Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) in Málaga

Date: 10 – 17 October 2017

Delegates from Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB):

  1. Andrew Whitfield
  2. Anele Qaba
  3. Dorelle Sapere
  4. Wendy Fisher

 This report has been drafted by the delegation from NMB.

The programme had to be modified as two members of the delegation had problems with their visas and the third had to cancel due to ill health. Most of the meetings were still achieved although in a different sequence. As the NMB representative was there for the full program time, we benefitted on day 1 from a detailed city visit to the urban renewal programmes, historic centre transformation, Picasso Museums and visit to the Pompidou Centre.

Information sharing 

Malaga’s strategies for achieving urban development and innovation are rooted in making the city more attractive and making the city SMART. These are defined by the following sectors:

  • Malaga as a seaside city, developing new projects and activities that consolidate Malaga as a tourist city.
  • Malaga as a cultural city, which stresses the importance of their culture as a social cohesion element and generator of economic activity.
  • The urban revitalization of the city, where sustainability is the cornerstone.
  • Malaga as a City of Knowledge, trying to improve their infrastructures and equipment, promoting the entrepreneurial and innovation culture by means of new technologies.

 The information gleaned through presentations, meetings, discussions and site visits have been organised according to thematic areas and have been captured as such rather than direct minutes of the various meetings.


Relevant Areas for Experts from Nelson Mandela Bay


Malaga’s geographic location has made it a privileged city for a number of reasons. Nature has been very generous with this corner of Europe. The mountains that surround it have lush vegetation and natural parks. Acting like a protective screen, they provide Malaga with a microclimate with 3000 hours of sunlight per year. This, along with the quality of its beaches makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations. This was not always the case. Carefully thought through strategies to brand and market the assets, in order to maximise on its tourist potential, were required.

Cultural City

With more than 3000 years of history of Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs, it has become a cultural destination of note. This coupled with being the birthplace of Picasso and an approach to maximising the 30 museums and cultural institutions to contribute to the economy, adds to the cultural tourism offering. There are 2 Picasso museums as well as a franchise of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which attract thousands of feet[KSG2]  per day. Recently an old produce store has been transformed by the city into a Contemporary Cultural Museum of note. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to these cultural museums each year.

The Roman Theatre, The Alcazaba and Gibralfaro Castel constitute a very well preserved archaeological site. The historical botanical gardens and natural parks are very popular with both locals and tourists. There is a high variety of cuisines with local production from the sea and mountains anchovies, clams sardines skewers, suckling kid, sausages, cheeses, wines and beers. Local markets offer these products in abundance. This coupled with the sun and 15 urban beaches, within almost a walking distance of the city centre, keep the city busy until very late at night. Restaurants are still busy at midnight in certain areas. Quality, accessibility and security are guaranteed.

Urban planning 

The Malaga Urban Agenda was updated in 2015. It promotes the strategic objectives of Spain and the European Commission. It is the strategic reference framework for Malaga from both a medium (2020) to long-term perspective (2050). It is linked to the EC’s concept of integrated urban development that works towards a durable improvement in the field of economic, environmental, climate and social conditions of urban areas.

In order to meet its objectives, Malaga has established an observatory, which works with different aspects of sustainable development. Its main objective is to provide a meeting place for the exchange of information and experiences, providing a space for reflection and open dialogue, not only for the members, but also for anyone that could be interested in sustainable development.

The Malaga Observatory:

 The focus of the Observatory is on:

  • European Programmes.
  • Climate Change Policy.
  • Integrated System of Urban Indicators.
  • The Urban Agenda.
  • A Training and Conference cycle.

The City of Malaga has been collaborating for a long time, through the observatory, with Spanish, European, American and African cities within an urban development framework. The Observatory has coordinated working systems related to strategic planning, together with the development of the Urban Agenda 21 and specific projects associated with the improvement of the environment.

Malaga participates in an enormous network of cities including:

  • The Spanish Network of Cities for the Climate
  • HABITAT: The United Nations Centre for Urban Settlements.
  • Spanish Network of Smart Cities
  • CAT-MED: Mediterranean network for the promotion of sustainable urban models
  • Eurocities: the network of major European cities.
  • European Network of Living Labs: the international federation of benchmarked Living Labs in Europe and worldwide.
  • LUCI (Lighting Urban Community International): a unique international network bringing together cities and lighting professionals engaged in using light as a major tool for sustainable urban, social and economic development.
  • RETE Association for the Collaboration between Ports and Cities: is an international non-profit organisation engaged in promoting cooperation between ports and cities.
  • ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability:
  • CIVITAS: it is a network of cities orientated to cleaner[KSG3]  better
  • URBELAC: Network of European, Latin American and Caribbean cities for integrated and sustainable urban development.

