Cape Town among the top tech cities in the world

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Establishing a high-speed broadband network was the Western Cape government's single biggest ICT expenditure asset over the past four years.
Establishing a high-speed broadband network was the Western Cape government's single biggest ICT expenditure asset over the past four years.

Cape Town is the best tech city in Africa, making its way onto global property firm Savills Top Tech Cities report.

Measuring 30 cities from around the world against 100 individual metrics, Savills Tech Cities Index evaluates which cities offer the most successful home for tech and start-up companies.

The Savills Tech Cities index measures what makes a successful tech city. "Our assessment for each city comprises over 100 individual metrics, ranging from the number of days needed to start a business, through to the cost of a flat white coffee," the firm says.

These metrics are grouped into six categories: business environment, tech environment, city buzz and wellness, talent pool, real estate costs and mobility. Each category is weighted to reflect its importance to the tech sector.

Buzz and wellness

Cape Town ranked in 30th place and was the only city on the continent to make the list, with the Mother City faring exceptionally well in the real estate and cost of living sub-category under 'buzz and wellness'.

Acknowledging that co-working has gone hand-in-hand with the growth of the global tech sector, Cape Town ranked sixth on the list, with residential rent and co-working costs being noticeably lower than other major cities around the world.

Establishing a high-speed broadband network was the Western Cape government's single biggest ICT expenditure asset over the past four years.

Western Cape CIO Hilton Arendse recently told ITWeb the province has rolled out broadband to 1 875 sites.

Last year, the greater Cape Town area, including Stellenbosch, was named the most productive technology sector in Africa, employing up to 50 000 people.

Overtaking San Francisco from last year's rankings is New York City, which takes the lead in first place as the premier global tech city due to its expansive talent pool and the city's reputation as a global centre of commerce, says Savills.

According to Savills, a tech city possesses five key characteristics: an important centre of tech within its region, major recipient of venture capital investment, on the shopping list for expanding global tech companies, a vibrant city in which to live and work, as well as a generator of, and magnet for, talent.

Talent hub

Alderman James Vos, Cape Town's mayoral committee member for economic opportunities and asset management, says: "The Savills ranking demonstrates that we are on the right track and how the City of Cape Town is successfully creating an enabling environment for start-ups and tech talent.

"In response to this growing industry, the City of Cape Town is continuing to invest in IT infrastructure, and to date, the city has installed 848km of fibre-optic cable."

He added that towards 2021, the city will spend R1.98 billion on fibre infrastructure.

"As we move further into the fourth industrial revolution, all businesses will evolve, in some form, into tech businesses, no matter what sector. With these shifts, the Cape Town tech start-up ecosystem will continue to grow and become more complex. It will become increasingly essential that the city remains focused on how we can facilitate conditions and sustain a supporting environment."

Western Cape's minister of economic opportunities, Beverly Sch"afer, says: "The Western Cape government has set a goal of becoming one of the leading tech hubs in the world, and this ranking proves we are doing all the right things.

"Our focus on youth skills development, broadband rollout and ease of doing business initiatives like red tape reduction have created an ecosystem in which some of the world's largest tech companies have chosen to invest, while at the same time creating opportunities for exciting young start-ups."

Executive mayor Dan Plato noted Cape Town continues to be a leading city on the continent, with the lowest unemployment levels in the country.

"We understand that it is our role to create a favourable environment for economic growth. We remain an affordable destination for foreign companies to set up shop on our shores. We are committed to continuing to create an enabling environment for investment and innovation."

"In Savills Tech Cities 2017 report, Cape Town was earmarked, along with Santiago and Buenos Aires, as 'magnets for talent in their regions', with the potential to become global players," says Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro, a trade and investment promotion agency.

"Cape Town has since been acknowledged as Africa's leading tech capital, employing more than double the people than Lagos and Nairobi combined. It is recognition through esteemed reports of this nature that will continue to position the Mother City globally as a world-class tech destination and a springboard into the rest of the African continent."

Chinese rise

According to Savills, Chinese tech cities have risen fast, and now account for a higher share of venture capital (VC) investment than their US counterparts. Beijing recorded an average $34 billion of VC per annum in the last three years, volumes higher even than New York and San Francisco.

Chinese cities have also emerged as leaders in shared mobility services. "Our overall mobility ranking puts London first, however, thanks to transport innovations and an urban form conducive to cycling and walking," says Savills.

It adds the expansion of co-working space has gone hand-in-hand with the growth of the global tech sector. The average co-working cost for a desk in a private office is $590, and is highest in San Francisco at $1 050.

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