November 2016

Report: Affordable housing doesn't lower the value of nearby homes

A recent study questions the notion that the presence of affordable housing lowers the value of a neighborhood’s homes.

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Lessons for African regionalism as globalisation takes a beating

Delegates in conference at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Reuters

Even before globalisation had convalesced from the aftershocks of Brexit another telling blow was dealt by the shock election of Trump as US president-elect. This is a Frankenstein moment in political history. It threatens the traditional ideological divide that for centuries has characterised party politics as leaning to the left or right. These events have also jolted the basic foundation principles of liberalism on which globalisation – and by extension regionalism – rests.

In both the UK referendum and US election, globalisation and ideological party based politics appear to have given way to a new kind of populism. This has emboldened right wing nationalistic parties.

There is already evidence of an anti-globalisation backlash across Europe and the US. This can be seen in the rising allure of nationalism and of far right nationalist parties mainly against growing immigration pressures. It has also been ignited by the trans-location of manufacturing to foreign countries seen as favourable low cost production centres.

Training can help Botswana's teachers manage multiculturalism

Children from all of Botswana's cultural groups, among them the San, must be made to feel comfortable at schools. Mario Micklisch/Flickr, CC BY-ND

On paper, Botswana is a multilingual state with at least 25 languages are spoken within its cities, towns and villages. In reality, Setswana dominates. It is the national language, spoken by the vast majority of the population as either a mother tongue or second language.

Setswana is the medium of instruction during the first two years at primary school. It is offered as a compulsory school subject for the rest of primary school and throughout secondary school. English is the medium of instruction for all subjects at primary and secondary school levels except for Setswana as a subject. Minority languages do not feature. This focus on only two languages in the education system is seen by language activists as a barrier to the transmission of ethnic minority cultures and appreciation of diversity.

Botswana battles with issues of ethnicity. Schools can find themselves on the front line of this tension if teachers aren’t equipped with the skills and knowledge that would enable them to embrace multiculturalism – whether linguistic, cultural or social – in their classrooms.

South Africa must tackle dominant firms to achieve better wealth distribution


The focus on “state capture” in South Africa has tended to divert attention from a deeper question. How can the distribution of wealth and control over the economy be changed in material terms?

There is an implicit justification for corruption and other rent-seeking activities, namely that this is the only way to do it. The argument runs that the rules of the game are stacked against the majority and so the only option is to break the rules.

It can be further asserted that nobody who has “made it” actually did so playing by the current rules anyway. Under apartheid obviously different rules created wealth for the few. Indeed, the example of coal contracts in the public protector’s report mirrors the accumulation of wealth by Afrikaner business groups under apartheid, using the state utility Eskom’s procurement as a lever.

But this narrative keeps the country trapped in the past. A radically different path needs to start from the premise that markets are intrinsically skewed to historic privilege. And then move from this to develop strategies to reshape market outcomes. This must include direct redistribution measures and changes to how markets work.

It cannot simply be a process of “correcting” discrete failures.

Territories (©UCLG)

Small towns include any urban centre with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants. Regional governments play a crucial role in balancing territories, linking urban, peri-urban and rural areas and promoting social cohesion and endogenous equitable development.


Leading African academics quiz Bill Gates on HIV/AIDS and the role of philanthropy

Philanthropist Bill Gates addresses delegates at the 2016 Aids Conference in Durban. Masimba Sasa

Philanthropist Bill Gates is the founder and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It has committed more than US$3 billion in HIV grants to organisations around the world and more than US$1.6 billion to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Gates answers questions from several African academics about HIV/AIDS on the continent. (Disclosure: The Gates Foundation is a strategic partner of The Conversation Africa).

Professor Francois Venter, Deputy Director of the Reproductive Health Institute in South Africa - HIV prevention continues to be a mixture of biomedical interventions, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), male circumcision and treatment as prevention, as well as so-called behaviour change interventions. Some, such as condoms and reductions in partner numbers, get mired in a messy moral debate about sex. How do we get these behavioural interventions better tested, and the policymakers to listen to the evidence?

Bill Gates: The truth is we still don’t know enough about the underlying dynamics that put people at risk of HIV. Social barriers – such as discrimination, stigma and structural inequality – work against biomedical efforts to address the epidemic. We have to better understand these barriers in order to develop more effective solutions.