The Malaga Observatory has established several international partnerships in Europe and overseas.

Urban renewal

Urban renewal took place from 2004 – 2009 and concentrated on pedestrianizing the main street and secondary streets and squares, while creating alternative vehicular routes and public parking on the circumference. This was done at a cost of approximately 50 million Euros and heavily subsidised by the European Union. Business owners were very reticent in the beginning but once the upgrade was completed, business improved dramatically.

 A parallel integrated, operational programme focussing on environmental management was undertaken. This included:

  • cleansing;
  • the protection and rehabilitation of parks; the rehabilitation and equipping of urban spaces;
  • infrastructure and support mechanisms for social integration;
  • the provision of infrastructure for cultural tourism;
  • the conservation and rehabilitation of built and cultural heritage;
  • the provision of local incentives.

Water treatment plants, recycling depos at a street level, revitalisation of natural areas and improvement of the urban fabric were prioritised. This program cost approximately EU 34 million.

Upgrade of the heritage areas

In 1995, Malaga’s inner city was faced with a decreasing and aging population, social degradation and vulnerability. There was a decline in the economy of the city with single function tertiary & commercial use. The mixed-use nature of the classic city was non-existent. This sparked an intervention by the city to reactivate the inner historic core. The interventions aimed at improving the urban environment, recovering degraded spaces through physical, environmental improvements & energy efficiency actions, economic development and the promotion of social cohesion through integration and equity. This included aspects such as:

  • A combination of streets, squares and infrastructure urbanization, including the recovering of surrounding buildings & the modernization of commercial premises;
  • Improving open spaces;
  • Regulation and control of uses limiting the tertiary sector;
  • Incorporation of public housing mainly for the youth;
  • Spider strategy: eliminating substandard housing and opening of squares;
  • Incorporation of public equipment to revitalize the most degraded spaces;
  • Pedestrianisation and creation of public parking and parking for residents;
  • The development of 10 units of Entrepreneurs Centre;
  • Promotion of Social Housing developments;
  • Social Integration and cohesion through the provision of facilities such as children and youth entertainment centres, caregivers and activities for the elderly;
  • The creation of a time bank which trades in time rather than currency;
  • Centralized public management: coordination, control & follow up of activities;
  • A consensus based, integrated public participation process.

Waterfront Development

Malaga has been a working port ever since Phoenician cargo vessels docked in the deep harbour 3,000 years ago. As part of its renewal, the city decided to move the giant container ships and oil barges of contemporary commerce outside the old harbour to make room for waterfront development that focuses on a new cruise terminal and a pedestrian-friendly seaport. The Palmeral, a broad walkway lined with hundreds of palm trees and trader kiosks, is the showpiece of the project.

The harbour front known as the Palmeral de las Sorpresas – the Palm Garden of Surprises – is a stunning transformation of a grungy working port into a well-loved walkway utilised by local people and tourists alike.

The Palmeral was followed by the opening of Muelle Uno, a wharf that doglegs off the walkway and stretches out into the harbour to La Farola, the 1816 lighthouse that still guides sailors into port. Harbour excursion boats, shops, bars, and restaurants run its entire length. As part of the waterfront’s transformation, the first branch of Paris’s Pompidou contemporary art museum outside France has been constructed. It is located in a giant glass box and has been a huge vote of confidence in Malaga’s renewal.

The development of Malaga Waterfront Development has many similarities with that of Nelson Mandela Bay. Originally, it took 30 years of negotiation and planning before actual implementation. The Port Authority and City did not agree on many aspects and the City experienced delays and frustrations in the lack of delivery. The impetus for commencement was with the citizens of Malaga who lobbied and pressured and eventually consensus was reached. One of the first steps was to remove the security fence and make the port accessible to pedestrians.

Smart City Malaga 

The concept of “Malaga Smart City” has been introduced as a more recent strategic pillar. The use of ICT and innovation has been introduced into almost all of the public services to improve management, reduce costs and generate value for citizens. The citizens are the central focus and the drive is for efficiency and cost saving for the city.

By capturing data and intelligence on the city, they have started incorporating technology on the management of services including waste management, transport management, smart grids, water management, the traffic control centre and the emergency centre. An example of this is the Traffic Control Centre, which is a facility that allows observation of the real-time traffic and control points that have higher traffic problems. The system consists of 47 cameras located at sites with higher traffic volumes. Through the information provided, it is possible to reduce travel times and waiting at intersections and preventing the formation of traffic jams. The system encourages road safety and provides information to the users. Citizens can at all times access information as to where the traffic pressure areas are in the city.

