20 Year Anniversary Publication

Since 2002, the SACN has been the custodian of South Africa’s urban story and at the heart of urban research and practice. This has been done through its flagship publications, urban conferences, and events. The year 2022 was an opportunity to celebrate SACN’s 20th anniversary, by telling the story of the past two decades of city development and about the work of SACN. It was also an occasion to reflect on the future and how to achieve the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) vision of “liveable, safe, resource-efficient cities and towns that are socially integrated, economically inclusive and globally competitive, where residents actively participate in city life”. In 2002, the SACN was formed to facilitate the exchange of information, experience, and best practices on urban development between cities and partners.


Why is the SACN focused on cities, you may ask? Africa’s cities are complex and organic, and they are one of the biggest opportunities and challenges of the 21st century. Today, more people than ever live in cities. In South Africa, two-thirds of the population live in urban areas. Cities are spaces where people come together, to share experiences and ideas and to shape evolving systems; they are places of social, economic, and political opportunities and intense social interactions. Cities are also central to development and at the forefront of the country’s economic, social, environmental, and cultural life. As practitioners, public administrators, politicians, and institutions at the helm of city governance we grapple with how to plan and govern these evolving cities. Urban development knowledge intermediaries like the South African Cities Network have become an essential ecosystem to provide knowledge that is evidence-based to assist our cities in staying ahead of the development curve. This 20th Anniversary Book aims to give a sense of the work conducted by SACN with cities over the last 20 years. It is told by SACN alumni who have interacted with the organisation in various capacities i.e. as practitioners, staff, and partner organisations to the programmatic work of SACN. It highlights SACN’s spirit of partnership, collaboration, and dialogue in discussing what is needed to tackle complex urban challenges. It brings together diverse voices from our alumni who reflect on the notions of whole-of-government and all-of-society in resolving issues of city governance, finances, and the overall liveability and resilience of our cities.


It is also not an academic document but rather celebrates SACN’s 20-year contribution to urban development discourse. We invite you to explore these pages and reflect on SACN’s work over the last 20 years.