Shareholders back Redefine-Pivotal acquisition worth R11.8 billion

Redefine Properties (JSE: RDF), the JSE-listed internationally diversified real estate investment trust, has won overwhelming shareholder support in its takeover of property developer and capital growth fund Pivotal (JSE: PIV).

What will the cities of the future look like?

What will the cities of the future look like?The United Nations (UN) predicts that around 70% of the world's population will live in cities by the year 2050. A mass migration of this scale will exacerbate the global housing crisis. It's clear that forward thinking or vertical-centric solutions are needed if we're to cope with high population volumes in our city spaces. With this in mind, here are three conceptual projects that envision the vertical future of urban living.
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Intermediary Cities

Intermediary Cities are cities with a population of between 50,000 and one million people. I-cities are home to 20% of the world's population and one third of the total urban population. Their crucial role in the achievement of the SDG 11, and in the development of more balanced and sustainable urban systems.

Intermediary Cities

The way economics is taught needs an overhaul: a South African case study

Economics lecturers need to teach their students about more than just numbers. Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

Economics is a discipline that ought, at its best, to explain the world and its complexities. Unlike physics, it is not an exact science. Due to its nature as a social sciences, lecturers must assist students to understand the complex relationships between companies, governments, consumers and diverse stakeholders. They also need to guide their students to develop critical thinking skills and information literacy. And this go beyond to an understanding of critical aggregates such as gross domestic product (GDP), inflation and unemployment rates.

It is particularly crucial to revisit the economics curriculum in the light of recent global developments. In the years since the 2008 financial crisis, there’s been much debate about whether universities are doing enough to produce economics graduates ready for the real world. There’s been a rise of student societies committed to new ways of approaching the discipline.

Africa's agriculture projects are growing inequality, not food

Drought tolerant beans in Malawi. Africa needs improved agricultural practices to be implemented by smallholder farmers. Neil Palmer/CGIAR Research Program/ Flickr

Low yield growth, increasing food insecurity, climate change and massive population growth are the four factors that will determine the shape of Africa over the next century. Even if countries on the continent are successful in negotiating more favourable trade conditions and introduce policy reforms, Africa will still need to produce more food.

To do this, improved agricultural practices need to be implemented by smallholder farmers. This will require access to high quality and locally-relevant information. But African smallholder farmers have little access to information, particularly due to a lack of modern connectivity.

Zuma lives to fight another day. But fallout from latest revolt will live on

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma. His supporters within the African National Congress continue to hold sway, for now. EPA/Aaron Ufumeli

South Africa’s African National Congress’s National Executive Committee (NEC) – the body that runs the party between its five-yearly party conferences – has considered a motion to force President Jacob Zuma to step down. Despite increasing tensions within the party over Zuma’s presidency, this is the first time the NEC has considered acting against him. The motion failed but the repercussions for the president, the ANC and the country will reverberate for months and years to come.

An unprecedented number of senior NEC members, including six cabinet ministers, risked their jobs to urge Zuma to resign. The cabinet ministers included tourism minister Derek Hanekom, health minister Aaron Motsoaledi, public works minister Thulas Nxesi and finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

In a time of uncertainty mayors can fix our environment

We can all agree that global politics is demoralising right now. Intelligence and logic is being pushed aside to make way for unfounded arguments, scaremongering rhetoric and media manipulation. While it doesn’t appear to good news for our environment, politicians at the local level can help. But they need all the support they can get.

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Sustainable Packaging Coalition debuts new How2Compost label

Dive Brief:The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), in partnership with the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), has debuted a new How2Compost label to give consumers more information about disposal options for products, as reported by Packaging World.Products with the label will be BPI-certified as compostable in industrial

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PwC report: SA's construction industry still under pressure

PwC report: SA's construction industry still under pressure2016 has been a challenging year and South Africa's construction industry was not immune, with ongoing pressure on margins, lower revenue and lower order books.
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A new centre of power through mass mobilisation is needed in South Africa

Demands to recall South African President Jacob Zuma reached a climax at the governing ANC's national executive meeting. EPA/Kim Ludbrook

South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) has long argued that the elected president of the party should also be the executive head of the country to avoid creating two centres of power. Otherwise the centre of power in the party would inevitably be at odds with that of the president of the country.

But the idea that by taking this route it would avoid conflict has come to nought. Jacob Zuma is president of the party as well as the country. But the ANC and the government, the executive in particular, are at war.

