Development and Urban Policy: Johannesburg’s City Development Strategy

Susan Parnell, Jenny Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


Summary. City development strategies (CDS) have emerged as an important new initiative in international policy and practice. This paper considers their significance by exploring recent initiatives to formulate a city strategy for Johannesburg, South Africa. The Johannesburg CDS emerged out of the local demand for a post-apartheid vision for South African cities as well as a renewed enthusiasm for city-level economic planning within international development agencies and consultancies. As with CDSs in other resource-stretched cities, in order to address the distinctive challenges of their highly unequal city, Johannesburg’s policy-makers had to draw on ideas which transcend conventional divisions between poverty relief and urban growth strategies. The Joburg CDS process provides an important basis for overcoming longstanding divisions between accounts of wealthier Western cities and poorer cities in developing country contexts. Johannesburg’s distinctive challenges, stretching from accommodating cutting-edge global economic activities to supporting basic service delivery in informal settlements, highlights the paucity of existing urban policy discourses—which offer few ready-made solutions for any city, but especially not to those faced with significant structural inequities. Attending to strategic challenges in cities that have limited resources, it is suggested, could provoke new agendas and insights for city managers and urban scholars everywhere. Here, we explore the tensions between the policy agendas of economic growth and development, and the policy processes of participation and formal institutional politics. Cities in poorer and wealthier countries are linked into different, if overlapping, circuits of policy-making. The multiple influences on policy are most pronounced in cities of the South, where external input is sought to counter limited local capacity and confidence and so international development discourses and national policy imperatives frame local strategy formation. The urban strategies of wealthier cities thus have a strong influence in the formulation of urban initiatives in poorer country contexts, especially in so far as they articulate the promotion of economic
Original languageEnglish
JournalUrban Studies
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006


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