12 May 2014 by Daphney Mngomeni

Jozi reinvents itself as Africa's hip hotspot

Twenty years after the first democratic elections, Johannesburg has become one of Africa’s most fast-paced, exciting and innovative places to be, according to an article in News24.

The city was 'born' in the 1880s as a result of a gold rush, which drew fortune-seekers and mineworkers from all over the world, and has since grown to be South Africa’s largest city, says the News24 article.

In the 1980s and 1990s Johannesburg’s inner city fell into decay, as fabric of the apartheid system – which had had a fundamental effect on Johannesburg’s spatial development – came apart. Big business subsequently moved to the northern suburbs, leaving the city centre run-down and affected by crime.

Now, the Maboneng Precinct, which was once a neighbourhood of nothing but empty, run-down buildings a few years ago, serves as a stunning example of the inner city’s rebirth. Old industrial buildings that were once declared no-go areas have been renovated and transformed into trendy cafés, fashion shops and upmarket apartments, says News24.

The mix of art galleries and studio spaces on offer attract the inner city’s public, as well as the art-going crowds of the northern suburbs, bringing life back into downtown Jozi.

Maboneng is the brainchild of businessman John Liebmann, who restored buildings and pavements with initial financing from a private funder.

Johannesburg is home to 4.4-million residents and according to the planning executive manager at the municipal Johannesburg Development Agency, Sharon Lewis, “it remains a socially mobile, fast-paced and opportunistic city, welcoming different kinds of people”.

Projects to breathe life back into the inner city had already started before the FIFA 2010 World Cup South Africa, which improved Johannesburg's infrastructure and boosted tourism.

Nearly R2-billion went into repairs and upgrades between 2007 and 2012. The city also saw the introduction of a rapid-transit bus system that serves the downtown area, as well as the high-speed Gautrain that links Jozi’s inner city with the administrative capital of Pretoria and other upmarket business districts.

Johannesburg’s revival has attracted more investment into the city that was already South Africa’s economic powerhouse and is home to the continent’s largest stock exchange, generating an estimated 17% of Africa’s GDP.

Joburg is not perfect and like every other city in the world has its flaws. However, the city takes pride in its diversity, with districts like Maboneng teeming with people of different skin colours and nationalities – making it a true cultural melting pot.

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