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Cities, people, environment and the economy

COVID-19 Responses Collection

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Nosizo Sebake

07 September 2020

Mark Napier


Nosizo Sebake

Information page

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

South Africa

This page forms part of the COVID-19 Responses Collection.


Here we present publications and discussions about cities, people, environment and the economy.


Publications, articles and blog posts

  • C40 mayors' agenda for a green and just recovery post-Covid-19 – This report sets out our collective vision for a green and just recovery and our shared principles for achieving it. In this agenda for recovery, the C40 mayors focus on those actions they are taking as part of their response to Covid-19. As part of the Recovery Task Force’s efforts, they are commissioning further work to assess the impacts and benefits of their actions, to demonstrate why a green and just recovery is better, and to inform the ways in which they deliver these actions. "The pandemic comes on top of, and is connected to, the climate emergency. We are already facing an existential threat from climate breakdown. This climate ‘pandemic in slow motion’ already causes the deaths of more than 150,000 people annually. The Covid-19 crisis can be considered an environmental crisis too. Recent research on the outbreak of diseases suggests that biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, unsustainable food systems and deforestation can act as critical drivers of pandemics."
  • Can Covid-19 help ease the climate crisis? - Horne and Hancock (2020) consider the impact that the Coronavirus has had on the environment. They note for instance the reduction in plane and car emissions, but remind us that emissions were already at their highest. "The speed of lockdowns shows governments can act fast if they want to."
  • Can I stay or can I go now? Longer-term impacts of Covid-19 on global migration - Yayboke (2020) reflects on human mobility through history, citing this as the core tenet of economic growth from the past decade. The author discusses the short and long-term impacts that Covid-19 has and may have globally for migrants. "A majority of international migrants come from the developing world, either moving to another developing country or to a developed country... As migrants lose income and remittances correspondingly decrease, families back home dealing with their own pandemic-related challenges will suffer."
  • Cities and Covid19: Preparing for Pandemics - "Ratho (2020) reflects on how cities have previously reinvented themselves following public health crises, i.e. 2014/15 Ebola epidemic, mid-19th century cholera outbreak, 1890s bubonic plague. In this article, she explores the relationship between the Covid-19 pandemic and urban density, informal settlements, social infrastructure, and defensive designing in order to provide a potential direction for urban planning.
    • "Pandemic responses must be buttressed by an urban-planning system which includes data collection of number of people, number of households, pockets and areas of vulnerability, as well as the availability of WASH amenities. Preparedness and response plans cannot be made unless the number of people living in areas and information of civic amenities available to them is known."
  • Cities policy responses - This policy note (an update from previous versions) "expands the examples of measures taken by cities to respond to Covid-19 and recover from the economic and social crisis. The note provides analysis on issues related to the economic, social and environmental impacts, lessons learned in terms of digitalization, mobility, density, urban design and collaborative governance, and action-oriented guidance to build back better cities, building on previous work on urban resilience. Short and medium term responses provided by cities are clustered around six categories."
  • Cities that heal: How the coronavirus pandemic could change urban design - On this podcast, Waller and Chakrabarti (2020) interview an architect and planner about ways they are better designing urban environments to improve human health.
  • Coercion or the social contract? Covid-19 and spatial (in)justice in African cities  - “Marginalised communities in African cities face a double disadvantage. For one, they live under conditions prone to spreading disease. They also occupy spaces where compliance with the law is difficult.  Every failure to comply, every violation of an impracticable law or regulation becomes justification for additional restrictions and violence.” (Kihato and Landau, 2020)
  • Coronavirus Community Responses: Crisis sees Cape Town suburbs reach across the great social divide - In this article, Silwana (2020) shares the realities of poverty and unemployment she and her family, who live in the township of Gugulethu, have faced since the lockdown began.  She also speaks of her involvement with Gugulethu’s Collective Action Network (CAN), a part of Cape Town Together, a neighbourhood organising effort designed to keep the people of Cape Town safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • "The work our CAN team has done, assisted by Sea Point, has benefited hundreds of people in Gugulethu. But we... are still in dire need of emergency assistance from the government [as...] this crisis has only just begun."
  • Covid-19 and its legacy in cities - Viel (2020) discusses the need for adapting urban design and management resulting from Covid-19. "Planning correctly means designing an evolving system with limits and a clear view of risks. The lack of hospitals has led to a frenetic and costly race to build them in places not designed with health in mind... It is clear that we cannot build urban spaces with a single function if we want them to be useful in emergencies. The ‘unthinkable’ must be part of good urban design practice from now on."
    • Covid-19: Can small business survive the coronavirus? - Ann Bernstein (Centre for Development and Enterprise, 2020) facilitates a conversation with Professors Ed Glaeser and Michael Luca (Harvard University), John Dludlu (Small Business Institute), Andrew Donaldson (SALDRU, UCT) and Ben Bierman (Business Partner) discuss the implications of Covid-19 for the small business sector. The session is structured in two parts, the first focuses on small business in the US and how they are coping with the crisis. The second part considers this same issue from a South African perspective.
