„I love workation in South Africa and need a real workplace for it every now and then. From industrial to colonial style, from waterfront to township – a variety of coworking providers have been sprouting up here for some time now.” Corinna Döpkens, Consulter für Travel Management
Everyone who has ever done a work assignment knows this for sure: You have a beautiful flat, perhaps with a sea view or mountain panorama. But the workplace is missing!
In the Western Cape, you can find some through intermediaries like Airbnb, but most of them don’t have a desk, usually not even a dining table where you can work. Half sitting, half standing, I’ve completed various video calls at the kitchen counter, given lectures or just worked like that. After a while, however, it’s no longer fun. In my flat, which I often book, I usually move to the big table on the terrace, where it gets too hot at some point, too bright for video conferences anyway, and with some clients it might not be appropriate to look into the camera with sunglasses.
You can work from anywhere – but please do it now and then and for a few hours in a proper working atmosphere with a desk, enough sockets, air-conditioned and with peace and quiet to work in.
New world of work in South Afrika
In Cape Town, I like to work remotely in my second home. I need the sun and the view of False Bay to be creative, but sometimes I also need to exchange ideas at Café Salt around the corner, which is a networking point in the morning. And then there are the to-dos that I prefer to do in an “office”. I think it’s the mixture that makes it.
You can find plenty of offices like this in South Africa now. The working world has changed completely in the Cape. Cape Town alone has always been attractive for digital nomads, but now the metropolis has become a hotspot. Before Covid-19, a good friend of mine used to drive to her office at the First National Bank in the city every day; now she works 90 percent of the time in her home office, just like many South Africans. And then there are the many domestic travellers from Johannesburg, Durban or Pretoria. Many of them now stay longer somewhere on the country’s coast and continue working from there. Some have even moved completely because a presence in the office is hardly necessary any more. And all these “remote workers” will feel the same as I do: sometimes you just have to work in a concentrated way.
Industrial buildings und add-ons
The Western Cape now has a variety of coworking spaces that, like almost everything there, are pure lifestyle. I particularly like the Ideas Cartel locations, which appropriately see themselves as a new beginning and second chance in the working world. And you feel this spirit immediately when you work in one of the four spots.
With the Old Foundry in Green Point and 113 Loop, there are two “inner city addresses” in Cape Town. Casa Labia is just outside in Muizenberg/St James, where I often have my second home. And then there is Ambassade in Stellenbosch. All the locations are very special and exquisitely furnished. Casa Labia, for example, is an old residence and the Old Foundry is a shabby chic industrial building.
The coworking offers at Ideas Cartel are comparable to many in Europe: you can rent hot desks or fixed desks with possible day passes in classic shared spaces, as well as private offices and of course meeting rooms, some of which are included in the rates. In addition, there are many other worlds: Besides coworking, there is a members club and restaurants in two locations. The group also owns three boutique hotels. Via Cartel Coliving, you can book serviced flats with value-added services such as a gym and pool. And the venues can be used for private events, dinners, conferences and film or photo shoots, among other things. All offers are interlinked. Coliving guests can also use the coworking space, for example.
Downstairs hustle and bustle, upstairs rest
Another coworking space to check out is Workshop17, with two locations in Cape Town and others in Johannesburg and Paarl. I’m partial to Workshop17 on the top floor of the Watershed, a converted warehouse in Cape Town’s waterfront district. There are comfortable and flexible workspaces in an open-plan format and enclosed areas for meetings, workshops and events. Downstairs in the Watershed, young creative designers and labels have small shops and next door in the V&A Food Market you can have a wonderful lunch or just grab a fresh juice or ice cream. What I like most about Workshop17 is that you are right in the middle of life and can still concentrate on your work. Downstairs is the hustle and bustle and upstairs is a good, quiet working atmosphere.
Workshop17 was named the best coworking space in South Africa at the 2022 Africa Startup Awards. It has also won several awards in previous years.
Coworking in Townships
Besides these regular spaces, there are coworking places, mostly supported by NGOs, such as Hubspace in Khayelitsha, one of the largest townships in South Africa. Things work a little differently here. Entrepreneurs can sponsor founders from Khayelitsha and provide them with a workplace. This sponsorship gives the entrepreneur unlimited access to Hubspace – and with it the use of meeting rooms, reception services, chill-out areas, a fully equipped kitchen, secure parking and additional event spaces in the courtyard and on the roof terrace. The initiative hopes to help entrepreneurs escape the cycle of poverty by enabling them to make a difference and, in turn, make a difference in their community.
A similar concept is offered by CiTi (Cape Innovation & Technology Initiative), a non-profit company that aims to “build a sustainable, inclusive society through technology and innovation”, as they say. CiTi’s Bandwidth Barn in Woodstock provides infrastructure support for technology and tech-based businesses looking to grow and network in Cape Town. Here, entrepreneurs can use a wide range of facilities, such as a shared workspace, meeting and event spaces. Khayelitsha Bandwidth Barn, on the other hand, is South Africa’s only township-based technology centre and supports entrepreneurs and organisations developing products and services for the township economy. It’s a great project that encourages local engagement in a creative and social space, while creating technology products and services that will improve the daily lives of those around them.
Find your space
There are many other locations in the Western Cape and of course throughout South Africa. But the topic of working atmosphere is very individual, and everyone has to find out for themselves how and where they can work. A “trial day” is a quick way to find out whether you feel comfortable and can work with inspiration and concentration. The community simply has to fit and the “South African vibe” has to be right!
Corinna Döpkens …
works remotely in South Africa several times a year. She works for her travel management clients in Germany, as a lecturer and now also with business partners in South Africa. She has already met many people at coworking.
Fotos: © Döpkens, Ideas Cartel, Workshop 17, CiTi/Bandwidth Barn Woodstock