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Seizing South Africa’s Urban Opportunity

Part of the publication Seizing the Urban Opportunity

Seizing South Africa’s Urban Opportunity



In South Africa and around the world, national leaders face a triple challenge right now: ensuring a successful recovery from the devastation of COVID-19, pushing forward on their longer-term vision for development, and addressing the enormous threats posed by climate change. The pandemic has wrought havoc on the global economy, with particularly severe impacts on the poor. It has also highlighted the urgency of building resilience to a wide range of shocks, especially the growing impacts of climate change.

Cities are at the centre of that triple challenge. As population hubs and economic engines, they will play a crucial role in the recovery and in countries’ long-term economic vitality. Many have also been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, however. So now, more than ever, national leadership is crucial to ensure cities can “bounce back” and fully realise their potential as engines of sustainable, inclusive growth. As outlined in the Coalition’s 2019 flagship report, Climate Emergency, Urban Opportunity, only national governments can mobilise resources at the scale needed, and they control key policy realms: from energy, to transport, to social programmes.

Recognising that developing and emerging economies face particularly complex challenges, the Coalition is focusing on six key countries in the lead-up to COP26 in Glasgow: China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. Together, they produce about a third of global GDP and 41% of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use. They are also home to 42% of the world’s urban population. The extent to these six major emerging economies can unleash the power of cities to catalyse sustainable, inclusive and resilient growth is therefore critical not only for their future trajectory, but for the whole planet.

This paper presents the results of policy analysis and modelling on South Africa, delving deeper into findings summarised in the Coalition’s new Seizing the Urban Opportunity report.

Seizing Africa's Urban Opportunity

Recording of Seizing Africa's Urban Opportunity session at Africa Cities and Built Environment Day on 28th July 2021.