Cape Town’s plan to improve has a major blind spot: expert

 ·16 May 2023

The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry has raised questions regarding the City of Cape Town’s plan to make it the best city for business in South Africa.

Last week, the city published its Ease of Business Index to track the city’s performance with the aim of making it the most business-friendly city in South Africa.

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said that the index aims at making Cape Town the easiest place to do business in Africa by cutting red tape.

There are ten key indicators in the index, which the city hopes will fast-track procedural permit and licencing processes, adapt the cost of applied fees for process and shorten the wait time for applications.

Some of these indicators include transferring public land, getting electricity and increasing digitisation.

“We have developed this index through hard work over the last few months so that we can be held publicly accountable for our commitment to becoming an easier place to do business,” Hill-Lewis said.

“We do this because we know that it’s important for the business community to feel as though this is a good place to invest, to grow and to create jobs.”

However, the President Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jacques Moolman, said that the indicators chosen by the city mainly fall within the category of “reducing red tape.”

“Whilst this initiative by the city is undoubtedly a great step forward in measuring and reporting on the city’s core services, the index fails to measure many of the most critical factors of a business environment which determines if it is an easy place for business to succeed or not,” Moolman said.

“Crime, passenger mobility and freight transport efficiency are, for instance, excluded. These factors, including load shedding, are being identified as the Western Cape’s key impediments to business in the Western Cape through two studies conducted in 2022.”

According to a survey conducted by the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, crime, transport, reliable energy, and water supply are key issues that need to be addressed.

The Chamber of Commerce’s survey had roughly 250 respondents, 150 more than the city’s survey, and used empirically proven Global Competitiveness Index parameters.

Moolman said that both surveys noted that crime, transport and reliable energy and water supply are key issues that need to be addressed.

However, the city’s index fails to include these factors, which the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry asks: “How can the city become the easiest place to do business whilst these factors remain problems?”

Hill-Lewis said that the city chose to report on these factors as it has no direct control, with safety, transport and energy depending on other public institutions or the private sector.

Moolman said that the city may not control these areas, but it does have great influence.

“The economic, social and spatial development roles of the city are clearly defined in the constitution. Yet these remain unmeasured by the index,” he said.

“Choosing the easy-to-perform-on indicators relating mainly to the built environment are the wrong indicators for the label of ‘Ease of doing business’. ‘The easiest Municipality to do business with in Africa’ may be a more appropriate label if they will be chasing their chosen indicators.”

Read: Cape Town’s big plan to fight crime – including high-tech gunshot detection and drones 

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