The South African Planning Institute (SAPI) organises the Planning Africa Conference every two years to promote just and sustainable spatial development in South Africa and the continent. The conference provides a platform for knowledge exchange, networking and influencing the practice of planning.

Planning Africa focuses on the role of planning in shaping the future. It is a platform for (re)thinking, discussing and envisaging the outcomes that planners desire for the future. Planning Africa creates synergies between urban and regional planners and other practitioners, policy makers and academics. The 2014 conference was about celebrating “Great Places”, whilst the 2016 conference looked at the need to disrupt current planning practices and re-craft a ‘new’ inclusive future. The theme of the 2018 Planning Africa conference is “The Making of Modern African Cities”.


Broad Definition

Planning Africa 2018 aims to respond to the global, continental and national development challenges and reaffirm that planning raison d'etre centres on advancing the interest of the poorest and the broader public at large. The theme "The Making the Modern African Cities" is intended to drive debate towards meaningful solutions. The question to be answered is what exactly does ‘modern’ mean? Is it a replication of other cities globally, or are there unique attributes to this term in the African context? What should ‘modern’ look like when facing pressures such as resilience, right to the city, accommodation of informality, to name a few?

Rapid urbanisation has accentuated the critical role of cities on the African continent as generators and drivers of wealth. However, this has been accompanied by jobless economic growth, increasing inequality and deepening poverty. Other global challenges impacting on Africa cities include climate change, the slow economic recovery, corruption, the rise in nationalism, shifts to the political right, anti-globalisation, anti-migration, war and strife. Planners in Africa have not adequately responded to these realities. The UN Habitat’s Sustainable Development Goals, the Habitat III New Urban Agenda, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 action plan and other policy positions provide guidance for the development of cities globally.



Urban and regional planning is at the proverbial crossroads with its role and relevance being questioned locally and internationally. The slow recovery of the USA, China and Europe’s economies since the 2008 recession has continued to impact on emerging economies in Africa. Countries in the west have been characterised by a rise in nationalism, a shift to right, anti-globalisation and anti-migration as well as terror, war and strife driven by religion and racism. Advances in health care, environmental protection and responding to climate change are being rolled back in the USA. These global challenges are as important for planning in Africa as those associated with rapid urbanisation, informality, inadequate infrastructure provision, polarised development, inadequate public transport, poor city management, corruption and political expediency.

Development challenges facing South Africa are accentuated by prolonged levels of economic slow-down, structural unemployment, poverty held at bay through unsustainable social grant, increasing racial and income inequality, spatial and class separation, perceptions of state capture, embedded corruption in both the public and private sectors and the downgraded sub investment status rated by investment agencies.  

The planning profession is a critical role player in the transformation of the spatial arena, development of the economy and the creation of human settlements that fosters social cohesion. Planning as a profession also ought to respond dynamically to the needs and aspirations of communities. Cities, towns and localities should be places that people want to live in and/or visit. They should attract investment which in turn generates employment and addresses poverty and inequality.

Planning Africa 2018 is about grappling with the realities and teasing out the planning pathways generic to Africa and specific to a locality, and sharing ideas on how to realise “The Making of Modern Africa Cities”