Cape Town's iconic Table Mountain looms over the city's Waterfront district. File picture: Reuters

Cape Town - While Cape Town’s economy is growing faster than any other city in South Africa, crime, unemployment and inequality are still prevalent and pose considerable challenges to the city’s sustainability, says the State of Cape Town 2014 report.

And with the city’s population likely to hit 4.2 million by 2022, the number of households needing access to basic services will continue to put a strain on resources.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

As Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for corporate services, explained at the official release this weekend during the World Design Capital policy conference, sustained growth since 2003 showed Cape Town’s resilience in the face of the recession.

The report is the fifth in a series produced annually by the City of Cape Town, and where possible provides a two-year analysis of trends and changes in the city.

Professor Edgar Pieterse, one of the contributors to the report, said: “The global trend towards urbanisation offers opportunities for innovation.”

Pieterse said the city needed to “democratise” access to the information, such as that contained in the State of Cape Town report, to grapple with its myriad challenges.

And while investment in public transport was critical, he wasn’t convinced the bus rapid transit system was the best way to do this.

According to the report, Cape Town had the highest overall crime rate for 2012/13 – 8 514 per 100 000 people were affected.

This is more than double the national crime rate.

The number of drug-related crimes reported increased by more than 400 percent in the nine-year review period from 2003/4 to 2012/13.

But Limberg said this could be attributed to the city’s law enforcement actions.

However, the report has projected that drug-related crime will continue to increase in the city, especially among the youth, and the average age of drug users is expected to drop.

The growth of employment between 2005 and 2013 could not keep pace with the number of new entrants to the labour market and the strict unemployment rate increased from 19.2 percent to 24.9 percent during this period.

Not enough jobs are being created in the informal sector, with employment of only 8.7 percent.

By developing-country standards, Cape Town’s unemployment rate is fairly high and its labour force is relatively low-skilled.

The report called for a revitalisation of Cape Town’s manufacturing sector.

The key to this would be further engagement with parastatal Transnet to ensure that capacity constraints at the port did not become “prohibitive to growth” in this sector.

About 90 percent of non-residential development has taken place in Cape Town’s 59 commercial districts since 2005.

Most of the new office developments have been concentrated at Century City, Tyger Valley, Salt River and the CBD.

The report found that 35 percent of the new arrivals to the city came from the Eastern Cape, and most of these people opted to live in the Khayelitsha area.

Almost 40 percent of the city’s population growth between 2001 and 2011 was from in-migration from outside the province.

“Urban growth has implications for the municipality’s capacity to provide new infrastructure and services,” the reported noted.

It also highlighted the marked increase in the number of informal settlements over the past decade.

Just over 20 percent of households are located in the city’s 376 informal settlements.

Backyard dwellers have become a particular challenge in the city.

But despite a growing population and resource constraints, access to basic services increased from 1996 with more than 94 percent of households having access to water, sanitation, electricity and refuse removal.

Infant mortality rate, a key indicator of health in a society, decreased from 25.2 to 16.4 per 1 000 live births.

However, areas with low socioeconomic status still have higher rates of infant mortality.

Cape Town also has the lowest rate of HIV prevalence of the eight metros in the country.

The Khayelitsha health subdistrict remains the area with the highest HIV prevalence in the city and the province.

Most Capetonians die because of unhealthy lifestyles or stress, symptomatic of an urban lifestyle.

The consistent cause of death across all districts was still caused by cardiovascular and metabolic conditions.

The report noted that climatic diseases and others, such as yellow fever, would resurface as more foreigners migrated to the city.

Cape Town has 137 clinics offering primary health care.

More pupils are completing school, with the number of Grade 12s increasing from 19.6 percent in 1996 to 30.2 percent in 2006.

Cape Town’s carbon footprint, while lower than the national average, is high compared with other developing economies.

Its electricity use accounts for more than 60 percent of this footprint.

The report included a few longer-term cautions:

- Uncontrolled and rapid urbanisation would encroach on natural assets such a beaches, agricultural areas, watercourses.

- Climate change and subsequent storm damage could cause infrastructural damage and economic losses.

- Looming food insecurity as climate change affected output, and pushed up food prices.

- Increased environmental pollution and diminished water quality.

Recognising that inflated food prices would hit poorer households hardest, the city has already commissioned a study of its food systems to develop interventions.

“In poor areas food insecurity is severe and chronic. It is an area we must focus on,” said Limberg. - Cape Argus