Project Milestones 2008 – 2018

Milestones 2008-2018



(1) AeT Founded Asiye eTafuleni founded by Patric Ndlovu and Richard Dobson. Legal and operational setup of AeT.

(2) Inclusive Cities Project – Commencement of this project, coordinated by WIEGO, and funded by the Gates Foundation. It was a 5-year collaboration (2008 to 2012) of member based organisations and international networks of informal economy workers. Through organising, policy analysis, and advocacy, urban informal workers gained the tools necessary to make themselves heard in urban planning processes.

(3) Working in Warwick Book –Working in Warwick: Including Street Traders in Urban Plans, by Richard Dobson and Caroline Skinner, with Jillian Nicholson, captures stories and learnings from the Warwick Junction Urban Renewal Project (1996 – 2008). The launch included local and international photo exhibitions: Durban (2008), Brazil (2010), Johannesburg (2011), London (2012), and UIA (see below under 2014) .


(4) Early Morning Market Advocacy – When the Early Morning Market in Warwick Junction was threatened by commercial development, informal workers with the support of AeT, the World Class Cities for All (WCCA) campaign, and other local organizations, fought to claim their rights to public space and to preserve a historic city landmark.

(5) Law Programme Starts – AeT’s work in areas of urban design and planning with informal workers, meant that contending with legal matters became unavoidable. Urban informal workers operate from public spaces for which there are many competing uses. This competition is further exacerbated by inadequate policy, selective interpretation or disregard of bylaws and essential public processes, and lack of legal rights amongst the citizenry. AeT established a partnership with South Africa’s Legal Resources Center (LRC) which led to a collaboration for capacity building, including a series of law seminars and case specific workshops designed to assist informal workers in the advocacy, enforcement and clarification of their rights.

(6) Informal Recycling Project AeT’s first external competitive commission was the Imagine Durban Inner-City Informal Recycling Project (2009-2012). AeT was commissioned by the local government (eThekwini Municipality) through its Imagine Durban Demonstration Fund. This was a joint initiative between the eThekwini Municipality and Sustainable Cities (a Vancouver based NGO) to implement this project. AeT worked with approximately 15 informal recyclers working in 2 areas of Durban to develop and test design interventions to eliminate barriers and increase productivity.

(7) Markets of Warwick Project – The FIFA World Cup 2010 was an opportunity for this community-based project to develop, to welcome new audiences (both local and international) to the markets. In these early stages the project focused on building buy-in from market traders, and in designing and delivering training to trader tour guides.

(8) Global Economic Crisis Research – AeT partnered in this multi-city international research study, No Cushion to Fall Back On: The Global Economic Crisis and Informal Workers, coordinated by WIEGO.


(9) Legal Advocacy: Barrow Operators – AeT supported Barrow Operators in a pivotal legal challenge resulting in a court order establishing their right to trade without permits.

(10) Legal Advocacy: Storage Secure overnight storage for goods and equipment is an essential part of informal trader business. A local storage area (20 Johannes Nkosi Str.) was under threat of demolition by the city, with no alternative for vendors; AeT facilitated a process to obtain a court interdict against the demolition.

(11) Legal Advocacy: Mealie Cooks – Two traders had been selling mealies [corn cob] outside Addington Hospital (with permission from hospital management) but were unable to attain a permit despite repeated efforts. Legal support coordinated through AeT to prevent the harassment of Mealie Cooks, ended months of run-around and the permits were issued.

(12) Legal Advocacy: Recyclers – Legal advocacy to prevent the abuse and harassment of informal recyclers. This project contributed to a decrease in the confiscation of trolleys and harassment of a group of inner-city informal recyclers by police officials; as experienced frequently prior to the introduction of the project.

(13) First Markets of Warwick Tour – The FIFA World Cup 2010, provided the perfect platform from which to launch the Markets of Warwick Project – which is still going strong. Trained market traders have led tours through the markets for groups of all kinds: ranging from tourists to school groups to academics and built environment professionals.

