The New Urban Agenda (NUA) is the outcome document agreed upon at the Habitat III cities conference in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016. It seeks to guide the efforts for urban transformation by a wide range of actors — nation states, city and regional leaders, international development funders, United Nations programmes and civil society — for the next 20 years. In other words, it provides a 20-year “roadmap” to guide sustainable urban development globally and lays the groundwork for policies and approaches that will extend and impact far into the future. But will this New Urban Agenda transform cities around the African continent? This talk adopts deconstruction as a method of analysis for the NUA. Using examples from cities in the SADC region, the talk explores the “interiority” and “exteriority” of African cities in relation to the NUA and highlights the dangers of the rhetoric, the essentialism and the “organismic” approach of the Agenda. While the gravitas of the NUA is rhetorically undeniable, the talk argues that the NUA still remains highly rhetorical for much of the urban whims, mosaic, patchwork, heterogeneity, fluidity, and transitory configuration of the African cities.
Professor Sihlongonyane is an associate professor and Director of the Planning Programme in the School of Architecture & Planning, Wits University. He lectures in development economics, planning theory and local economic development. He was a community researcher at the Development Research Institute (DRI) and member of the editorial board of the South African Town Planning Journal (SAPJ). He is one of the Young Planners who are the founders of the “Urban Environmental Management Research Initiative” during the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP)’s World Planning Congress in Ogaki, Japan in 1997. He is a member of the South African Council of Planners and has been a member of the Gauteng Development Tribunal since 1999. He got his PHD from Oxford University, UK.