Change the world

2018 - 2019

Human settlements for improved quality of life

Prof Sijekula Mbanga

In 2018 a ten-year roadmap was developed to support technological innovations for human settlements that provide for an integrated, sustainable future and an improved quality of life.

From 2018 the Chair in Human Settlements, in partnership with the CSIR, has been leading a project with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Department of Human Settlements and several South African universities to develop a countrywide ten-year framework for the application of appropriate innovative technologies that can be mainstreamed for human settlements.


The holder of the Chair in Human Settlements, Professor Sijekula Mbanga, explains that the technologies need to be resilient and respond to climate change, the global energy and financial crises, resource depletion and environmental degradation. He emphasises the use of “settlement” rather than “housing”. As he explains: “It is not only about a house or shelter, it is about creating sustainable neighbourhoods and cities that are good to live in.”

“The roadmap framework is complete and is being circulated for comment, before going to government for endorsement towards the end of 2019.

From January 2020 we need to work on how to roll it out, and who will be driving it and funding it,” says Prof Mbanga. “To attract and encourage contributors we co-hosted the Out of the Box Human Settlements Conference in October 2018.

“A big issue that needs to be addressed is mixed income settlements rather than the fringe settlement development we currently have for those with lower incomes, who spend hours of their lives and a considerable percentage of their income on transport to get to work,” Prof Mbanga explains.

“In Nelson Mandela Bay we are co-hosting a seminar series with he Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) on sustainable mixed income settlements, smart and inclusive cities and inter-dependencies between urban and rural spaces. The MBDA has a five-year plan, with certain areas in the city identified for integrated development. It will hopefully start to turn around downtown Port Elizabeth which, as it stands, is not an inviting, integrated, economically and culturally vibrant space.”

The Chair has a large number of postgraduates contributing to its work, including 12 PhDs, 16 master’s and 20 honours students, as well as a postdoctoral researcher, Dr Olufemi Ojo-Fajuru. His research, titled, “Dimensions of informal sector activities, public space contestation and conflicts in downtown areas of cities: the paradox in Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria and Port Elizabeth, South Africa”, is intended to investigate the causes and effects of informal sector encroachment on public spaces, and issues arising from such space conflicts in central area of cities, using the two cities as case studies.

The honours, master’s and PhD students are focusing on different aspects of South Africa’s housing programme, including: housing policy effectiveness; how cities are responding to mass housing needs arising out of demographic changes and urbanisation; the process of upgrading informal settlements and transitioning them to formal settlements; and innovations for informal settlement housing, including how they can be made more fire and flood-resistant.

The Chair is also partnering the University of Potsdam, Germany and the DST in the EcoSUN sustainable “Green Village” project at Kenton on Sea’s Ekuphumleni township, a science and technology initiative for new types of settlements.

“The Ekuphumleni demonstration site comprises 10 RDP houses which will be built with technologies other than bricks and mortar, and linked to a water recycling facility,” Prof Mbanga explains. “Energy efficient solar panels will power the houses to take the pressure off the national grid. This approach is becoming essential given the water and energy crisis our country and the world is facing.”

There is also a focus on waste management for biogas production, home gardening for nutrition and food security, and physical health programmes linked to school and community education. The intention of this demonstration site is to influence government policy nationally.

“In 2018 several of our postgraduates attended summer school at the University of Potsdam and we visited sustainable communities in Germany and the University of Berlin to look at their energy and waste management, and how waste is processed for biofuels. We also looked at the maintenance of new technologies, as we need to source funding for the training of green community technicians, and how this training could be developed into a higher certificate of education. This would be a transformative instrument in addressing another of South Africa’s most urgent and significant societal needs: sustainable, decent work opportunities.”

“A big issue that needs to be addressed is mixed income settlements ... for those with lower incomes, who spend hours of their lives and a considerable percentage of their income on transport to get to work.”