State of South African Cities Report 2021

The SoCR is the SACN’s flagship output that presents a five-year perspective on the performance and analysis of the conditions of South Africa’s largest cities. This is aligned with SACN’s role of monitoring and evaluation, “taking stock of the performance, best practices and binding constraints of governance in large cities today” (SACN, 2012), and “as a form of assessment of member cities and the evolution of urban South Africa” (SACN, 2016). South Africa’s SoCR journey has been one of evolutionary learning – the two decades of producing SoCRs represent an iterative process of experimentation, learning and adjustments along the way.


The central concern of SoCRs is to produce solid and up-to-date information that helps inform and support the work of urban actors across different sectors of society, as well as research into how to make South African cities functional. They contribute essential urban intelligence, build local skills and capacity, and raise the profile of the urban agenda in the national development discourse by helping to inform strategic urban policy, planning and decision-making processes.


This report, which covers nine South African cities (Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, City of Cape Town, City of Ekurhuleni, City of Joburg, City of Tshwane, eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, Msunduzi Local Municipality, and Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality), is borne out of a close collaborative relationship among the country’s urban actors across all spheres of life. This fifth edition is being released at a time of great disruption and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also timely, as the country has just ushered in new administrations following the local government elections held in November 2021, and will serve as an agenda-setter for the next five years.


As with previous State of Cities Reports, the SoCR 2021:
• Reflects on the state of South African urban performance (2016–2021).
• Analyses how South African cities have addressed challenges, utilised opportunities, and effected change during this period.
• Communicates essential messages about what will be required from all urban stakeholders, particularly incoming city administrations, in the immediate future and beyond.