Collaborative Urban Management

By Tasmi Quazi, Mxolisi Cele & Richard Dobson

There is a critical benefit which enhanced infrastructure brings to informal workers, such as access to basic shelter and services as water and electricity, and urban management in terms of cleanliness, safety and security.  However, an often neglected aspect of infrastructure provision is the after-care of infrastructure and the benefits of inclusion of informal workers as co-participants in urban management.

Intern Mxolisi Cele
AeT intern Mxolisi Cele working with the informal traders on a clean up operation on 27th March 2012

Having an effective urban management strategy in place, including the after-care of infrastructure and services, is particularly important for informal workers.  This is because they operate within very demanding work environments, usually located at major transport hubs, and in terms of the intensity of use by informal workers and their customers.  Moreover, the provision of the infrastructure elevates the expectations of informal workers to a new level.  This is because prior to the intervention, informal workers were generally responsible for their own “fate” but after the interventions, they are in the hands of others e.g. city government departments.  This implies that these new expectations should be maintained.  Therefore should the infrastructure become dysfunctional, informal workers return to a more disadvantaged situation than when they first started, for instance, in the loss of business as a result of defects.

This can be exemplified by real instances such as the safety hazard posed by potholes at the Early Morning Market which are damaging barrow operator trolley wheels and leading to bodily injuries of both informal workers and their customers (as featured in the Mercury newspaper article).  Secondly, the lack of adequate lighting in the Brook Street Market which had limited working hours to daylight periods and which was particularly constraining in winter.  Last but not least, the blocked drains in the Impepho & Lime Market which contributed to the flooding of the market during the rainy seasons and consequently ruined the products (for more details, read our post on the impact of the rains on the Impepho & Lime Market).

Furthermore, where efforts have been made to consider the after-care of infrastructure, the emphasis has been solely on reconsidering the durability of the material selection of the infrastructure. However, there is a great opportunity for engagement with the community of informal workers as co-participants in urban management.  This is with regards to cleaning and the inevitable repairs both to the infrastructure and the surroundings.

In light of committed and enthusiastic city government officials who become discouraged with the escalation of specific urban management challenges and their inability to make any positive improvement therein, a collaborative approach that is inclusive of the community can contribute to more effective solutions. Furthermore, the more development practitioners involve the community, the greater the opportunity they have to take risks and counter expectations in the provision of more aesthetic and enhanced environments, through the community becoming custodians of the interventions.

Article on the degrading infrastructure at the Early Morning Market featured in the Mercury on 8 August 2011,Page-3

Asiye eTafuleni’s (AeT) prior experience of its co-founders in the Warwick Junction project set out to achieve a collaborative relationship between informal workers and city government departments.  The achievement of the project was significant and contributed to a new level of sustainability with respect to urban management.  However, a significant challenge of any innovative practice is ensuring its longevity and sustainability. Accordingly, the attributes of this collaborative approach have remained an enduring principle and approach for AeT.  To reaffirm the principles of collaborative urban management, AeT has initiated a number of interventions related to contextual urban management challenges.  For instance, the disposal of waste in and around underutilised trader tables near the Early Morning Market. Click here to view images of this particular clean-up operation.

To read about another similar initiative, click here:

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