(14) First Aid Training – Initially 9 informal workers were selected by the Markets of Warwick Committee to participate in this programme in which those completing first aid training were entrusted with a First Aid kit to be able to immediately assist with minor incidents within their trading area. This led to the design and piloting of First Aid Stations in key areas across the Warwick Junction markets – see Phephanathi Project (2014).


(15) Herb Market Upgrading – Warwick Junction is home to one of the largest “Muthi” (traditional medicine) markets in South Africa, which uniquely occupies a space that started out as an incomplete and unused elevated motorway. The transformation of the unused space into a safer, healthier and less congested space for the Traditional Medicine and Herb Market is an impressive example of innovation and ingenuity in urban planning.

(16) Curriculum Development – The national final examination paper for Grade 12 (final year of High School) geography learners, contained an entire section worth of questions on the ‘informal sector’. This inclusion of informal economy dynamics into the curriculum (public and private schools) is in large part due to AeT’s work in its Urban Education Stream.

(17) Smithsonian Exhibit – AeT was selected as one of 60 projects featured in the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s Design with the Other 90% exhibition and book. The work in Warwick Junction was selected on the basis of innovation resulting from designing with end users. Warwick Junction was one of the few projects that showcased development innovation with informal workers.

(18) Exposure Dialogues – Exposure-Dialogue Programmes, inspired by SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association), were initiated to allow researchers and practitioners from a wide range of fields to experience firsthand the challenges workers in informal employment face. After the exposure, both guests and hosts reflect on the experience. Guests then engage in a structured dialogue on a relevant topic such as informality and labour markets or informality and law.

(19) COP17 in Durban – AeT was involved in the conference, which included a presentation through the Institute of Architects and an immersion for delegates to be exposed to Palmer Street recyclers.

(20) Drivers of Change Award – The Mail and Guardian and South African Trust Drivers of Change Award was awarded to AeT in recognition for their ongoing positive impact on the lives of people living in poverty, through the development and implementation of effective public policies and strategies.


(21) IEMS – AeT participated as a local research partner for the Informal Economy Monitoring Study (IEMS), sponsored by WIEGO. The 10-city study evaluated the impact of economic trends, urban policies and practices, value chain dynamics, and other economic and social forces on informal workers. The study also examined contributions made by urban informal workers, their linkages to the formal economy, and whether governments, institutions, and membership-based organizations help or hinder their livelihoods and lives.

(22) Health Screenings – AeT worked with local partners to implement and deliver health screenings to traders in Warwick Junction as part of the Rockefeller Foundation MHealth initiative: an international scoping project to determine informal workers access to health care.

(23) Urban Training Course- Accredited Built Environment Professionals Urban Training Course was developed, as Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for architects and planners. This combination of lectures and field visits received the highest ranking for a course that the association gives.

(24) AfriSam-SAIACommended Award – AeT won the 2012 AfriSam-SAIA Award for Sustainable Architecture Work of Social Significance for the Inner-city Cardboard Recycling Project. Amongst four other projects that received awards, AeT’s project was the only one that was not a building – indicating AfriSam and SAIA’s recognition that sustainable architecture can involve more than the creation of buildings.

(25) Mayor’s Award for Excellence – AeT and the Markets of Warwick Tour project received a Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the tourism category.


(26) Ergonomics Project – AeT ran an Ergonomics and Human Factors project with Rhodes University resulting in ergonomic testing of cardboard recyclers trolleys and an informality component integrated into Rhodes curricula. Subsequently students have returned to do further analysis, such as Traders’ sleep patterns.

(27) Recycling Facility – One of the recommendations arising from AeT’s 2010 Recycling Project, was a long-term, centralised facility that would provide appropriate infrastructure to existing salvaging, sorting and baling processes occurring on sidewalks. Further to the commencement of plans for this facility, advocacy began to ensure construction, the building completion was planned for 2019.

(28) Social Work with Recyclers – Bright Site, a partnership with University of South Africa (UNISA), was a Social Work In-service Training Programme with Recyclers. The Bright Site Project aim was to assist AeT in identifying and strategising possible solutions to the socio-emotional challenges faced by the inner-city cardboard recyclers.

