Urban Renewal through Labour-Intensive Construction Technology in South Africa: Problems and Potentials

by Wellington Didibhuku Thwala

Abstract

In South Africa, the levels of unemployment and poverty are extremely high and two of South Africa’s most pressing problems. There is also a widely acknowledged need for housing and municipal infrastructure (water supply, sewerage, streets, stormwater drainage, electricity, refuse collection). There a need for physical infrastructure in both urban and rural areas. The infrastructure backlog is aggravated by the apparent lack of capacity and skills at institutional, community and individual levels. Urban renewal and inner city regeneration projects are a priority for the South African government which have invested in several areas to stem the tide of decline in its nine major cities. Commitment to alleviation of poverty has become very high on the government agenda and will stay one of the focal points of government. A labour-intensive approach can be used to maximise the number of people employed in urban renewal projects and this can go a long way in alleviating poverty and reducing the more than 28% unemployment rate in South Africa. This paper will look at some past African experiences in assessing the problems and potential of a labour-intensive approach in urban renewal projects. The paper will then outline the contribution which labour-intensive approach could make to alleviate the unemployment and in reducing poverty in South African cities. Finally, the paper closes with some recommendations for the future.

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Wellington Didibhuku Thwala is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Construction Management and Quantity Surveying at the University of Johannesburg. He is a registered professional Construction Project Manager, Member of the Chartered Institute of Building (MCIOB), and Corporate Member of the South African Planning Institute. He has worked extensively with various development organisations in Rural and Urban Research Projects and is currently completing his PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand.