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Home » August 2009

Training for Township Renewal Initiative: Transforming South Africa's townships into functional and sustainable neighbourhoods

Abueng Matlapeng traces the development of an exciting new series of courses offered by Treasury on township renewal.

The Training for Township Renewal Initiative (TTRI) recently presented an overview course for municipal officials working in township renewal in South Africa. The course also aimed to develop an understanding of the needs and dynamics of South Africa's townships, as well as the various ways of transforming them into functional and sustainable neighbourhoods. Urban LandMark participated in the initiative, which was coordinated by the Neighbourhood Development Programme Unit of the National Treasury.

Initiated in 2007, the TTRI is a joint venture between the Neighbourhood Development Programme, the Urban Renewal Programme of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the Knowledge Unit of the South African Cities Network, and the Sustainable Communities Initiative of the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

Following the successful first course in October 2007, the second Township Renewal Overview course was run from the first to the fourth of June 2009 in Durban, with Urban LandMark supporting the initiative for the second time.

The gender balance of delegates remains a challenge, with male delegates making up 74% of the 62 individuals who attended the June 2009 Township Training Renewal Initiative course. Some 90% of participants were from local government.

The purpose of the TTRI was "to build local expertise to conceptualise, design, initiate and implement township development projects around the country". This provided a platform for Urban LandMark to join with the other partners in contributing another perspective on township development issues.

The second day of the course was allocated to Urban LandMark to address the theme of "Unlocking Township Markets". Wendy Ovens, a well known planning commentator, facilitated the day's discussions, which covered the following subjects:

The overview: Mark Napier

In his overview, Mark provided a broad definition of basic concepts that are central to understanding how urban land markets operate. He also described how markets can fail or become distorted, and expanded on what it means to make urban land markets work better for the poor. His presentation illustrated how the poor are excluded from participating in urban land markets and proposed possible interventions that could be put in place in order to improve participation of the urban poor in urban land markets.

Labour Markets: Felicity Kitchin

Felicity argued that "one way to increase the flow of money into townships and keep it circulating is through increased employment of township residents." She identified components of a labour market, and illustrated how these components operated. Dr Kitchens analysed the current labour market situation in townships and illustrated how such a situation resulted in poor or low employment opportunities in townships and for township residents. Finally she provided alternative intervention strategies that could be adopted in order to improve the labour market for township residents.

Residential Markets: Lauren Royston

Lauren Royston asked the question, "What are the interventions that the public sector can and should be making to make township residential markets perform optimally on the social, financial and economic fronts?"

She introduced her presentation by providing typical components of a South African residential township. She went on to provide the conceptual tools that are needed in order to understand how the township residential markets work.

Royston outlined the research findings of transacting in township residential markets. These included looking at housing as an asset, as well as common problems that are associated with township residential market performance and asset realization. She concluded by highlighting requirements and interventions that could alleviate problems that are associated with residential market performance and asset realization in South African townships.

Retail Service Markets: Kecia Rust and Wendy Ovens

Rust and Ovens argued that "Developing the formal commercial and retail sector in townships must secure the interests and growth potential of small businesses". For this to be achieved it was critical to understand retail and commercial township markets.

The two key aspects of commercial markets they examined were small business development and formal retail and commercial development in township areas.

Drawing from the Finscope Small Business Gauteng study (2006), Rust and Ovens looked at the types of small business which, according to this study, were operating in Gauteng and outlined what was needed to operate a small business

Rust and Ovens identified the markets which influenced commercial property markets, as well as the issues affecting commercial property markets, such as the user market, the financial market, the development market, and the land market. In additional, they broadly highlighted constraints to development and operation of commercial property markets and outlined possible constraints specific to township retail development. Finally they suggested key policies and activities that should be considered in order for the potential of commercial property markets to be released.


The broader mission and objectives of Urban LandMark are to advocate access of the urban poor to urban land. In accordance with this, the main focus of Urban LandMark's work in the area of professional development is to promote the pro-poor approach to the urban land question at national and local level, and to enhance international cooperation through training and capacity building. To this end we continue to coordinate and support participation in existing training initiatives such as the Township Training Renewal Initiative, and the Certificate Programme in Housing Policy Course offered by Wits Graduate School of Public and Development Management.