The 2030 Vision for Urban and Regional Planning in South Africa

The National Planning Commission recently released the 2030 development plan for South Africa and urban and regional planning strategies are now changing to make the vision come true. With South Africa being a country on the greater African continent, development must reflect the vision for better integration into the global economy. Carbon emission management, sustainable land usage, improved well-being of the citizens of the country and infrastructure to support the overall strategy are elements now deeply embedded in the modern urban and regional planning practices of the country.

The NPC was established in 2010 with the responsibility for drawing up a national plan according to the vision for 2030. Urban and regional planning strategies and goals form part of the overall national plan. The NPC acts as an advisory to the government and consists of experts in their respected fields.
They drafted and released the Diagnostic Report in 2011. The report detailed the achievements since 1994 and the areas in which improvements are still needed. It also highlighted how lack of policy implementation has affected development with various areas still needing attention such as infrastructure development and maintenance, uneven distribution of public services and the need for sustainable practices regarding the limited resources of the country.

With changing demographics, urban and regional planning must be adapted to cater for the lower birth rate, increase in people from other countries, higher demand for jobs and increased need for public services.

According to the NPC’s findings, large-scale urbanisation is taking place in line with what is happening around the world. They estimated that by 2030 more than 69% of the South African population would be urbanised. This means that urban and regional planning must make provision for larger city populations with services concentrated in the urban areas.

Gauteng and Cape Town are the main urban growth hubs and with immigration rising, the expectation exists that there will be a larger foreign workforce in these areas by 2030. In order to ensure sustainable work and living environments, it will be necessary to overcome the current structural limitations. Insufficient public transport and connections, network weaknesses and long distances between living areas and work environments must be addressed. With the workforce staying closer to their places of work, they will save money on transportation whilst saving on travelling time.

To overcome many of the urban and regional planning challenges, it will be essential for large-scale cooperation on regional and national levels. Infrastructure development will play an important part in expanding the country’s economy, which will mean more employment, the improvement of living standards, and more spending power.

Public infrastructure spending earlier in the 2000s was low, but has since then increased in line with the goals for development planning according to the NPC vision for 2030. The goal is to have a gross fixed capital investment of more than 29% of the Gross Domestic Product by the year 2030 of which a tenth of the GDP must be made up by public investment spending. With this in mind, it has become important to promote cooperation between private and public sectors for infrastructure development.

In 2011, at the time when the report was released, the infrastructure for human settlement support was still in disarray because the planning function was set at the local level while water and electricity services were divided between mass service delivery and reticulation. In addition, housing delivery was still at provincial level. The result was poor planning of human settlements without proper cooperation between the functions of water and electricity delivery and mass infrastructure development.

According to the NPC report, the housing function should be on the same level as planning in the municipalities. Another challenge to be addressed is the low capacity of local government and the insufficient administrative backbones. The NPC recommended more diversity in the distribution of functions with long-term strategy development to address problems such as capacity limits and need for improved collaboration between local, provincial, and national government functions.

Some of the priorities identified include from the upgrading of the informal settlements to the upgrading of commuter rail facilities with efficient links to road transportation. Many other focus points have been mentioned and looking forward, we can expect a radical shift in how urban and regional planning in South Africa will be approached in order to reach the goals of the development vision for 2030.