MIDI - Msunduzi Innovation Development Institute
To position Msunduzi as a forward-looking, successful and sustainable City of Choice, able to attract and retain innovators at the leading edge of the economy and provide a high quality of life for all its residents.
To drive the development of equitable living spaces through active engagement with the innovation and leadership of higher education, business and local government.
MIDI is registered as an NPO, No. 065-783
The overall management of MIDI is in the hands of a board of trustees chaired by Madeleine Jackson-Plaatjies, manger in the office of the Municipal Manager. The daily running of the organisation falls under MIDI director Francois du Toit.
How and why MIDI came about
There is no shortage of talent, capacity or passion in Msunduzi.
But are the city’s intellectual and material resources being used to their maximum potential? And are they being used for the benefit of all of those who live here?
In 2005, a group of bright minds concerned for the future of Msunduzi got together and decided that what was needed to achieve a sustainable and environmentally-friendly, vibrant African city was an innovation institute which could act as a think-tank, plan for the long-term future, share information and facilitate initiatives that could make our city one of the most desirable in the country.
That idea led to the signing of a memorandum in 2005 between three of the city’s key repositories of resources and expertise: the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business and the Msunduzi Municipality.
Thus MIDI was born. This three-way partnership, formed for the benefit of a city and its people and formalised in a Trust in 2007, is unique in South Africa and, according to the best of our knowledge, rare in the rest of the world.
Today, some 50% of the world’s population live in cities - an increase from 13% in the 1900s. This rapid growth in urbanization is expected to continue and is having a serious impact on sustainability—the ability of both cities and the world - to satisfy the needs of today’s populations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.
Cities are critical to South Africa’s future as the leading economy of the African continent. But they are also under enormous pressure as increasing numbers of people move to cities and towns in search of employment, education, economic prosperity, and quality of life.
The Msunduzi Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal is no exception. The city’s population is expected to double in the next five years. Outside of China, southern Africa is experiencing the fastest rate of urbanization in the world.
Although Pietermaritzburg contributes approximately 10% to the province’s GDP, spatial and economic patterns from pre-democracy persist; the city continues to bear the marks of its apartheid past, seen most clearly in the organization of the city’s housing sectors and the ongoing under-development of previously disadvantaged communities.
Sixteen years after the dawn of democracy, South Africa’s high poverty and unemployment rates continue to be echoed in the city’s profile:-
- A recent University of KZN (UKZN) study found that as much as 93% of the Pietermaritzburg population of poor people is ‘food insecure’ – meaning that they do not have regular access to food on a daily basis.
- The poor, mainly black residents are located in peripheral areas of the city, in densely populated townships that suffer from inadequate or non-existent electrification, piped water, and sewerage. Communal taps and ‘long drop’ toilets are common.
- Over 40% of these households are headed by a child or grandparent; 55% are headed by a female.
- 60% percent of the economically active are unemployed and of those employed, over half are in unstable, informal employment.
Among the challenges to the future sustainable development of the city are the following:
- The rapid influx of mainly poor and unemployed people into the city’s precincts has put a severe strain on the city’s infrastructure and municipal service delivery: waste management, sanitation, poor water quality and environmental degradation are some of the critical problems already being experienced;
- The city has not attracted sufficient numbers of new tax-paying and rate-paying residents due to lack of vision and planning: the current base of rate payers are largely an ageing population group with limited income and this is hindering the city’s ability to expand service delivery to new areas.
- Lack of city leadership in recent years has stifled economic development, business and industrial growth opportunities.
Despite these challenges, Msunduzi has a number of strategic advantages:
- Pietermaritzburg is set on the main N3 highway between Durban and Johannesburg and by using down-the-line tactics, can benefit from the increasing trade and investment opportunities that will come from the recently opened King Shaka International Airport and Trade Port near Durban;·
- It is only 80km from the port city of Durban, which is expanding rapidly and looking for hinterland growth opportunities along the N3 corridor towards Pietermaritzburg;
- It is the gateway city to the KZN Midlands and the Drakensberg mountains – two of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations;
- It is a ‘university town’ - home to the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus, an acknowledged world leader, particularly in the fields of agricultural science and technology - as well as several technical colleges and seven of South Africa’s leading schools;
- Within the city’s limits are vast undeveloped tracts of arable land, ideal for agricultural (food-security) use or low-impact industry development;
- It is considered the ‘home’ of KZN’s historical, cultural, artistic and heritage assets;· It hosts a variety of major sporting events each year: three of the best known being the Duzi Canoe Marathon, the Midmar Mile (open swimming) and the Comrades Marathon (the largest road marathon in the world, with 18,000 runners);
- The Royal Agricultural Show attracts an estimated 130,000 people to the city each year and is one of the biggest annual events in South Africa;
- It is the seat of the KZN Legislature and provincial government.
MIDI believes the time has come to develop a long-term plan which will use these strategic advantages to position Msunduzi as a stable, vibrant and desirable African city for both current and future residents.