Commonwealth Local Government Forum

Southern Africa \ Cities and urbanisation

In 2014, 54% of the global population was living in urban areas and this is predicted to rise to 66% by 2050. The characteristics of cities differ greatly across countries and regions of the Commonwealth and some issues facing large and megacities will differ from those faced by secondary cities and towns and across the Commonwealth, the degree of urbanisation varies significantly. Whilst 38.1% of the population of the Commonwealth lived in urban settlements in 2014, Commonwealth Europe is 82% urban and Commonwealth South-East Asia 78% with Commonwealth Africa 41%, Commonwealth South Asia 33% and the Commonwealth Pacific Islands 18% urban. Achievement of SDG 11 will require cities to actively address the key dimensions of sustainable development – the economy, the society and the environment and to be inclusive, and proactive to ensure safety of all citizens. Subthemes includes urbanisation and migration, urban planning, informal settlements, formal and informal urban economy, disaster risk reduction and emergency planning, safety and security in cities, and smart cities and ICT.


  • Urbanisation and migration
  • Urban planning
  • Informal settlements
  • Formal and informal urban economy
  • Disaster risk reduction and emergency planning
  • Safety and security in cities
  • Smart cities and ICT
  • Financing cities
  • New Urban Agenda


Developmental Local Government in South Africa: Institutional fault lines

This paper provides a brief introduction to the recent history of, as well as the legal and policy framework for, local government in South Africa. It discusses the transformation of local government from a racially configured, illegitimate arm of the apartheid government into a system designed to produce developmentally oriented municipalities. The progress made by South African municipalities towards realising the vision of developmental local government is remarkable and unprecedented. Over the last 13 years, municipalities have embarked on the extension of infrastructure and development, whilst absorbing fundamental changes to their internal governance and management arrangements, financial management systems and intergovernmental responsibilities. The new local government system offers great potential for the realisation of a better life for all citizens, facilitated by a new generation of municipalities. However, the challenges remain huge and some of these can be attributed to institutional fault lines. These include challenges that come with large, inclusive municipalities, new executive systems and the political appointment of senior officials. The paper also identifies the downside of overzealous institutionalisation of community participation. With regard to intergovernmental relations, the paper highlights the need for a clearer definition of local government mandates and a greater recognition of the role of big cities. The current insistence on comprehensive intergovernmental alignment of policies and budgets is questioned, and suggestions are made to substitute this with an approach of selective alignment around key national priorities.

Author: Jaap de Visser Publisher: University of Technology, Sydney Publication year: January 2009

Smart Cities: Contradicting Definitions and Unclear Measures

Cities are contemporary metropolises that concentrate human and social activity;

engineered to support and develop the physical environment and the people within it, Smart

cities, we are led to believe, are the immediate future, where smartness is perceived as a

characterisation of advancements or digitalisation, in government, mobility and sustainability.

Therefore it is not surprising that many organisations are marketing their smart solutions and

products, often to a ubiquitous extent and so called smart cities are striving to outperform each

other. But how are smart cities actually being defined and how is performance being measured

in an era where there is increasing access to unprecedented amounts of foreseen data? This

paper identifies the plethora of the smart city definitions and categories evidenced from the

literature and shows that 'Smart cities' lacks a robust coherent definition, with many

contradicting facts within what constitutes a smart vision. Notably, almost every attempt from

organisations, the European Union or cities themselves has failed to define 'smart' in objective

terms that can be accepted globally. Certainly, they all are negotiating with a range of

descriptors and smart ways to improve the city. Even the UK's attempts to develop a clear

definition and set of standards for smart cities (i.e. PAS 180 and PAS 182) appears to suffer

from fundamental differences in how the semantic content of a 'smart' city is defined. This paper

demonstrates the necessity for a single 'Smart Cities' definition that deals with both the physical

and digital using shared parameter value(s) that can be adopted and scaled amongst different

localities and within a range of urban contexts adjusting according to existing city condition(s)

and vision(s) setting the paradigm for further innovative research in this area

Author: Marianna Cavada, Dexter Hunt and Chris Rogers Publisher: World Sustainability Forum 2014 – Conference Proceedings Paper Publication year: 2018

Local Government Practitioners Guide to Urban Strategic Planning & The Art Of Facilitation

This Urban Strategic Planning Guide provides a brief overview of the key components that should be included in an urban strategic planning framework. It also provides a synopsis on the art of facilitating urban strategic planning workshops.

Author: Genevieve Hartley, Sogen Moodley, eThekwini Municipality Publisher: MILE, eThekwini Municipality, SALGA, Cities Alliance Publication year: 2016

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