State of South African Cities Report 2016

The fourth edition, in 2016, “South African Cities as effective drivers of local and national development” is the theme of the fourth edition of the SoCR. It is a product of the accumulated wisdom of five years of knowledge generation and engagement by the SACN and the broader fraternity of urban development practitioners, scholars and analysts. The report’s aim is to improve our understanding of the role of cities and what is required to ensure their success.


Over the years, the State of Cities reports have presented a five-year perspective on the performance and conditions of South Africa’s largest cities, with a focus on the member cities of the South African Cities Network (SACN). Specifically, the report has evolved into:

  1. A barometer, compiling evidence about the progress made by South African cities over time in relation to key development roles, targets and outcomes.
  2. An analytical tool, reviewing the strategic problems and opportunities facing cities.
  3. An agenda-setter, communicating essential messages about the planning, development and management of cities to the next generation of civic leaders, councillors and officials who would be the incumbents following the municipal elections.


Since its first edition in 2004, the State of South African Cities report (SoCR) has evolved into a regular publication that deliberately coincides with the electoral cycle for local government. This allows the report to align its retrospective and prospective ambitions with the transitions from end-of-terms to the reflective agenda-setting that characterises new political terms of office. Simply put, the report is ideally placed to help South African cities, and their electorate, to take stock and to plan forward. The 2011 SoCR, which was themed “Towards Resilient Cities”, laid the foundation for the guiding theme for SACN’s 2011–2016 five-year strategy: “South African cities as effective drivers of local and national development”.


This aspirational statement was intended to frame the questions for knowledge generation and reflection in both micro (local) and macro (national) terms. In other words, how could cities be relevant and developmental for their local populace, while also play the macro-economic role required of them? Indeed, the theme proved to be either prescient or self-fulfilling because “cities as the engines of growth” emerged during this period as the mantra for national development in South Africa and, indeed, globally. This theme is the subject of the fourth edition of the SoCR, which seeks to answer the core question: Are our cities being effective drivers of local and national development?