(29) Denis Hurley Centre – Working with several stakeholders and municipal officials, AeT’s role within the development of the Dennis Hurley Centre (linked to the historic Emmanuel Cathedral, situated at the heart of Durban’s inner-city) was to ensure the inclusion of informal workers in the precinct throughout the process, and especially to do this through facilitating better engagement between key role-players and informal workers in particular. In addition, AeT facilitated the identification of alternative trading sites for 30 informal workers, and a holding area and ranking facility for nearly 50 minibus-taxis (including the relocation of taxi-shelters for commuters) to counteract displacements during the construction phase.

(30) Eye Testing – In partnership with The International Centre for Eye Care, checkups were made available for informal workers which included provision of spectacles where necessary.

(31) Mealie Cooks Analysis – AeT, in partnership with the Mealie Cooks and the Project Preparation Trust, started to explore strategies to enhance livelihoods of Mealie Cooks and Sellers in the urban realm. Angela Mai made funding available for the initial phase which was aimed principally at better understanding local challenges and the value chain, establishing trust and communication with the Mealie Cooks. Through this research AeT was able to determine the potential to extend further support for implementation of Phase 2 of the project.


(32) Phephanathi Project – This Health and Safety programme was initially supported by the Rockefeller Foundation Innovation Challenge. Work has continued under the banner of the Phephanathi (isiZulu for “be safe with us”) Project as a core programme. The Phephanathi Committee (Warwick’s Health & Safety Committee, made up of 12 trader leaders) was established to bring healthcare to informal workers and establish better health and safety protocols.

(33) Kanyenathi Project – Kanyenathi (isiZulu for “with us”) was initially a participatory action research project funded by Comic Relief in which traders were trained to identify and prioritise their infrastructure needs. The research was carried out over 3 years, involving informal workers from three informal economy districts; CBD, Warwick Junction and Bester (three transport and commercial nodes, which have received prior and/or planned infrastructure investment). Based on the positive outcomes, AeT is increasingly deferring to these methodologies of inclusion which moves technical skills of research and development into the domain of informal workers. AeT has sustained the support of this informal worker committee associated with this project through the continuity of meetings. AeT facilitates these scheduled meetings with the City’s Business Support Unit (BSU), where the traders hold them to account regarding progress on infrastructure maintenance and development.

(34) 100 Resilient Cities Network – AeT facilitated informal worker input into the Durban Resilience Strategy as part of the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities Network Project, where urban informal employment was recognised as an important response to resiliency.

(35) Makwicana’s Legal Case – Established landmark case law via John Makwicana’s Legal Case which included follow up and engagement with the city regarding the instruction to reform specific trading bylaws as per the judgement.

(36) Berea Station Mall – Traders were presented plans of the proposed Berea Station Mall development and were assured by the developers that they would not be affected. The traders brought the plans to AeT to interpret and upon assessment, the plans would in fact negatively impact on the traders in Berea Station, as well as surrounding market areas. The traders mobilised and when preparatory demolition of the commuter shelters at the lower level started in Berea Station, AeT submitted a letter on behalf of the traders to PRASA objecting the development. The process was meant to be a consultative one and due to the traders’ objection, PRASA were forced to stop the construction.

(37) Informal Economy Budget Analysis – This research was part of the WIEGO Informal Economy Budget Analysis series and examined the nature and associated trends of allocation and expenditure in the eThekwini Municipal Budget for activities that have a direct and indirect impact on those working informally.

(38) Technology & the Future of Work – In 2014, in partnership with WIEGO and Practical Action, AeT played a central part in a research project exploring the role and impact of technology used by informal workers’, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. The project, aptly named Technology and the Future of Work, focused on the way technology in the broad sense of the term is imagined and reimagined, purposed and repurposed in the life of informal workers. A seminal insight in this regard is how the use of technology differs greatly within the sub-sectors of the informal economy and is shaped by the variations of the available resources.

