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I’m Speaking At The Inaugural Charter Cities Conference In South Africa

If you’re around South Africa in October let me know.

Wade Shepard Charter Cities Conference
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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.

Charter Cities Conference

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?

Filed under: Africa, New Cities, South Africa, Speaking Events

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

11 comments… add one

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  • Lawrence May 28, 2019, 9:25 pm

    Nice one, how many days are you in the country?

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    • Wade Shepard May 29, 2019, 3:20 am

      Hmm… not sure yet. The conference is only for a couple of days but I may stay a little longer. Have you traveled there much?

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  • Lawrence May 29, 2019, 5:45 am

    No, I have not been to South Africa, but my cousin just a did big Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia trip and had some amazing experiences. That is why I was asking…I would like to come over…but it might be a daydream at this point. Need to see how my wife’s operation goes. I would love to get over.

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    • Wade Shepard May 29, 2019, 2:45 pm

      It would be fun! Hope everything gets straightened around with your wife. You seem ready to go though, so that’s excellent!

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  • David Jacobs May 29, 2019, 8:13 am

    Hi Wade,

    I’ve followed your blog and travel for probably around a decade now, and live and work in Stellenbosch, South Africa. If you do have the opportunity to extend your visit here, and plan to travel through the Western Cape, please let me know by personal message. Would love to meet up or even host you for an evening or so, if possible, in my little abode!

    Greetz from SA!

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    • Wade Shepard May 29, 2019, 2:50 pm

      Hello David,

      I’d love to meet up with you sometime. Yes, you’ve been a regular here for … yes, over a decade! I’m not sure how much time I’m going to have though for traveling around SA. These trips are usually full of “work.” But if I have the chance I’d really like to come over to your part and see what you’re up to!

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  • Trav May 29, 2019, 2:53 pm

    Dude, so you just travel around talking about cities without people? What kind of job is that hahahaha!

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    • Trevor May 29, 2019, 6:45 pm

      theres a post on here somewhere, that

      Wade invented his job

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      • Wade Shepard May 29, 2019, 11:47 pm

        Haha, yes! Didn’t my wife say that?

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        • Trevor May 31, 2019, 8:11 pm

          yup she did. couldn’t find the post though..

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          • Wade Shepard June 1, 2019, 11:23 am

            Yes, I have no idea where it is either haha.

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