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Cape Town Named Finalist in Bloomberg Philanthropies Global Mayors Challenge

16 June 2021

Cape Town is one of 50 Champion Cities selected as finalists in the 2021 Global Mayors Challenge, a global innovation competition that identifies and accelerates the most ambitious ideas developed by cities in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

These 50 urban innovations rose to the top of a competitive pool of more than 630 applications from 99 countries, in the first-ever Global Mayors Challenge.

As a Mayors Challenge finalist, Cape Town now advances to the four-month Champion Phase of the competition. From June through October, the 50 finalist cities will refine their ideas with technical assistance from Bloomberg Philanthropies and its network of leading innovation experts. Fifteen of the 50 cities will ultimately win the grand prize, with each receiving $1 million and robust multi-year technical assistance to implement and scale their ideas. Grand Prize winners will be announced early next year.

Cities are rising to meet the pandemic’s enormous challenges

“These 50 finalists are showing the world that in the face of the pandemic’s enormous challenges, cities are rising to meet them with bold, innovative, and ambitious ideas,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and 108th mayor of New York City.

“By helping these cities test their ideas over the coming months, we will have a chance to identify cutting-edge policies and programmes that can allow cities to rebuild in ways that make them stronger and healthier, and more equal and more just.”

How Cape Town responded

Witnessing nation-wide sudden job losses (South Africa’s economy shed 2,2 million jobs in Q2 of 2020) and school closures (where many youth formerly received their only daily meal), as a result of the national Coronavirus lockdown, Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato used his decades of activist experience. Having run a soup kitchen for many years, he came up with the quickest and most efficient way to address the urgent food-aid crisis developing in Cape Town.

The potential of empowering existing community-run soup kitchens across the City and helping others start new soup kitchens meant that these small, informal havens of nourishment were best positioned to reach as many residents in need as possible.  Two plate gas stoves, 10L and 21L gas pots, and dry ingredients were provided to over 250 existing and newly established soup kitchens to significantly increase their reach.

“Our response to a significant challenge was based on an urgent humanitarian need: we saw the need for assistance by those impacted financially by Covid-19 and capacitating soup kitchens and providing a large-scale food-relief programme was the most effective and meaningful way we could ensure that residents were not further impacted by Covid-19,” said Mayor Plato.

“In line with various social relief initiatives implemented by the City, we strive to live up to the mandate of being a Caring City. I am very pleased to see the difference this programme has made in the lives of so many. We are grateful for the acknowledgement of this campaign and also the real-life positive impact it has had on communities in need. Through the input of the team from the Bloomberg Global Mayor’s Challenge, we can look at improving our project and providing even more assistance to the many residents who continue to need our support.”

Helping mayors push their innovations

The 50 Champion Cities submitted ideas addressing four of the most significant challenges borne of the pandemic: Economic Recovery & Inclusive Growth; Health & Wellbeing; Climate & Environment; and Good Governance & Equality. A prestigious selection committee co-chaired by Bloomberg Philanthropies board member Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO & President, Ariel Investments, and David Miliband, President & CEO, International Rescue Committee, assessed the applications to determine the Champion City finalists.

“This is always an especially exciting phase of the Mayors Challenge, helping mayors push their innovations to even greater heights. While 15 cities will ultimately take home grand prizes, all 50 cities receive world class coaching and support to improve their ideas and their potential to improve lives,” said James Anderson, head of Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The 2021 Global Mayors Challenge builds on the success of four previous Bloomberg-sponsored Challenges in the U.S. (2013 and 2018), Europe (2014), and Latin America and the Caribbean (2016). For more information, visit and @BloombergCities on Twitter and Instagram.