Turok's bold plan for South African cities

29 August 2008 | Story by Chris McEvoy

Professor Ivan Turok
Planning: Professor Ivan Turok from the University of Glasgow is working in collaboration with EBE's African Centre for Cities on a long term urban development plan.

International expert on cities and economic development, Professor Ivan Turok has returned to South Africa with ambitious plans for the future. During his 18-month secondment to UCT, he will be lecturing, mentoring postdoctoral researchers and working with the executive committee of the African Centre for Cities (ACC) to lay lasting foundations for the next 10 years.

Turok was born in Cape Town and is back under the Mellon Foundation's mentorship project from the University of Glasgow, where he is the director of research in the Department of Urban Studies.

"I expect to spend most of my time doing research in employment issues in Cape Town, exploring the role of cities in South Africa's spatial economy and developing a better understanding of the challenges of urbanisation in Africa," he says.

The focus of Turok's work here will be his collaboration with the ACC, a research initiative of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, which focuses on the potential for urban areas to promote democratic and sustainable development.

"The challenge is to ensure a coherent programme of work beyond the sum of the separate projects and to generate a momentum of institutional growth and intellectual development so that the ACC becomes a centre of global significance with a real impact on public policy," explains Turok.

The approach? "Gently does it," he says.

"There is already impressive talent and expertise in the Centre and plans are well advanced for its growth and development. My role is to support and facilitate where I can, drawing on my own experience of building research capacity and knowledge transfer to government and society."

Turok will be closely integrated into the ACC's research programme, which deliberately involves a range of disciplines and is organised at three scales: Cape Town, South Africa and Africa as a whole.

"The ACC is a very exciting initiative by UCT and is one of its main signature themes," notes Turok. "It goes without saying that the need is considerable, but the potential is also enormous since there is nothing comparable in the whole of Africa."

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