The world’s fastest growing cities taking centre stage in today’s innovation economy

It is no secret that the world’s population is urbanising at a rapid rate. An estimated that globally four billion people (54% of the overall population) live in cities today, a figure that is up by 23% from a decade ago. This is expected to reach a staggering 66% globally by 2050.

The world’s fastest growing cities are taking centre stage in today’s innovation economy, and when it comes to real estate, in most of these cities supply cannot keep up with demand.  Technology and creativity are integral to these growing economic hubs, but more than ever, the 2017 Report shows that the current urban economy is becoming increasingly people-centric. “Whether a city is driven by finance, aerospace, commodities, defence, or manufacturing, the most important asset is a large pool of educated and creative workers. Consequently, real estate is increasingly a business that seeks to build an environment that attracts and retains such people,” says John Snow, Head of Commercial at Knight Frank Global.

While Cape Town is not one of the 34 Global Cities surveyed in the latest Report, it does share much of the required ethos that Knight Frank Global lists as being imperative to successful city growth, namely inclusivity, creativity, innovation, and people-centricity.  Also, much of Cape Town offers extreme diversity, something that is becoming a clear and obvious trend in urbanisation.

“The trend in urbanisation runs counter to many real estate planning principles. Real estate likes the order and logic of zones – CBD, shopping district, leisure circuit, theatre land, or cultural quarter, for example. However, true urbanisation recognizes none of these artificially engineered boundaries and the utopia of urbanisation is a melange of real estate facilities that goes far beyond mixed-use as we know it. A place left to the natural process of urbanisation would combine residential, office, retail and leisure in a non-uniform environment. The order we have become accustomed to will not be replaced by chaos – rather, a sense of vitality and diversity which are pre-requisites for every successful location and indeed, a fundamental to retailing in particular,” says Stephen Springham, Head of Retail Research, at Knight Frank Global.

This is apparent when one drives through Regent Road in Sea Point and passes an internet café, next to an upmarket restaurant, alongside an entrance to an apartment block, flanked by a real estate agency and yoga studio.

“Cape Town, especially the Atlantic Seaboard and CBD, is nothing if not bustling and diverse. It is the secret behind its charm and appeal for most people looking to buy or rent here,” says Richard Hardie, Manager of Knight Frank Residential South Africa’s Sea Point branch.  “There will always be a place or community that people from all walks of life feel at home in, it does not cater only to one demographic.”