      • "We can't afford to lose 4 million jobs" Dludlu
      • Covid-19: How to save the African entrepreneur - Mutono (2020) considers the role played by informal entrepreneurs in the African economy and how despite this, a large majority do not meet the requirements for support because they lack certain skills, i.e. bookkeeping and business-writing skills. He proposes a number of measures that governments should consider to save the African entrepreneur.
      • Covid-19: Implications for the “digital divide” in Africa - Turianskyi (2020) examines four factors that have emphasized the digital divide since we first heard about Covid-19. The author proposes short- and long-term solutions at different levels: governmental, corporate, continental and global.
        • "The current lockdown restrictions make internet access even more essential to sustain livelihoods and maintain social contact. Social distancing will require millions to continue using the internet to work, study and socialise from home for the foreseeable future."
      • Covid 19 Macro-economic consequences for developing countries - Hausmann (2020), Director of the Growth Lab at Harvard’s Center for International Development, analyses the macro-economic implications of Covid-19 as well as recommendations for developing countries and international institutions.
        • "We are in uncharted waters, [this means] that governments are making decisions at a very fast pace, without too much time to think about them. They are facing very difficult moral trade-offs."
      • Covid-19: ‘Unlocking’ South Africa’s economy- different perspectives - Ann Bernstein (Centre for Development and Enterprise, 2020) facilitates a conversation with Theuns De Wet (FirstRand Ltd), Michael Jordaan (Montegray Capital), Neva Makgetla (Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies), Stephan Malherbe (Genesis Analytics) and Ayanda Mngadi (Hulamin) to discuss the pros and cons, costs and benefits of the approach, and whether there are other options to consider.
        • Jordaan suggests that a possible approach to making decisions during this time on uncertainty could be that of having "strong views that are weakly held". This means informing ourselves as best we can, but allowing ourselves to change our response as we learn more about the pandemic.
        • "When you don't know everything - and you have to recognise it - the best is to not go with your gut or with emotions, but to go to scientists to find out what the actual facts are. What the hypothesis are. What are the things we know for certain... Scientists... would include ...economists and people know what will happen to human behaviour if you have certain type rules" Jordaan
        • "Don't copy and paste. Copy and adapt" Jordaan
      • Covid-19: What is happening in the area of urban mobility - This website is a resource that the EIT Urban Mobility has developed to support its partners and stakeholders in mitigating the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 on mobility, as well as its impact on the transport sector and on cities and the way city dwellers generally live.
      • Envisioning the road to recovery for public transport (PDF, 308KB) - In this article, WSP’s advisors and technical experts describe global strategic insight for supporting the public transport sector manages the impact of the current pandemic environment and prepare for the future. "The world was not prepared for the Covid-19 pandemic. Critical infrastructure has had to rapidly move to new ways of management and delivery of essential functions to continue to provide vital services."
      • The future ready commuter car park - "In this article, ...Harvey [2020...] discusses the imperative for adaptive reuse of car parks and ways in which they can support changing travel behaviours, new mobility and community needs."
      • A functional city’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic - In this blog post, Wahba and Vapaavuori (the mayor of Helsinki), describe how Helsinki, a functional city, has performed during the Covid-19 pandemic. "While cities like Helsinki are not able to totally prevent the combined effects of the current health, economic, and social crisis resulting from Covid-19, the foundations of its functional city approach are enabling the city to manage the crisis holistically and deliver results efficiently."
      • Gauteng universities consortium launch urban research nodes to inform response to Covid-19 hotspots - This article introduces two new nodes that have been added to the Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS), expanding on South African Population Research Infrastructure Network's (SAPRIN) national research platform to a total of five. The Gauteng Research Triangle (GRT) led by Professor Everatt, was awarded the Gauteng node. It is a collaboration of the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Pretoria and the University of Johannesburg. GRT was awarded t's approach is "not only to ensure the most accurate and quality vital statistics data possible but to understand it in its specific urban context, including issues such as differing urban forms, inequality and the like.” SAPRIN was established under the bounds of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR).
      • Here are 4 ways cities are coping with the effects of Covid-19 - Null and Smith (2020) discuss four ways cities that are working to combat the spread of the coronavirus. "The immediate focus for cities [is rightly] on stopping the spread of Covid-19, but the current social distancing threatens to disrupt what makes cities work: the human urge to congregate. When life returns to normal — whatever that new normalcy may be — planners will need to reckon with this disruption, paying particular attention to the urban poor, who already were being left behind in many cities and likely will suffer more during the pandemic without careful thought."
      • How the Sustainable Development Goals can help cities focus Covid-19 recovery on inclusion, equity, and sustainability - "Prior Covid-19, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were gaining traction among local governments and city leaders as a framework to focus local policy on ambitious targets around inclusion, equity, and sustainability... The focus immediately shifted to managing the health crisis and the closing of the economy. In the next few years, the priority for local decisionmakers will be recovery." In this post, Pipa and Bouchet (2020) present the insights gained from interviews with city leaders. These highlight how the principles of the SDGs can provide support on rebuilding an inclusive economy.
