The Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) team appeared in the weekly edition of the Mail & Guardian newspaper as one of the highlights of the past 25 years of its annual “Investing in the Future and Drivers of Change” Awards platform. Under 2011, the article shows a picture of the AeT team at the awards ceremony after being announced winners in the “civil society” category.
AeT received this award in the fledgling years of its formation. This award and others, such as the commendation received at the 2012 AfriSam-SAIA Sustainable Architecture Awards in the category of “Work of Social Significance”, has been indicative that AeT’s work is of social relevance and innovative in addressing some of the significant challenges facing urban informal workers.
The development field of urban informality is vast and AeT’s initial response has been as generalists within this realm. However, in light of the recent incidents of evictions and harassment faced by informal workers across Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban which have appeared in local newspapers; AeT is recognizing the need to focus more specifically on inclusive urban design and planning as the key driver of change in support of the livelihoods of informal workers. This is so that they can enjoy their rights to dignified, safe and secure livelihoods.
This focus is informed by the prior work of the co-founders and their critical involvement in Warwick Junction since 1996. Warwick Junction, where AeT is based, has been recognized globally as a best practice example of inclusive design and planning with informal workers, which led to the creation of thriving informal market hubs.
Despite this precedent, local governments across South Africa remain challenged with development problems as a result of not including informal workers in urban planning processes and the allocation of budgets for infrastructure. This is why AeT has assumed the role as a facilitator to foreground informal workers’ concerns and needs, and complement local government efforts.
Within the national context of high levels of poverty and inequality, the reality is that the informal economy is growing as more and more people seek income opportunities on the streets. This suggests that the development challenges associated with urban informality will continue.
AeT’s approach represents a proactive and creative approach to a national and global challenge of how our cities accommodate the needs of its urban working poor. AeT’s renewed vision is that inclusive urban design and planning with informal workers is a critical driver of social change through the urban transformation of South African cities and towns.