If you’re around South Africa in October let me know.
PRAGUE, Czech Republic- I’ll be speaking at the first Charter Cities Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa on October 2nd and 3rd. I’m not sure if anyone here are interested in new cities enough to attend, but if you are, that would be a good place to intersect with me.
I’m now starting to get back into the game. I was unexpectedly wiped out this past year as my wife went back to school. I thought that I could do my work full-time while taking care of the kids full-time for six out of 12 months. I thought wrong.
After turning down a string of decently-paying speaking events in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and China this year, I was feeling pretty outside the loop — as well as not as heavy in the pocket. Opportunities come in chains: one leads to another, which in turn leads to another. To turn down one opportunity is potentially to turn down dozens. You get “on the list” of certain organizations and they keep inviting you. It makes their lives easier, and it gives you somewhat of a steady (although unpredictable) regimen of events. You do those events, share what you know in front of new people, and maybe they will invite you to speak at their event … or hire you as a consultant … or commission you write some articles. You never know what could come of any type of public contact like this which gives you the opportunity to show yourself as an authority on the topics you focus on.
But to go through a period of un-availability — where you turn down or cancel opportunities — is to render yourself forgotten. It is to step outside of the game.
The South Africa event is about charter cities — new cities that are more or less run in accordance to their own doctrine. In days past, charter cities were often based around religious beliefs (like Philadelphia or Salt Lake City), where a group of people create a new city where they can live in a community built around their beliefs. Today, charter cities are mostly being built around economics — special areas that have their own fiscal, land use, residency, and trade rules. The special economic zones of the 90s and 2000s are giving way to super-independent new cities that are presided over by a CEO, rather than a mayor, and run like a business, rather than a public institution. Hundreds of new cities are being built around the world right now — a huge percentage of which are owned and operated by private companies.
As put by the Center for Innovative Government Research, the organization behind the charter cities conference:
Charter cities are new city developments granted a special jurisdiction that allows them to adopt the best practices in commercial law. As the successes of Singapore, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Dubai illustrate, by improving governance it’s possible for cities to achieve prosperity in two or three generations. Inspired by such accomplishments, charter cities are a policy reform package for new cities to create the institutions necessary for decades of economic growth.
Charter cities are the next generation of economic development tools—a hybrid between new city developments and special economic zones. With comprehensive governance reform, including business registration, labor law, taxes, and dispute resolution, charter cities can quickly become the best place to do business in a region.
I’ve never been to South Africa before. When I look at the map of my travels I see a continent-size blank spot that extends south from Morocco and Egypt … Maybe it’s time to start filling this in?