso

    What the heck is going on here??? How could you call them townships cities? A lot of them don't even have a fire and rescue services, an efficient ambulance services, leave alone a waste disposal management policy, waste everywhere. Sky scrappers mashrooming without proper architectural design leading to colapse of buildings like one i witnessed in Nairobi, rivers overflown with human wastes, sloughterhouses in the neighbourhoods without a health government policy, poor road designs, lack of proper passenger transport mechanism apart from the cities in South AfricaNairobbery is the mother of all robbery crimes, tribal group set ups such as Mungiki, taliban, sungu sungu terrorising citizens in close watch of the corrupt police! African cities have a long way to go to catch up!

    January 7, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  33. afropersimist

    arise arise Africa shacks scrapers and mud scrapers arise and arise

    January 9, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  34. Tshepiso

    @shaun now that you are done with Roger what's your advice to Jan?

    January 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm |

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