Senior members of the national executive committee of the ANC tabled a motion for Zuma to step down, echoing similar calls by party stalwarts. It is now evident that South Africa has two centres of political power.

One can speculate as to who holds the reins within the ANC and is increasingly at odds with the presidency. What is clear is that all is not well in the party structures.

Local supporters set to push the green transport agenda in Cape Town

Picture: Supplied
Picture: Supplied</span>Swisatec, architect and project managers behind Africa's first green village, Blue Rock Village in the Cape has collaborated with The Green Cab to push the green transport innovation agenda in Cape Town. Swisatec plans to integrate electric vehicle infrastructure as part of its green initiative.
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How to encourage affordable housing in CT's CBD

How to encourage affordable housing in CT's CBD
© Hansueli Krapf – [[]]</span>According to a new paper produced by UCT's Department of Construction Economics and Management, both realistic economic factors and policy changes have a part to play in increasing the viability of affordable housing.
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How to encourage affordable housing in CT's CBD

How to encourage affordable housing in CT's CBD
© Hansueli Krapf – [[]]</span>According to a new paper produced by UCT's Department of Construction Economics and Management, both realistic economic factors and policy changes have a part to play in increasing the viability of affordable housing.
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Software frees quantity surveyors to add (yet more) value

Software frees quantity surveyors to add (yet more) valueEnthusiasts are seeing improvements in software as a sign that the days of the quantity surveyor are numbered. Nothing could be further from the truth...
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Engineering Public Health: Smart Buildings to Promote Wellness

In addition to being a technology writer, I happen to be a fitness instructor, certified by the American Council on Exercise since 2000. I keep up with the latest fitness research out of necessity to maintain my certification, but also because it interests me. The fact that a sedentary lifestyle, like smoking, is profoundly damaging to our health is becoming well known. But can smart buildings help? 

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South Africa's new energy plan has sparked strong emotions. Here's why

South Africa's new energy plan shows a greater reliance on gas, solar and especially wind power. Shutterstock

The much awaited updated South African Integrated Resource Plan for electricity has been released for comment.

The document makes far-reaching proposals about the target energy generation mix leading all the way to 2050. In particular, the plan pronounces on the future scale and role of nuclear energy and renewable energy technologies. The appropriateness of these has been debated a great deal in the country in the past few years.

If adopted in its current form, it will lead to a 15 year delay in the construction of new nuclear power plants. But it will also result in a greater reliance on gas, solar and especially wind power than anticipated five years ago in the previous plan 2010-2030.

The proposed plan has already been the subject of intensive scrutiny and debate, with those for and against lining up to make their points. The state utility Eskom is unhappy about the suggested delay in building a much bigger nuclear capability and has even threatened to ignore key recommendations. For their part, advocates of renewable energy argue that the plan underestimates how much less expensive these technologies will be in the next 20 to 30 years.

Nigeria wants to decentralise HIV treatment. But it's proving difficult

A client receives HIV/AIDS counseling at a women and children's hospital in Nigeria. These facilities are not always available in rural areas. Flickr/ Karen Kasmauski/MCSP

Nigeria has made considerable gains in HIV control though it still carries the third highest burden of the disease globally. More than three million people in the country are living with HIV. In 2013 the national HIV prevalence was 3.6%; prevalence was slightly higher in rural than in urban areas.

Decentralising health care has been mooted as a mechanism to achieve universal coverage of HIV treatment services. Effectively decentralising the HIV and AIDS treatment services should result in less bureaucracy, a separation of functions and better matching of services to local preferences.

HIV and AIDS treatment in Nigeria is largely centralised in tertiary health facilities. These are mostly located in the urban city centres. As a result there are both geographic and socio-economic inequities to access.

Part of the government’s efforts to strengthen primary health care facilities is to decentralise services. But getting this implemented is fraught with difficulties.

Our study looked at how politics and institutional factors influenced policymakers, politicians, HIV programme managers and health facility managers on the decentralisation question.

A smart 'switch' in photosynthesis holds lessons for solar technology

Photosynthesis can teach scientists a lot about solar technologies. Shutterstock

Photosynthetic organisms like plants are the ultimate natural solar panels. They are extremely efficient at converting sunlight into stored energy. Researchers working on “bio-inspired” solar innovations – drawing from the natural world to create new technologies – find this extremely interesting.

