Urban Forum

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 175-194

First online:

South Africa’s City Regions: A Call for Contemplation... and Action

  • Elsona van HuyssteenAffiliated withCSIR Built EnvironmentDepartment of Town and Regional Planning, University of Pretoria Email author 
  • , Mark OranjeAffiliated withDepartment of Town and Regional Planning, University of Pretoria
  • , Shirley RobinsonAffiliated withEconrise
  • , Eric MakoniAffiliated withCSIR Built Environment

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The paper explores and explains the phenomena of city growth and city regions in the South African context. It reflects on the process of urbanisation and city region growth in South Africa in an attempt at contributing towards the development of a discourse and analysis that better appreciates city region areas as crucial components of the growth, development and well-being of the nation as a whole, including communities living in rural areas of the country. The paper also raises questions around the increasing challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, as well as the growing ecological dilemmas that city regions in South Africa are faced by. The paper is based on a study and analysis of quantitative data on urban areas and more specifically ‘city regions’, aptly called the ‘National Spatial Trends Overview (2008)’, for the South African Cities Network, the national Department of Provincial and Local Government and The Presidency. The innovative spatial analysis and data platform used enabled the identification and comparative analyses of a wide range of settlements based on their functional urban areas. It is argued that regardless of where on the contentious scale city regions are viewed as positive or negative, they are important for the country as a whole. Taking cognisance of benefits as well as costs of city region areas, the paper concludes that an appreciation for city region planning dynamics will be crucial for the achievement of the South African Government’s national developmental goals and objectives.