The value of an aerotropolis for Cape Town International Airport

August 6, 2015
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Airports Company South Africa, Cape Town International Airport together with regional partners are currently exploring options to develop an aerotropolis as part of a general strategy to unlock the growth potential of Cape Town and the Western Cape. Aerotropoli have evolved globally at major international airports such as Dubai International, Amsterdam Schiphol, and Singapore Changi Airports, amongst others, where economic activity and infrastructure is centred around the airport. For Amsterdam Schiphol, the development of an aerotropolis has been so successful that it has higher growth rates than the Amsterdam CBD. As cities become increasingly important and the global middle class continues to grow (estimated at 4 billion by 2050), so will the opportunities to increase trade and investment. Cape Town needs to position itself and reduce trade friction to maximise opportunities, and an aerotropolis, with its connectivity and location in Cape Town, has the opportunity to achieve this.

The area surrounding Cape Town International being considered for an aerotropolis comprises of Airports Company South Africa, City of Cape Town, WC Government and private property. ACSA is running a series of workshops to engage with stakeholders with the intention of working together to obtain a common vision for the aerotropolis as well as to understand what its impact will be. One of the main benefits of developing this land will be to address a key issue in Cape Town relating to our spatial form where a large number of the population live far from the economic employment opportunities, highlighted in our recent Rapid Urbanisation session. Lower income groups spend considerably more on their monthly transport costs and creating employment in closer proximity could benefit the surrounding communities who are some of the poorest and most economically marginalised.

The airport is in a prime position located between the N1 and the N2 and close to shipping routes, existing nearby industrial zones, captive catchment areas, port and existing freight infrastructure. The land is underutilised with only 20% of available industrial bulk and 30% of available office bulk at Airport Industria being developed leaving considerable room for growth. While the project is still in discussion, development opportunities could include creating an aviation and logistics training centre, a cargo and logistics hub specifically for agri-processing which is a key focus sector of Project Khulisa, maximising industrial and commercial opportunities, and creating additional housing. Important to the success of this project is increasing rail and road transport links to connect the north and south, and major economic nodes (CBD and Bellville). The project also needs collaboration and an effective governance structure amongst its multiple stakeholders, and solutions that directly benefit the surrounding communities with employment and housing.

Cape Town International Airport has the opportunity to be a catalyst of economic development for Cape Town and the Western Cape. Global research shows that every long-haul destination sustains around 3,000 direct, indirect, and catalytic jobs, and that an increase in aviation by 10%, results in 2% growth of the regional economy. Accelerate Cape Town and other economic development agencies also see the value of increased direct flights, and an aerotropolis could provide additional value to create economic opportunities for our city and communities.

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