(39) Lime & Impepho Market Upgrades – AeT collaborated with the Lime and Impepho sellers to improve infrastructure in their area of Warwick Junction, resulting in a sketch design for proposed infrastructure including better storm-water drainage (to avoid flooding), roofing to protect them and their products from the elements, and dry and secure storage of their products. To date, AeT has been trying to facilitate a partnership with various local government departments to accelerate these much-needed interventions for enabling infrastructure that improve and enhance working conditions.

(40) UIA Congress – AeT juried a competition and facilitated a local student programme on informality with 9 South African universities for the Union of International Architects (UIA) Congress in Durban. AeT’s Senior Project Officer, Patric Ndlovu, and two informal workers from Warwick Junction were invited as panelists at the UIA debate session. The informal workers spoke about livelihood barriers caused by poor infrastructure and police confiscations and gave recommendations for architects in consideration of informal economy activities in cites.

(41) Johannesburg Consultation – AeT participated in dialogues with CUBES at Wits University regarding inner-city informality in Johannesburg.


(42) Hearing Conservation Programme was implemented in partnership with Professor Mershen Pillay, an Audiologist and Speech Pathologist based at University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). The study sought to understand the specific hearing health care needs of informal workers in Warwick Junction. In addition to collecting data for this overarching study, this project provided health screenings and treatment for the informal traders who participated. Researchers found that some traders suffered loss of hearing due to high sound levels in the markets, as well as exposure to toxic fumes and medication. The study used a socio-sonic framework and created interventions based on “decoloniality and the humanization of health care”.

(43) Bovine Head Cookstoves – During the process of the facility redesign the City proposed to convert to electric stoves, however, AeT presented that both electric and gas would not be feasible options. At the time of signing the agreement for the upgraded facility, the compromise was that the cooks could continue to use charcoal. Spatial constraints along with the need for more efficient method of cooking (to reduce fuel and smoke) were investigated.

(44) Local Area Plan (LAP) – AeT facilitated informal worker input into the LAP, local governments’ urban regeneration plans.

(45) Non-Motorised Transport Policy– Initially this Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) Plan was focused primarily on recreational cyclists. AeT facilitated participatory processes with eThekwini Transport Authority (ETA) and informal workers which resulted in the NMT plan recognizing informal workers’ transport. A delegation subsequently visited Warwick Junction with the intention of proposing a pilot barrow-way, since then improved sidewalk access was tended to but no further improvements.

(46) Nuisance Bylaws – Advocacy to ensure trader input into proposed Public Nuisance Bylaws (emanated from John Makwicana’s case, see 2014). To date these bylaws haven’t been adopted.

(47) Cape Town Violence Prevention – AeT was invited by Cape Town’s Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrade (VPUU) to disseminate Warwick Junction’s long-standing strategies in support of street trading. Subsequently, a delegation of informal workers participated in an exchange visit to engage with VPUU stakeholders.


(48) Cape Town Consultation – Arising from prior work regarding violence prevention with City of Cape Town, AeT was invited to deliver a series of 5 workshops on inclusive design methods to an audience of officials from the City of Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality and informal traders.

(49) Bogota Exchange – AeT representatives joined delegates from South African Waste Pickers Association and South African Slum Dwellers International at a week-long learning exchange conference in Bogota, Columbia.  Key learnings for AeT delegates were that legal cases involving waste pickers in Bogota were more effective when waste pickers were represented as collectives rather than as individuals, another was that waste pickers and recyclers are integral for cities’ waste management and environmental sustainability.

(50) Venice Biennale – AeT assisted Designworkshop with the International Architecture Exhibition Biennale in Venice entitled The Transformation of the Warwick Triangle, Durban, South Africa which was inspired by Warwick Junction’s Traditional Herb Market. The exhibit included a large 3D model of Warwick Junction created by Mongezi Ncube, a selection of items sold in the market and in-depth profiles of eight informal traders.

(51) UN-Habitat III – AeT was part of the WIEGO delegation representing workers’ movements in the informal economy at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, Habitat III – which is a consultative process held every 20 years to reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable development.

(52) Bead Market Redevelopment – AeT oversaw the redevelopment of the Bead Market infrastructure process providing advocacy support to ensure bead traders needs were met. In 2016 the bead traders moved back into the space after it had received an infrastructure upgrade of a new roof.

