Southern Africa City Studies Conference: 31 August – 4 September 2020

  • GCRO
  • Date of publication: 11 November 2020

From 31 August to 4 September, the Gauteng City-Region Observatory co-hosted the fifth Southern Africa City Studies Conference. The conference was also hosted by two units at the Wits School of Architecture and Planning, namely the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning and the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies.

From late 2019 until April 2020, the conference was intended to be a physical gathering at Wits. However, in April 2020 the organising committee opted to attempt an online event in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the revised call for abstracts, panels and events, the organising committee received a large number of submissions of papers from 228 authors located in 20 different countries. It therefore compiled a weeklong programme of 46 sessions, many of which ran in parallel. There were a total of 20 paper sessions, 10 panels, 8 themed sessions, 8 events.

Given that the catering costs of the conference had been eliminated, the organising committee made registration for the conference free, with an optional contribution of R100. Those who wished to could apply for a subsidy for data costs to enable their participation.

As a result, the conference attracted a large number of registrations – 922 from 43 countries. African countries with the highest numbers of registered delegates were South Africa (643); Zimbabwe (15); Ghana (13); Tanzania (12); Nigeria (11) and Namibia (11). Other international countries with the highest numbers of registered delegates were the United Kingdom (43); USA (19) and Germany (18).

Registrations by sector:

  • The majority of the delegates (41%) were academics and a further 18% were students.
  • 14% were professionals such as planners, architects, developers and artists.
  • A further 12% of the delegates were government officials, mainly from South Africa.
  • 6% were from NGOs.

Although an in-person conference would have been more ideal for many of those who could have attended, the online format did in fact enable far wider participation. There was an average of 51 delegates in each of the 46 paper sessions, panels, and themed sessions. The opening plenary attracted 205 delegates. The GCRO was proud to have been part of the successful conference.


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