“How We Made It In Africa” is a fast-growing online magazine and with the current Global African Diaspora Summit in Sandton, it has turned its attention to restoration projects in this country.

Among the success stories featured is that of Maboneng (it means “place of light”) Precinct, a rundown part of the Joburg CBD which has been transformed into a vibrant arty community.

The man behind the project, Jonathan Liebmann, has been held up as an example of how one man can make a difference in initiating change.

“Four years ago I identified an area on the east side of the Johannesburg CBD that was previously degenerated and dilapidated. There was very bad crime. Locals and tourists wouldn’t go into the area. It was a complete no-go zone.

“I saw this degeneration really as an opportunity and I started thinking of ideas of how it can become a new place for people to live, work and play,” Liebmann tells the magazine.

For his first development, Arts on Main in an old warehouse, he approached artists, attracting the interest of one of the country’s best-known artists, William Kentridge, to have a studio.

Following his interest, many other leading institutions followed, and Liebmann started thinking much bigger.

Since then he has bought another 19 buildings (making 20 in all), of which five have been converted into offices, hotels and homes.

“We renovated the buildings in a very clever way so as to promote collaboration and creativity amongst the tenants and owners.

“This has also helped to create a proper foundation for the community of Maboneng,” said Liebmann, who also does the pavements and public landscaping in the area. Now he is looking to improve transport, and he has introduced a shuttle service and started hiring out bicycles.

Maboneng has engaged with the poor community around the area, starting with “One Crèche at a Time”, which upgrades crèches in the area, and introducing a skateboarding programme after school every day. He said there was much opportunity for property developers in dilapidated buildings in inner-city areas. – Staff Reporter

Stability on continent hinges on shared vision – See Page 15