Towards a More Equal City Johannesburg: Confronting Spatial Inequality

Sub-Saharan Africa
Climate Objective
Planning and Implementation Activity
Developing and Implementing Policies and Measures
Governance and Stakeholder Engagement
Linking with the Sustainable Development Goals
Financing Implementation
Sectors and Themes
Barriers Overcome
World Resources Institute (WRI), UK Aid
Case Summary

After apartheid ended in South Africa its constitution included a list of basic rights the government should provide to all of its citizens. These rights include affordable housing, clean drinking water, sanitation, waste collection, and public transit options in large cities. Along with these codified rights, local governments were given more power and resources to provide these rights. Departments of transport, housing, and infrastructure were established at the municipal levels.

South Africa provides a case study on how difficult it is to enact change in urban environments to provide basic human rights, special equality, and pathways out of poverty. One of its first efforts to establish housing security was providing free public housing built by private developers. Because of the structure, this program rewarded contractors for constructing housing in remote areas, greatly increasing the cost of providing public transit and infrastructure to these locations.

Part of the issue with previous programs like these was the lack of coordination between different departments within a municipal. To respond to this, the South African government established special funds to help with communication and planning at the municipal level. Efforts have been made since then to coordinate among the departments that allowed for integrated planning to increase mixed-income density regions and provide pathways out of poverty for city residents to reduce spatial segregation and discrimination.

Lessons learned from this process have included:

  • Establishing targeted development zones. These zones have gone through several names based on the politics of the time, such as Corridors of Freedom (COF) or Transit-Oriented Development Corridors (TODC). But these corridors incentivize private investments where infrastructure, transit, and housing could be efficiently leveraged to reduce spatial inequality.
  • Targeting approaches to both formal and informal housing markets. Some people, such as young professionals, are already interested and willing to live near public transit. Other city residents that participate in informal housing market can be encouraged through outreach programs.
  • Prioritizing regions to target aid. High-priority regions near public transit and with marginalized and poor populations were emphasized where increased public resources could have the most impact.
  • Providing a platform for communication between government agencies and committing resources specifically for the task. Often individual organizations do not have the resources to practice integrated planning and providing resources can significantly increase the impact of public projects.

Further Information

Year Published