3 smart cities planned for South Africa

 ·19 Mar 2021

In his February 2021 state of the nation address, president Cyril Ramaphosa announced that several new post-apartheid cities are being conceptualised across the country.

However, there have been a number of questions raised around what a ‘smart city’ actually means for South Africa.

Carshif Talip, expertise leader for Urban Planning and Land Infrastructure at engineering consultants Zutari, says that a ‘smart city’ is a city that leverages innovation to achieve its desired outcomes.

Here, innovation does not necessarily mean only technology, he said.

“A smart city is a city where opportunity, amenity, safety, resilience, inclusivity and prosperity are imperatives, and innovation across financing, design, construction, operations and governance is embraced by all stakeholders to achieve these imperatives.”

The fact that innovation is such an integral part of smart cities makes for a natural fit between smart cities and sustainability, he said.

“The emphasis on digital platforms also enables data collection, and the availability of large data sets is one of the first steps towards optimisation.”

Below are three planned ‘smart cities’ currently in the works for South Africa which meet these criteria.


The aim of Lanseria smart city development is to create the first post-apartheid city in South Africa based on ‘best practice’ in urban sustainability and the principles underpinning the smart city.

“It is to be inclusive of the broadly defined South African socio-economic spectrum and must stimulate a vibrant, mixed urban economy,” the masterplan states.

The city will be built surrounding the Lanseria International Airport, north of Johannesburg, in a project which is expected take around 25 years to complete.

Sitting in the centre of the development, the airport will be the main economic driver for the city’s growth.

Strong residential growth in the surrounding areas is expected which would be supported by improvements to existing roads in the area.

The Lanseria Smart City will feature rainwater harvesting and solar energy to limit its carbon footprint.

The city aims to move urban sustainability beyond existing paradigms of planning, engineering, and urbanization to increasingly appropriate levels of sustainability and innovation.

There is a strong focus on limiting the need to commute using cars. Any commuting should, by default, be by non-motorised means like walking or cycling or, where necessary, by public transport.

In planning terms, this means the new city needs to be walkable. People must be able to walk to work, shopping malls, or schools, within between 5 minutes (400 metres) and 10 minutes (800 metres).

The Lanseria Business Gateway will be located on 130 hectares of prime real estate between Lanseria Airport and the upmarket Blair Atholl Golf Estate.

It will be a 24-hour smart city zone that will offer retail, conference, and business facilities. It will also host the Lanseria luxury hotel.

Durban Aerotropolis

The Durban Aerotropolis aims to become a premier business and trade hub in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The plan will turn the entire surface area around King Shaka International Airport into a smart city with diversified economic activities that will boost the province’s economy.

The city will cover 2,000 hectares of land as well as 10,000 hectares of green space for expansion. The development is also expected to create over 750,000 jobs.

According to the official website for the aerotropolis, the region will ultimately see over a R1 trillion in potential investments and over 1.5 million residents.

It states that a number of components set the aerotropolis apart, affording it a distinct competitive advantage over other South African and African destinations.

These components include:

  • A freight-orientated development with, at its heart, a world-class cargo facility managed by a single handler, Dube TradePort Corporation;
  • It is purpose-built; and
  • It is one of few developments worldwide which incorporate a ‘greenfield’ site with additional surrounding land available for carefully planned and controlled expansion.

“The coastal situation of the Aerotropolis makes logistics a cost-effective proposition. Its development, in conjunction with the airport city component – Dube TradePort – together with burgeoning seaport infrastructure, direct access to numerous global destinations and linkages to SADC countries, combine to position KwaZulu-Natal as a key business point in South and Southern Africa,” the website states.

“Its potential for growth into the future brings together a plethora of like-minded stakeholders whose own objectives align with a shared goal: the creation of an investment climate conducive for the expansion and growth of KwaZulu-Natal’s economy through the establishment of new opportunities for the broad business environment as a result of structured and planned development.”

Mooikloof mega-city

Officially launched by president Ramaphosa in October 2020, the Mooikloof Mega-City development is set to be built in the east of Pretoria.

The development has a total project value of over R84 billion and is one of the 62 Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) that were gazetted at the end of July 2020.

“The first phase of the project is residential developments, and some 50,000 sectional title units are planned,” the president said at the time.

“Once completed, the Mooikloof Mega-City may end up becoming the world’s largest sectional property development, with land also earmarked for schools, shops and offices,” he said.

The mega-city is a public/private collaboration with developers Balwin Properties.

Balwin said it plans to build an initial 16,000 apartments at a present value of approximately R9.6 billion in phases over the next few years in what it describes as the one of the world’s largest sectional title development.

This may be extended to up to 50,000 apartments with a total development value of approximately R44 billion in today’s terms, the group said. Apartment prices will range from R499,000 to R799,000.

Read: South Africa includes ‘power ships’ as part of its energy plans

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