      • How Will Covid-19 Affect Urban Planning? - Van den Berg (2020) reflects on the impact that Covid-19 has had in urban environments globally. "The Covid-19 pandemic has already significantly altered urban life. The number of people moving around has dropped to unprecedentedly low levels. Work from home is the new normal - for those who can afford it, and for whom it’s even a feasible option to begin with." In this blog post, he discusses five key ways that urban planning will be affected in the years to come.
      • ICLEI Africa supports local and subnational governments during Covid-19 - This platform provides ICLEI Africa's (2020) collection of reputable resources that are relevant, useful and inspiring for local governments in Africa. This is one of the ways that ICLEI Africa is supporting its cities. The other is a webinar series on Building a Resilient Urban Africa during and after a Pandemic presented by CoM SSA and partners.
      • Is the City Itself the Problem? - Kling (2020) considers the long history of blaming urban areas rather than economic factors for physical and moral ills. He argues, in this article, that density can be an asset for fighting the coronavirus.
        • "Density means cities can more easily concentrate resources and social services where needed. Residents, in theory, have quicker access to hospitals and health care. And when nurtured by “social infrastructure” - community centres, libraries, and yes, public parks - cities can generate lifesaving networks of social ties which combat isolation and mitigate the effects of disasters."
      • Mapping Risk Factors for the Spread of Covid-19 in Africa - The Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (May 2020) reviews relative risk factors associated with the novel coronavirus. This analysis helps generate potential insights into the varied and often overlapping levels of vulnerability faced by each African country.
      • Maze parks to micromarkets: How coronavirus could bring cities closer to home - In this article, Davies (2020) discusses various ways that architects are rethinking urban design to enable city dwellers' enjoyment of their environments whilst remaining socially distant.
      • Opinion: Redesigning the Covid-19 city"We are about to start one of the greatest experiments in recent history as cities everywhere emerge from lockdown. The stakes could not be higher. A staggering 81% of the global workforce is affected by full or partial shutdown measures. Most people live pay-check to pay-check and cannot afford to stay isolated." In this opinion piece, Muggah and Ermacora (2020) identify nine trends that are likely to play out in the months and years ahead, post-Covid-19.
      • Our Covid Future: The Long Crisis Scenarios - The Long Crisis Scenarios presented in this document, "provide a useful framework for understanding the forces at work and how power is shifting [during this global pandemic]. They identify key fault lines along which alternative futures will be contested." These scenarios will challenge the way you think to help you discover new ways of working.
      • Reopening the economy: Obstacles, opportunities and risks - Makgetla (2020) considers the impacts of the pandemic on the global economy, focusing on South Africa’s main trading partners. The author's analysis (from an informal survey and in-depth interviews from the stakeholders in the auto, steel, plastics and furniture manufacturing) highlights blockages to reopening the country's economy. This analysis provides the basis for more effective and strategic measures for restarting economic activities.
      • Towards more equal and resilient cities post-Covid-19 - In this blog post, part of a Scenarios Week series, Horn-Phathanothai (2020) explores and expands on the Long Crisis Scenarios. Visit the Scenarios Week page for this and other articles in the series. He suggests that our emergence from the pandemic will partly be dependent on what happens in cities and that this will be made possible through the "equipping and empowering [of] cities to drive a green, inclusive and resilient recovery post-Covid-19".
      • Support for women informal workers is urgent as pandemic unfolds in South Africa - In this article, Rogan and Skinner (2020) present findings from their research on the Covid-19 crisis and the South African informal economy. The data in this study show the negative impact of the initial lockdown period in April 2020 has had on informal workers, particularly women. "Women in the informal economy, ... recorded large cuts in working hours and earnings... typical earnings from informal self-employment were nearly 70% lower."
      • UN Habitat Urban Impact Newsletter - As the pandemic continues, UN-Habitat has been moving forward to implement its Covid-19 Response Plan for 64 countries focusing on immediate action for the most vulnerable.
      • Viewpoint: How Covid-19 will change cities and the way we live - In this article, Burayidi (2020) suggests a number of ways that Covid-19 is likely to change our urban environments and the way we live in them. "Covid-19 forces us to reflect on space and place, contact and separation. The pandemic reestablishes the strong link between the environment, urban planning and public health and this will have the effect of decreasing the public’s resistance to planning regulations. Density and occupancy standards, building codes, minimum building setback requirements, separation of nuisance activities and other land use regulations all evolved because of the need to protect public health. This has often not been understood or appreciated by the public."

      Decision support tools

      • Cities and Coronavirus (Covid-19) and a green recovery - The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group has launched a dedicated COVID-19 Portal / Knowledge Hub for cities during the global crisis. In this Knowledge Hub, you will find resources that show you how cities have responded to the pandemic. The guidance in this Knowledge Hub "is rooted in active sharing across the C40 community and beyond. All of the Knowledge Hub’s response articles on COVID-19 are live resources and are updated as new information becomes available".

      Photo Credit: Shayne Robinson


      Website References

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      South Africa



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