HSRC to collaborate with Angola's Development Workshop to look at building sustainable cities

CATEGORY: Economic Performance and Development
DATE: 6 March 2018

Human Sciences Research Council

Pretoria, Wednesday 7 March 2018 – According to estimates by UN-Habitat at least 200 million people live in informal human settlements in Africa which accounts for more than 60% of the urban population.  These numbers increase on an annual basis by several million. 

South Africans living in these conditions, as with slum-dwellers in other parts of the developing world, are vulnerable to a variety of hazards and disasters ranging from poverty, food insecurity and social violence to outbreaks of fire, flooding and disease.

To look at the important question of upgrading informal settlements in Africa, the Human Sciences Research Council’s Economic Performance and Development team has been awarded a two year grant by the International Council for Science. 

This is part of a global commitment to collective action as adopted by the United Nations in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 which commits 193 member states to making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. 

However, the development challenge of upgrading informal settlements is more than improving living standards. Sustainable development in informal settlements must enhance economic and social opportunities as places of transition for social mobility and prosperity and support inclusion as low-cost entry points into urban labour markets.

At the same time, there is also significant evidence that density contributes to economic prosperity and social vitality.  The dense concentration of population could be an economic asset for efficient public service provision.  Informal settlements could therefore promote resource efficiency and resilience through economies of scale in public service provision, lowering logistics and commuting costs, restricting the urban footprint and limiting environmental encroachment.  If carefully managed, density can yield dividends through efficiency, creativity and convenience.

The study will therefore, amongst others, look at how to build upwards rather than outwards (densification) in financing and facilitating informal settlement upgrading to free up space to create more liveable spaces that cater for economic and social needs such as housing, basic infrastructure and street space, recreation facilities, clinics and schools, workspace for informal enterprises and retail.

This study will be conducted together with an Angolan non-governmental organisation (NGO), the Development Workshop and will include sites in Cape Town and Luanda, Angola.  The sites will include Mshini Wam, an informal settlement in Joe Slovo Park in the city of Cape Town and Ngola Kiluanje, a slum district within inner-city Luanda.

The multi-disciplinary research team will include urban economists, architects, practitioners and other specialists in the built environment.

The project will provide a set of practical recommendations for how to enhance the productive and social functioning of informal settlements to the community and within the city through unlocking land and repurposing the built environment.

The research will also make a valuable contribution to the international body of practice by underscoring a sustainable approach to improving urban livelihoods.

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Interviews can be facilitated with the research team.

Notes to the Editor

About the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
The HSRC was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development.

Our mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences.

The Council conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific research for public sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies. Research activities and structures are closely aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.

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For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Manusha Pillai
Mobile:  082 389 3587
Email: MPillai@hsrc.ac.za