They’re keen to understand exactly how the photosynthetic machinery works to harvest light under different conditions, such as cloudiness or rapidly changing shade conditions. Once they’ve figured out the process, scientists will be better able to mimic nature’s clever solutions for cleaner energy production.

It is remarkable to think that the amount of energy from the sun which falls in one hour on the earth can power all human activity for an entire year. It’s clear, then, that solar energy – a free resource – is a very attractive option for everyday use.

There is a great deal to learn from natural photosynthesis, a complex process during which solar energy is stored in energy-rich molecular compounds. This is the most compact form of energy storage.

With colleagues from France, The Netherlands and Japan we have recently published research that takes our understanding of light harvesting a step further.

Mayors' Roundtable: the responsibility of local governments in ensuring open governments

9 December 2016. Paris, France


The Roundtable is organized by UN-Habitat, the United Nations Programme for Human Settlements, together with the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP), the Global Fund for the Development of Cities (FMDV) and United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) in the framework of the Open Government Partnership that will take place from 7 to 9 December 2016. 

You can read here the programme of the Mayors´ Roundtable

High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership on Effective Development Cooperation

29 November - 1 December 2016. Nairobi, Kenya


The High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership on Effective Development Cooperation will take place from 29th November to 1st December in Nairobi, Kenya.

Through its multi-stakeholder platform, the Global Partnership provides practical support and guidance and shares knowledge to boost development impact with a strong country focus to implement internationally agreed effectiveness principles at country level – country ownership, a focus on results, inclusive partnerships and transparency and mutual accountability.

Congreso Nacional del Medio Ambiente


20/11/2016 - 01/12/2016


Conama 2016, aporta su fortaleza en la conexión de personas y organizaciones para impulsar el cambio a una economía baja en carbono, circular y verde y aprovechar sus oportunidades.

Ciudades, empresas, organizaciones de la sociedad civil. Científicos, políticos, técnicos, ecologistas. Gobiernos, plataformas ciudadanas, universidad. Emprendedores, estudiantes, periodistas. Todos estamos invitados a trabajar para que nuestro país avance hacia una senda de desarrollo inclusivo, sostenible y resiliente.

How the search for a national minimum wage laid bare South Africa's faultlines

Job seekers wait for employers searching for casual labour on the streets of Cape Town. Reuters/Mike Hutchings

The South African government has moved a step closer to introducing a national minimum wage – the first ever in the country. The move comes after a panel of experts tabled its report.

We were part of the team that made the recommendation. Panel members were acutely aware of the need to balance poverty and inequality reduction ambitions, and securing existing jobs, when making recommendations for the level and implementation of the national minimum wage.

Apart from the challenges of working on a project of this nature, there were additional outcomes we had not anticipated. The wide-ranging and detailed research that laid the foundation for the panel’s deliberations threw into stark relief the depth and extent of poverty in South Africa. It also gave us fresh evidence and insights into the country’s deep inequalities.

What became clear is that the persistence of poverty and inequality in South Africa is inextricably linked to the inability of the economy to generate jobs at a meaningful rate in the past two decades. Between 2008 and 2015, the narrowly defined unemployment rate rose from 22.5% to 25.3%. By November 2016 this had risen to 27.1%, which is the highest rate in 13 years. It amounts to 5.9 million people without jobs.

Vacancy : Administrator - Registrations.

The South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) is a regulatory body for the Architectural Profession.  SACAPs primary role is to protect the public by maintaining a register of Architectural Professionals, within the profession through a Code of Professional Conduct, the identification of work that may be performed by registered persons and publishing guidelines for professional fees.

Position: Administrator - Registrations 

SACAP is looking for a dynamic, enthusiastic and energetic person to join SACAP as an Administrator - Registrations.

To provide administration support to the registration of architectural professionals and maintain registration records.

Role description

The candidate will be responsible for the following:

Vacancy : Administrator - CPD.

The South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) is a regulatory body for the Architectural Profession.  SACAPs primary role is to protect the public by maintaining a register of Architectural Professionals, within the profession through a Code of Professional Conduct, the Identification of Work that may be performed by registered persons and publishing guidelines for professional fees.

Position: Administrator - CPD 

SACAP is looking for a dynamic, enthusiastic and energetic person to join SACAP as an Administrator - CPD.

To provide administration support to the registration of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credits by architectural professionals and maintain CPD records throughout the life cycle of the Registered Persons.

Role description

The candidate will be responsible for the following: