by Elaine Simons

Big plans for South African cities

Housing developments are carefully planned

Urbanisation poses major challenges for planners
The future of S.A. cities
Planning Minister Trevor Manual warns that the African continent would experience unprecedented levels of urbanisation in the next few decades which government and urban planners need to be aware of.

The minister had addressed over 500 town and regional planners, government leaders and other delegates at the Africa Planning 2012 conference in Durban, arranged by the SA Planning Institute.

“To take Africa forward, we need a different political perspective and planners who appreciate the enormous burden they bear of physically transforming their societies.

“Around half the world’s population is already living in cities, and the number looks set to rise. In SA we estimate that 8 million more people will live in cities by 2030,” said Manuel.

Doudou Mbye, a human settlements adviser at UN Habitat, said that Africa was experiencing the fastest rate of urbanisation in the world, which planners needed to prepare for.

“The rapid urbanisation of Africa will see half of the continent’s population live in cities in the next few years from about 42 percent currently. In eight years Africa’s urban population will be bigger than that of Europe, and this is something we have to plan for,” he said.

Manuel added that the economic and health imperative to plan for and create sustainable cities was not a luxury but a necessity. In dealing with pervasive spatial challenges, that were trapping and marginalizing the poor, the layout of S.A cities and settlements were in for a major transformation.

“Our settlement patterns place a disproportionate financial burden on the poorest members of society. These patterns increase the cost of getting to or searching for work, lengthens commute times, raises the costs of moving goods to consumers. The ripple effect of this is felt throughout the economy.”

Manuel said an entire chapter in the government’s national development plan had been committed to transforming human settlements.

The plan aimed to do this through creating a strong and efficient spatial planning system that was well integrated across the different spheres of government. Part of the plan included the “upgrading of all informal settlements on suitable, well located land by 2030”.

The plan would result in more people living closer to their places of work, better quality public transport and more jobs in or close to dense, urban townships.
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