Transforming South Africa’s Divided Cities: Can Devolution Help?

Year Published 2013
Business unit: Special Projects
Resource type: Journal article
File type: PDF
Theme(s): Economic Development, Human Settlements, Social Development


Ivan Turok, Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa, drafted this journal article that looks at South Africa’s divided cities. Little progress has been made since 1994 to alter the fragmented structure of South African cities and to create more liveable, functional and sustainable places. Indeed the segmented form of urban development seems to have become further entrenched with recent patterns of settlement growth on the periphery. The paper presents new evidence for the inefficient and inequitable spatial layout of cities and examines some of the main reasons for the lack of substantial change. These include inertia, economic forces and weak spatial management. In the light of this, it proceeds to assess the prospects for current attempts to devolve additional responsibilities to city governments for planning and managing the built environment. It argues that there is potential for more integrated city-level decision-making to bring about a shift in approach, provided municipal leadership and technical capabilities are also reinforced, and national government works in partnership to provide appropriate support. This paper was recommended background reading for the 2017 Public Economics Winter School on the topic of housing and urban development.

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