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Some actions cities can take include improving energy efficiency in buildings and designing streets to avoid traffic congestion, the report says. Picture: 123RF/DONGLIZHANG
Some actions cities can take include improving energy efficiency in buildings and designing streets to avoid traffic congestion, the report says. Picture: 123RF/DONGLIZHANG

SA Cities Network’s (SACN) latest State of Cities report strongly points to the need for a “whole-of-government and all-of-society approach” to address rampant urban governance issues.

The report is a five-year analysis of nine key cities and their performance, and includes trends, insights, inclusivity, productivity and governance.

The report found that many governance issues have been affected by recent emergencies in the financial, health, corruption and climate environments.

The report, published since 2004, is a yardstick report focused on how cities can be drivers of social change. It shows how apartheid spatial planning has remained largely unchanged, and how, though cities are resilient, they face pressures that drive local and national development.

The 2021 report applies a governance lens to diagnose progress made towards achieving productive, inclusive, sustainable and spatially transformed cities — while demonstrating how civil society, business, government and citizens need to work together to address ongoing issues at the city level.

“This is because by 2050 the SA population is expected to grow by between nine- to 24-million people, many of whom will live in cities or towns. Given that cities are crucial for global development, their performance in delivering basic services ... is inextricably linked to the wellbeing of their citizens,” said Sithole Mbanga, CEO of the SA Cities Network.

The nine cities analysed in the latest report are Buffalo City, Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Johannesburg, Mangaung, Nelson Mandela Bay, Msunduzi and Tshwane. The insights gained in each city pertain to people and households, the economy, social fabric, sustainability, city finance, service delivery, citizen engagement and transport.

“In order for cities to meet their objectives of becoming more economically and socially inclusive, sustainable and spatially transformed, a whole-of-government and all-of-society approach is required,” Mbanga said.

The report found that while city governance was complex and challenging, it also had to respond to globalisation issues such as climate change, inequality, political instability, terrorism, migration, social polarisation and pandemics.

To achieve this, it was found that local government funding bases needed broadening, and resources for strategic projects and community assistance should not be eaten up by operating costs.

“A pursuit of all-of-society partnerships is essential for cities to make the most of the funding they do have. Urban autonomy is not achieved through delegation, funding and intergovernmental arrangements alone. There is a need for a new approach to urban governance and a renewed look at urban structures,” said Mbanga.

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