Information and Communication Technologies are used to share the details of governance in an open and transparent manner and build up a real connection making transport cleaner and more efficient. Electric cars have been piloted in the City.

The Malaga City Council has developed Technological Incubators for new business lines, Enterprises accelerators for existing businesses to be strengthened, a Smart Cities Demonstration Centre, Open Data use or the new Digital Centre for digital industry training.

Green Build

The aspect of green building was presented. However, time pressures did not present sufficient opportunities to engage with the green projects. It would be of interest to have further inputs from the Malaga team on this aspect.

University of Malaga incubation programme

The University of Malaga is very dynamic and innovative. It has a strong concern for employability, which results in an effective link with the business sector, the Technological Park of Malaga and the Public Administration, in order to ensure that it develops a knowledge society that can find jobs.

The Technological Park of Malaga, which is on university grounds, is high quality business area, for innovative environmental friendly companies involved in manufacturing, advanced services, research and innovation. It extends over more than 200 hectares of land. More than 14,500 people of 590 companies, whose gross turnover amounts to 1.652 million of euros, work in the Park.

Malaga also has an office “Open for Business Malaga”, which aims at improving the destination marketing in all areas. Its purpose is to attract international investments, help the internationalization of the local companies and support the economic development of the City.

Lessons learnt .

There were a number of lessons learnt:

  • The extensive similarities between the geographic location, size and character of Malaga and Nelson Mandela Bay provide an opportunity for sharing
  • Opportunities in the economic and creative industry sector;
  • The importance and effectiveness of having political stability and a long term development vision to ensure development was emphasised by a dedicated mayor who had been in office for 17 years and prided himself on being a 25 hour mayor;
  • The enormous emphasis on working with the people of the city and developing smart systems that ensure transparent public participation is a lesson to be learnt by NMBM;
  • The approach and by-line that no-one is a stranger speaks volume to its approach of welcoming foreigners and tourists alike;
  • The recognition of the opportunity presented by the creative industry and local culture to promote and grow a local city brand and the extensive investment in this, is a lesson for NMBM;
  • The ingenuity of transforming liquid bulk tankers from crude oil to olive oil has helped change the face of the waterfront. Thinking outside the box for new usages, while retaining the original function of infrastructure can be a lesson for NMBM to learn in terms of the tank farm;
  • The triple/quadruple helix approach to the development of clusters is an exciting model to pursue;
  • The idea of superblocks for development is one that could be considered within Nelson Mandela Bay;
  • The role that local cuisine and eateries play in promoting a tourism economy that works way into the night could be translated into a local equivalent;
  • The incubation programmes, established in bright, productive hubs where students are mentored and assisted to emerge as entrepreneurs, is an exciting model;
  • The extent of partnerships established by Malaga is astounding and provides a wide network of opportunity to Nelson Mandela Bay should a partnership with Malaga continue. It enables NMBM to be part of a Global network.
  • The opportunity that is presented by high impact, low cost solutions in ensuring resilience in the current economic trend is once more reinforced. The role of the Creative Industry in providing for such resilience has been recognized.


  •  To cooperate and coordinate efforts related to innovation and sustainable urban development promotion and to share and exchange information, knowledge, and experience between the two cities in order to improve concrete coordination and cooperation among organisations and companies involved in joint development projects.
  • NMBM will cooperate and provide mutual support to promote exchanges between the cities. The first two of these could be a knowledge-sharing visit to NMB by the Port Authority representative responsible for developing the Malaga Waterfront. It is believed that NMBM can benefit greatly from the Malaga Experience.
  • The opportunity of an exchange on the theme of Picasso, with a Picasso exhibition from Malaga being hosted by NMB and an exhibition of the MBDA owned Guernica, together with local artists interpreting their own response to Picasso, travelling to Malaga. The mayor of Malaga is supportive of this.
  • To provide mutual support to plan, host and advise delegations from various organisations from each city and their companies to help towards the development aims of the project.
  • Supporting the implementation of activities particularly between the Smart City Cluster of Malaga and Innovation Hub of NMU.
  • Encouraging International cooperation between urban development, research and innovation actors from the EU and Nelson Mandela Bay.


 The exchange with Malaga was a very productive and inspiring engagement. The many similarities with the City, the approach of putting Citizens at the forefront of planning and decision making, the opportunity to work in a SMART TECHNOLOGICAL and GREEN way, through the triple/quadruple Helix and in Clusters has been an eye opener. The forthcoming engagement with Malaga as part of the final meeting in May 2018 will provide a clear way forward with the expectation that a MOU on tangible cooperation between the two Cities can be signed. The MBDA is thankful to the EU, GIZ and Malaga City for its support to the programme and the warm hospitality extended to the delegation.