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The African Centre for Cities is a response to the growing recognition world-wide of the importance of cities, and particularly cities in the developing world. In South Africa this is reflected in the increasingly urban emphasis in policy documents at both national and provincial level. The sense is one of impending crisis, with the realisation that rapid urbanisation also raises issues of adequate food supply, affordable shelter, employment opportunities, water and waste management, public transportation, crime and disease, and environmental degradation and climate change. These challenges intertwine with critical social processes such as exclusion and conflict, which require effective socio-political management institutions and processes. Achieving well governed and sustainable cities is becoming increasingly important to the future health of the planet. And yet most policy 'solutions' continue to be generated by the large aid and development agencies of the global North, with a generally poor track-record of successful interventions in the very different context of Africa and the global South.

The central objective of the African Centre for Cities is to provide a base from which critique and alternatives in relation to urban issues can be launched. In Africa, South Africa and across UCT, urban-related research is highly fragmented. The aims of the Centre are therefore two-fold – to partner closely with policy-making centres in the public sector in South Africa (national, provincial, local) – and subsequently more widely – to provide an alternative perspective on dealing with critical urban issues; secondly to provide an intellectual base and home for interdisciplinary, urban-related research at UCT, from which relations can be established with selected international funders and think-tanks.

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