City Development Strategy

Cities need to have long-range strategies to deal with their growth and development, within the context of rapid urbanisation taking place in South Africa and throughout the continent, coupled with a resource-constrained environment. Cities that adopt an integrated approach to development will have more effective and sustainable outcomes.

SACN’s thematic framework suggests that a holistic model to promote and support successful cities requires that cities are inclusive, sustainable, productive and well-governed, and have at their core a long-range perspective on their growth and development prospects and trajectories.

As such, SACN’s CDS programme encourages and supports cities to establish immediate, medium and long term growth and development strategies and plans for cities. The CDS programme includes supporting work-areas that contribute to the intelligence and enabling environment that cities will require: urban data and indicators; urban policy issues; urban studies; and understanding rural-urban dependencies. The State of South African Cities report is SACN’s flagship publication.


  • Better Demographic Data for Improved Planning and Problem Solving in South African Cities is a paper presented at the World Bank's Responsible Land Governance: Towards An Evidence Based Approach Conference. The paper speaks to a JICA funded SACN project implemented by Open Data Durban to undertake demographic modelling at the ward level in Ethekwini and Johannesburg.
  • Hidden Urbantites: South Africa's Displaced Settlements 30 Years After The Abolition Of Influx Contorl This study forms the third in a series of exploratory papers that seek to ­and understanding and give practical expression to what is meant by the ‘differentiated approach to governance.’ In 2012, we worked with strategic partners to de­ ne South Africa’s ‘secondary cities’. In 2014, we went further and undertook a deeper qualitative study into six secondary or intermediary cities, in an effort to ­ and what might be different or unique about these places compared to, for example, metropolitan municipalities.
  • SA Cities Growth Index Assessment Report 2015. An assessment of South Africa’s largest cities with the criteria used in the MasterCard African Cities Growth Index.
  • Msunduzi CDS booklet 2014
  • The Informal City Reader 2014 . Part of The Rockefeller Foundations’ Informal City Dialogues (IDCs), this book chronicles stories of the lives of informal workers and settlers in the city.


  • Cityscapes. The magazine is a hybrid of forms, simultaneously invested in scholarly discourse around contemporary urbanism in Africa and the global south, as much as individual everyday experiences and activities of the multitude of actors that are actively involved in shaping cities across the continent and the rest of the developing world.

past projects/publications

2006: Reflecting on the first five years of Democratic Local Government in Gauteng (2000 – 2005)