Creating more sustainable urban futures

17 September 2012

The work of four young researchers took centre stage when UCT's African Centre for Cities (ACC) hosted the launch of a major international partnership at the start of August.

New Staff Prof Hanri Mostert
New Staff New Staff
Green light: (Clockwise from top left) Anna Taylor, Anton Cartwright, Robert McGaffin and Saul Roux are leading the research projects on a new international partnership for the African Centre for Cities.

The research, to be conducted by Anton Cartwright, Robert McGaffin, Saul Roux and Anna Taylor, all working from the ACC, will be the flagship studies of the new partnership known as the Mistra Urban Futures (MUF) Knowledge Transfer Project. With this initiative, Cape Town now joins four other cities - Gothenburg in Sweden, Manchester in the UK, Shanghai in China and Kisumu in Kenya - under the spotlight.

The aim of the project, managed and funded by MUF, in turn headquartered at Chalmers University in Gothenburg, is to create capacity in these cities, as Professor Sue Parnell from the ACC explained at the launch, to "transform current unsustainable development pathways to more sustainable urban futures". To this end, MUF has narrowed down concerns under three focus areas - Fair (concerned with justice, social inclusion, rights and access), Green (managing resource constraints and climate change) and Dense (looking at the role of urban qualities and services).

It will be the aim of UCT and the ACC to partner with the City of Cape Town to address these themes, which have long been of interest to both ACC and City policies, projects and programmes.

"So, Cape Town is well situated to contribute towards international debates on the meaning and role of fair, green and dense in addressing urban sustainable development challenges," added Parnell.

The labours of the four ACC researchers, working with partners across city structures and funded by MUF, will address the MUF themes.

Cartwright will work on issues of the Green Economy, exploring topics such as economic growth, job creation and the role, if any, of economics in the green economy (Green). In turn, McGaffin will focus his attentions on the property market as a driver of urban development and form (Dense). Roux will be concerned with promoting a sustainable, secure and clean energy supply for the City (Green). And Taylor will study how climate change challenges authorities and policymakers to think about and apply development differently (Green).

"Their work plans and research questions," said Zarina Patel, the ACC co-ordinator of the project, "allow them to simultaneously provide content for policy positions, while making the decision-making processes and spaces more legible."

Another element of the programme will be an exchange programme under which City officials will be placed at UCT for a short time. The aim of this exchange is to expose high-performing City staff to structured academic engagement, during which time they can build their own capacities, expand their horizons, engage with international peers and profile the City's work in internationally recognised journals.

The ACC and the City of Cape Town share a common vision, observed Belinda Walker, mayoral committee member responsible for environmental and spatial planning for the city.

"We are already seeing benefits with the work that is being done and the researchers from the ACC are bringing academic rigour to the process, which gives us a unique perspective on our work and our ideas."

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