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South Africa: New insight into smart and sustainable cities


Mayor of Aarhus Municipality in Denmark, Jacob Bundsgaard and City of Tshwane Solly Msimanga at Freedom Park. Photo: Supplied

In South Africa, Danida supported research is closely linked with the strategic sector cooperation in the area of sustainable urban development. It has provided new insights, tools, frameworks and methodologies that have really benefited city-to-city collaboration.

By Sector Counsellor Kristoffer Rønde Møller, the Danish Embassy in South Africa

In its first phase from 2017-2020, the strategic sector cooperation between Denmark and South Africa focused on smart and sustainable cities. In the second phase, it focuses on water resilient cities. The programme is a city-to-city cooperation between the city of Tshwane in South Africa and the City of Aarhus in Denmark. In both phases, an interdisciplinary work methodology has been the entry point to promote sustainable and smart urban planning through the co-creation and implementation of a number of best practice guidelines.

In the first phase, we established a close collaboration with a Danida funded research project focusing on green infrastructure planning in the city of Tshwane. The project is led by Professor Jens-Christian Svenning and is a collaboration between Aarhus University and the University of Pretoria. The researchers provide new knowledge on green infrastructure in South Africa through interdisciplinary research. They use a holistic planning approach that integrates social, economic and cultural issues with urban issues such as non-motorized transportation, densification, water infrastructure and liveable public spaces. This is very useful.

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I believe we have mutually benefitted from the collaboration. While the strategic sector cooperation has opened doors, provided strategic advice and direction, and sourced numerous city officials to the research project, the researchers, in return, have generated new knowledge that is relevant to the sector cooperation. The knowledge provided by the researchers is useful because the research addresses and offers solutions to the day-to-day challenges that the city officials have to deal with. By taking a very collaborative approach, the research makes the new tools and frameworks for the city of Tshwane applicable and relevant.

We hope to get a lot of new research projects to support the development of South Africa and the strategic sector cooperation. It would be of great value to continue our collaboration with academia in supporting the City of Tshwane become a more sustainable and climate resilient city.

Find more information about Danida supported research on green and sustainable cities in South Africa in the Danida Research Portal:


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