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How Urban Studies Envision the New Era of the Metropolis

In order to grasp the future of cities, one has to look towards Africa and Asia. While the African continent is rapidly urbanising – by 2036 more than half of the African population will live in cities – the rising number of city dwellers live under extremely unequal conditions. By and large, African cities are lopsided: they work well for the top 10%, partially for the small middle-class, and not at all for the majority of urban dwellers, who are poor, trapped in precarious employment, and lacking in basic social services. Furthermore, half of the urban majority are younger than 19 years of age, clamouring for meaningful futures. In the wake of increased private investments into Africa, it is important to demonstrate that Africa’s lopsided urban trajectory can be arrested and redirected in the direction of more inclusive, vibrant, and sustainable futures. Edgar Pieterse, the Director of University of Cape Town’s African Centre for Cities, promotes this alternative vision in which cities are designed to systemically improve the quality of life and economic opportunities of all their inhabitants. His research into major cities of the Global South has made him an acclaimed expert and advocate for a new, sustainable, and humane approach to city planning. Since the megatrend of rapid urbanization is becoming visible on the global scale, the progress made in urban planning in Africa can be seen as a testing ground for promising new designs and policies. At Falling Walls, he shows what we can learn and improve in emblematic African cities. This knowledge can be applied more generally to entrench the new era of the thriving and sustainable metropolis.

Edgar Pieterse

University of Capetown

An expert on African urbanisation, Edgar Pieterse, director at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Capetown, knows what radical and rapid urban change means for a city, a country and a continent. His research takes a multi-faceted approach in analysing slums and the underlying systems that perpetuate poverty, while at the same time reimagining models of cities that can support 10+ million people in humane conditions. Pieterse’s work paves the way for a world that is radically urbanising and in dire need of new policy and planning approaches to tackle inequality and exclusion and shape the cities of the future.

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