Modern-Day Strategic Development Planning Challenges in South Africa

More than 3,3 billion people live in towns and cities around the world and it is expected that more than 5 billion citizens will live in urban areas a decade from now. Therefore, in future, most structural growth will take place around cities.

You just have to look at the challenges that South African cities face to understand the importance of strategic development planning for sustainable urban areas of the future.

A trend that has become rather noticeable over the past few years and that is a pressing concern for professionals involved in strategic development planning is the growth of megacities.

What do we mean? Think Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Midrand, and you will have an idea of how cities grow into each other, thus creating megacities. The same is true when thinking of the Western Cape. Not too many years ago, there were fewer than 12 such megacities worldwide. Such cities had populations of more than a million each. However, it is estimated by the United Nations that by the year 2030, there will be more than 490 such cities with populations of one million or more each.

One of the strategic development planning challenges of today is to minimise the environmental footprint of such large cities. In addition, the large-scale poverty often experienced in such cities because of high unemployment rates, as experienced in South Africa, leads to various social, economic, and political conflict situations.

More and more poor people find their way to cities in South Africa. These people mainly come from rural areas. With limited infrastructure and environmental resources available, the strategic development planning committees certainly face planning challenges to cater for the rapid urbanisation and the provision of low-cost housing, power connections, landfills, transportation, water supply, and sewage.

Another noticeable trend is that of inadequate infrastructure and resources to handle the influx of people to the cities. Cape Town, because of drought conditions, the rapid increase in the city’s population, and water supply management that has not been adapted and developed to cater for the large number of people and industries, is facing a crisis. How do we prevent this from becoming the norm for the cities of South Africa? This is another one of the strategic development planning challenges of today.

Rapid urbanisation, urban sprawl, and new industries add to the pressure on the environment. The population density is increasing in various areas of Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban. With so many people crammed into small spaces, and some living in informal settlements next to freeways, one can expect problems. The environment suffers. Trees are removed to make space for dwellings. In many instances, trees are cut down by the communities in order to get wood for cooking food.

So many people together bring elements such as noise and air pollution as well. The solution is to think of the future. What we do today affects the environment of tomorrow. Raw sewage, for instance, flowing into arterial rivers is problematic, but it is a reality in South Africa. If we are to create sustainable urban environments, it is essential to call in experts on strategic development planning to help with land use management planning, infrastructure design, and planning for even more urbanisation in future.

The management of non-renewable resources must be addressed now to prevent having to apply crisis management when the resources run out. The above are problems that must be addressed with strategic development teams focused on sustainable development.

One has to remember that cities are the economic hubs of the country. The urban areas form the main centres for advanced healthcare facilities, tertiary education institutions, technological development, and administration.

The growth of cities is thus a given, but urbanisation must be managed and proactive steps should be taken in order to reduce the impact of such urbanisation on the infrastructure and the environment.

Somehow, one must bridge the huge gap between the demand for infrastructure and essential services, and the availability of money and other resources to meet the demand. Part of effective strategic development planning of the future is the challenge of increasing city capacity in order to match the increasing number of city dwellers.

Call in expert help in addressing the above and many other challenges faced by city administrators of South Africa. Make use of our team of urban and town planning consultants to help with strategic development planning for sustainable city landscapes.