Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Johannesburg or Madrid‚ it doesn’t matter. It is all the same‚ really — at least when it comes to challenges facing the world major cities.

This week Gauteng plays host to 137 mayors and experts from around the world for the annual Metropolis convention. The Metropolis is a global network of major cities and metropolitan areas from around the world.

Through the organisation‚ cities are able to connect and share expertise to tackle global issues. The conference‚ under the theme Inclusive metropolitan cities and city-regions, is being held at the Sandton Convention Centre‚ and delegates are expected to discuss issues related to urban marginalisation‚ exclusion‚ inequality and injustice.

This week delegates will also be visiting some of Gauteng’s most challenging hotspots‚ including in Tshwane‚ Soweto‚ Diepsloot and Ekurhuleni.

Other issues delegates will discuss include policies and practices necessary to build inclusive cities and challenges in addressing social inclusion and governance.

Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe said delegates would also be discussing issues such as urbanisation‚ human settlement‚ urban planning‚ migration‚ unemployment‚ economic growth and other challenges facing cities.

Masebe said the aim of the convention was to share ideas and experiences on the various challenges facing cities around the world.

"Gauteng is the most urbanised area in SA; it’s the most densely populated. Some of the issues we are facing are around housing‚ economic growth and youth unemployment. Our membership with Metropolis enables us to share in the expertise with others‚" Masebe said.

Gauteng‚ which contributed "more than a third" to the country’s GDP‚ was the ideal host for the global convention. Masebe said the event would hopefully create other opportunities.

"We are happy to be hosting this convention. The delegates will take time to also look at the various other offerings of our city because ultimately we want them to come back. There are opportunities for investment‚ manufacturing‚ and we hope that when they leave they will think about Gauteng."

For Metropolis secretary-general Octavi de la Varga‚ Gauteng was a microcosm of every other city in the world. He said that while some cities in the global north may have access to more resources‚ they were no different to Gauteng and other cities in the global south.

"Some cities have less resources‚ but the problems and challenges are the same everywhere. With this convention we are hoping to create opportunities to think out of the box to address those challenges. Gauteng is the perfect example of the complexities of all of the issues‚ Gauteng is no different to Madrid or any other city‚" De la Varga said.

With the theme of the convention inclusivity‚ De la Vargo said that hosting the event in Gauteng was another way to highlight what was happening in Africa and to ensure the inclusion of African cities in the global challenges facing cities.

"This is a space for our members to learn and gather … the focus will also be on good governance‚ on how you manage finances‚ because it all comes down to that‚ if there’s not good governance‚ nothing happens‚" he said.

For many of the Gauteng delegates‚ discussions on housing development‚ unemployment and urban planning would receive the most attention.

"The biggest challenges in Gauteng is with population growth‚ urban planning‚ housing and human settlement. Through this, our membership will allow us to tap into the knowledge … the advantage we have is that we can look at all cities and we are then able to take a little bit from each one and apply it to Gauteng‚" Masebe said.