South Africa

/South Africa
South Africa2019-09-18T15:45:51-04:00

Project Description

Country Context

Rapid and poorly governed urbanization in the Global South points to a profound silent crisis. Among the different regions, sub-Saharan Africa is a region urbanizing rapidly and from very low-income levels. Many cities in the region face important challenges in terms of urban poverty, lack of access to jobs and opportunities, lack of housing and household services. Given the expected growth of urban centers in Africa, these challenges will be further exacerbated.

The purpose of the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) – African Centre for Cities (ACC) field program is to actively engage students with research on topics concerning urbanization in African Cities, privileging the opportunities for field work and collaborating with important professional and academic partners.


The program will engage with two main partners:

    1. Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI): Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) is a network of community-based organization of the urban poor in 33 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Recently, the organization has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and is currently the chair of the Grassroots Group of the General Assembly of Partners at the United Nations.  In each country where urban poor federations operate, they mobilize around core SDI practices and principles to build voice and collective capacity in urban poor communities.
    2. The African Centre for Cities (ACC) is dedicated to “figuring out cities” on their own terms, with the intent of understanding how more and better opportunities for human flourishing and ecological care can be created. Institutionally, it operates as an interdisciplinary research and teaching program at the University of Cape Town focused on critical scholarship regarding the dynamics of urbanization processes in Africa and the Global South and strongly linked with the territory.

The partnership between SDI-ACC and the New School TNS has been long-standing and fruitful. It crystallizes around the common belief for greater social justice and equitable cities in an increasingly urban world. The efforts of TNS, ACC, and SDI have been recognized by the international urban community: the role of SDI as network organization for the urban poor has been recognized through important distinctions such as the Skoll Foundation Award and the nomination for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, and TNS faculty and students have been actively engaged in research on urban areas, particularly as they relate to addressing slum issues.

Project Context

The project seeks to address the issues of urban poverty by building relationships between grassroots organizations, community groups, and different government stakeholders, professional colleges, NGOs and civil society. Its mission is based on a commitment to vital ethical principles: social justice, radical democracy, cultural pluralism and tolerance, and ecological integrity.

The work of students will take the form of action research on topics selected in conjunction with the partnering organizations. The preparation during the Fall and Spring semesters will focus on establishing research fields, workshop ideas, and acquire the necessary skills in preparation for fieldwork. Dissemination of the work will become possible through a series of publications and conference presentations.

The strategic goals of the IFP program are to:

  1. Produce credible new knowledge on the drivers of urban crisis in mainly African cities with an eye on systemic solutions.
  2. Provide capacity development products/services based on new knowledge about the unique dynamics of urban development in Africa and the Global South.
  3. Strengthen durable knowledge production through community institutions and networks in Africa to undertake urban research and training.
  4. Promote and disseminate quality work by students and scholars on urban topics in general, rooted in practice.
  5. Undertake targeted advocacy with influential development agencies that shape the urban development agenda in Africa and the global South.

Students will have both an academic and a professional experience, in the university and in selected field site to be determined. The focus will be on cultivating professional skills for students that The Program includes an academic training component through participation in the activities of the University of Cape Town and other local academic institutions of the region and fieldwork within the most challenging social urban environments.

Students will work on the following topics:

  • Community Organizing
  • Urban Ecology and Climate Change
  • Urban Poverty
  • Urban Culture and Superdiversity
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Urban Mobility
  • Sustainable Human Settlements
  • Informality
  • Sustainability and Resiliency
  • Urban Violence, Safety, and Governance
  • Urban Design
  • Urban Planning
  • Mapping and GIS information systems

Program Info and Requirements


Additional Resources: