25 June 2019

South Africa: Seeing Possibility in the Cracks of Our Cities


Following the delivery of the second SONA in 2019 by President Cyril Ramaphosa, there was an immediate flurry of alarm and dismay about his infatuation with 'smart cities', at least among my urbanist contacts on social media. I want to take a different tack. I think it is fantastic that the Presidency is taking the challenges and opportunities of urbanisation seriously and the government is genuinely trying to identify potential game-changer solutions. Also, it is a mistake to dismiss the alluring power of the Chinese urban development growth model.

For most people urbanisation is simply too complex and messy to contemplate that we have to work with what we have instead of seeking Terranova to start anew. And yet, ironically, we are only going to find "bold" answers that force us to "reach beyond ourselves", as the president implored, if we learn to pay attention to the transformative potential of the spaces and places where the majority of South Africans live and create a livelihood against all odds, day in and day out. As an aside, this is exactly the argument that is made in the official urban policy of South Africa, the Integrated Urban Development Framework, adopted by Cabinet...

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