The conference seeks to explore questions around the theme “The Making of Modern African Cities”: How do planners “make” this work? How can planners use existing and future urbanisation processes to support cities and regions grow in ways that reflect social and economic values? What is the ideal, future or modern African city? What are the messages, concerns and issues planners need to communicate to policymakers and leaders, and what are the tools and solutions planning offers? These questions, if answered, will contribute to the making of modern African cities.

In exploring the making of modern African cities, conference participants are invited to submit papers in response to the UN Habitat’s Sustainable Development Goals, the Habitat III New Urban Agenda and African Union’s Agenda 2063. The conference aims to place emphasis on how the International Guidelines on Urban and Territorial Planning can be adapted and implemented in response to the specific urban and territorial challenge facing African countries.  Relevant policy frameworks from South Africans include the NDP 2030 and IUDF, as well as instruments and tools such as SPLUMA, IDPs, LUMS and BEPP. Reflections and assessments of similar initiatives in other African countries are welcomed.


The conference aims to explore the interconnection between the following sub-themes across local, citywide and regional scales. Key questions that should inform these discourses include, amongst others the following:

  •    How can these goals be translated in ways that will improve people’s lives in a meaningful manner?
  •    What is the role of the planner? Are planners idea generators, convenors, facilitators, integrators and/or collaborators?
  •    How can planners use the urbanisation processes constructively?
  •    Who commands the necessary connection between urbanization, surplus production and consumption?
  •    Are there ways to hasten and accelerate implementation of spatial and economic transformation?
  •    What messages, concerns and issues planners need to communicate to policymakers and leaders, and what are the tools and solutions planners can offer?
  •    What about citizen rights and participation in planning and spatial transformation?
  •    What about silos and organisational empires? What about corruption?


Sub Themes:

1.  Social Justice and the Right to the City

Social Justice and the Right to the City is about the developing the city for all, with emphasis on the poor, reclaiming the city, planning with diversity, racial and gender equality, LGBTQIA rights, economic migrants and refugees and access for children and the elderly. The Right to the City focuses on the question of who commands the necessary connection between urbanization and surplus production and use. The phenomenon of broad social movements presenting the will and concerns of citizens and the dispossessed taking back the control which they have for so long been denied, institutes new modes of urbanisation. The right to the city is about the right to command the whole urban process, which previously dominated the country­side through phenomena ranging from agribusiness to second homes and rural tourism for the rich and wastelands in rural spaces for the poor.

2. Inclusive and Transformative Growth

Spatial planning advances or impedes inclusive economic growth and development that generates jobs benefitting or marginalizing the majority. Planning of cities and towns either accommodates the informal economy or further marginalizes it. The old idea of industrial parks stimulating manufacturing has faded. New responses should be adopted, informed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Knowledge Economy and ICT impact on production and consumption to direct land use management and strategic spatial planning. Are Smart Cities relevant to Africa and how can the concept benefit African cities?

3. Sustainable and Resilient Cities

Natural endowments in areas either make an area sustainable or limit its possibilities. Do planners working with nature, ecological sustainability, infrastructure development needs, green initiatives and technologies respond to climate change in developing plans for towns and cities? Towns have natural endowments like mineral deposits which attract people for job possibilities just as cities are magnets for people in search of economic opportunities. Are spatial and land use plans managing to build resilience? Mining has a life span. Is the value of land previously mined fully unlocked for future sustainability and development?

4. Sustainable Neighbourhoods and Place-making

Sustainable local places and neighbourhoods: what is the intersection of design and local realities; economic activity, inclusivity and sustainability? People and their productive activities create places - how do planners engage with this? What is the role of media and marketing in place-making and what is the role of people who live in a neighbourhood? How does pride of place develop?

5. Shelter and Meeting Basic Needs

Provision of utility infrastructure, energy, water, affordable housing; community facilities, education, health and other public facilities, shelter, food security and poverty reduction – are these in integrated plans, do planners facilitate a better future or do budgets determine what is possible? Are there planning norms and standards to be set and delivered? Are these different for urban and rural spaces? Is spatial planning leading development?


6. Public Transport and Transit Oriented Development

Access and mobility are critical urban and rural rights: are plans for access and mobility being re-orientated and integrated with land use planning and management? Is the spatial plan led by pressures for access and mobility or a balanced approach to effect spatial transformation? Is there an African specific Transit Oriented Development? Is there a rural specific approach to plan access and mobility? Efficient cities develop mixed land use around transport nodes and ensure affordable housing opportunities for mixed income and inter-generational groups. Is the current planning on Public Transport and TOD creating efficient cities?



7.  Sustainable Urban Management

Sustainable Urban Management is about organisational transformation, transformative land use management systems, funding urban development, finance and financial sustainability. Are planners leading and facilitating urban management? Are land use plans helping to curb sprawl and reduce crime and grime? Do the current policies support sustainable urban management? Making modern African cities requires governance that creates sustainable outcomes. Sustainable urban management is a direct consequence of the behaviour of nation state, the local state and its interactions with citizens. How relations are shaped, investments are sought, finances directed and recovery of benefits spread forms the crux of the new urban agenda.


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