Spatial expansion in peri-urban zones of small rural towns in South Africa

Project group

Prof. Nils Ekelund and Dr. Per Schubert, Malmö University, Sweden. Associate Prof. Marie Thynell, University of Gothenburg, Sweden Dr. Emaculate Ingwani, the University of Venda, South Africa located in rural Limpopo, RSA. Prof. Verna Nel, Urban and Regional Planner at the University of the Free State, South Africa. Prof. Trynos Gumbo, the dept. of Urban and Regional planning at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.

The Research Challenge

Africa is the last continent to urbanize and South Africa is rapidly urbanizing (UN-Habitat, 2014). Ongoing migration from rural areas to towns and metropolitan regions contribute to massive urbanization (Todes et al., 2010). Current urbanization is characterized by demand for housing and basic services; water, sanitation, electricity as well as schools, health clinics, work opportunities and transport facilities. Taken together, the demand exceeds municipalities’ capacity to provide them; thus, urbanization is increasingly characterized by informal settlements with few basic services and lack of modern infrastructures. The situation has serious consequences for both the environment and the well-being of the community (pertaining to SDG goals 3, 6, 11 and 15, United Nation, 2018).

The Global South still grapples with unregulated peri-urban developments and reduced ecosystem services as natural habitats are increasingly altered. Yet, by 2030 it is hoped that all cities and communities will be sustainable and able to provide services related to SDG:s 1,2,3, 6, 11 and 15. However, the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 have diverted attention and funding from these important goals and revealed the deep inequalities and unmet needs (UNDP, 2020). Therefore, attaining the SDGs requires science-policy interaction to establish required knowledge, exchange and relations, including coordinating efforts and efficient use of financial and natural resources. Thus, we will critically assess the effects of various forms of peri-urban development and their relationship to clusters of SDGs through, (1) further empirical research, and, (2) dialogue, data sharing and collaborative models and scenario building. The results will contribute to more effective transition guidelines, policies and planning in managing urbanization in times of socio-economic stress, climate change and environment hazards. Given the complexity of the interactions between the SDGs, ecosystem services and the built environment, we will adopt a systems approach to analyze the interlinkages, feedbacks and potential consequences. This approach requires working across spatial scales, and disciplines, as well professions as the science-policy interface, from local to international levels. The researchers seek to distil policy lessons for appropriate action plans to implement the SDGs in Sweden and South Africa since important experiences and lessons will be learned.

Research Projects

You can find previous research projects in the Diva database.