(53) Mealie Cooks Facility – Advocacy on redevelopment of the Mealie Cooks facility. However, the municipality proceeded without thorough consultation with the cooks themselves and as a result presents health and safety risks. In response to this, AeT worked with the cooks and MIT D-labs to design a cookstove that will mitigate some of these hazards (see 2018: Mealie Cookstoves).

(54) Public Lavatories ProjectStrengthening Governance of Public Lavatories with Informal Workers was a project that contributed to identifying the unique challenges in the informal market environment, to build and disseminate lessons learned.

(55) Know your Rights’ Training – Together with Legal Resources Centre (Durban), AeT organised the Voice of Women Traders Conference in April 2016 for women traders working in Warwick Junction; to raise their legal and rights awareness, highlight their contributions to socio-economic development, and provide training and experience in participatory research.

(56) Taxi Industry Workshop – AeT hosted a provincial delegation for a day-long workshop discussing the role of Warwick Junction. The delegation was brought by UKZN’s Extended Learning Program.


(57) New City Bylaws – two legal submissions from AeT and LRC respectively were made to the Municipality in relation to multiple challenges with the Proposed Amendments to Informal Trade Bylaws. These submissions prompted the City to conduct stakeholder consultations before implementing new Bylaws.

(58) Biogas Research – UKZN and MIT, facilitated by AeT, examined the feasibility of using market produce waste through bio digesting processes to fuel the Bovine Head Cooks stoves.

(59) Breastfeeding Project – The Urban Livelihoods and Nurturing Care study is a project in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and focuses on informal workers who are also mothers of children under 3 years. The study builds off of the Umzanyana project work and ultimately aims to understand the ways in which mothers care for their children in informal work environments. AeT have shaped the research tools for this study which extends across two cities, Durban and Delhi. Ultimately the project aims to provide design and technical support to refine their interventions to improve the street environment for informal worker mothers and their children.

(60) Bovine Head Cooks Facility – The new cooking facility will be the 3rd iteration of infrastructure for the Bovine Head Cooks – an indication of the City’s investment into sustaining the practice. Unfortunately, construction of the new facility was halted due to issues between the building contractor and the City, meaning that the cooks are working in the temporary facility for an extended period of time. This has been the cause of much frustration among the cooks, and there have been ongoing attempts at dialogue with the City to urge the resolution of the issue.

(61) Bovine Head Cookstoves- AeT, in collaboration with a local company Rocket Works, developed and piloted an alternative biofuel cookstove at the Bovine Head Cooks Facility with Bovine Head Cooks, as a safer, more economical and efficient cooking method to current practices.

(62) Curry Stone Prize – AeT was recognized amongst 100 of the “most influential socially engaged design practices” referred to as the Social Design Circle. The Curry Stone Prize is one of the few award platforms that has consistently highlighted the role of inclusive urban design. The 100 practices were revealed under specific themes on a monthly basis, and AeT appeared under the theme; Can design reclaim public space? for its work in Warwick Junction.

(63) Lagos Consultation – AeT presented on Warwick Junction, Durban, South Africa:  an urban journey towards mediation and participation at Co-creating Inclusive Lagos:  A Vision of a City for All, hosted by the Centre for Values in Leadership, Victoria Island (Lagos, Nigeria).


(64) Horizontal Cookstove – AeT supported the Mealie Cooks to design an alternative cookstove. In partnership with MIT D-lab interns, AeT successfully piloted a horizontal cookstove, an innovation that significantly reduces smoke output, introduced a new way to safely drain boiling water and resulted in a decrease in fuel used; without reducing cooking efficiency.

(65) Isiphingo Commission – AeT was commissioned as a specialist consultant to the built-environment professionals undertaking an urban design intervention in Isiphingo CBD. AeT team members have conducted detailed surveys including visual assessments (through the use of photography and drones). AeT contributed an assessment of activities in public spaces, and made recommendations for the provision of and need for productive public space in the redevelopment, which contributed to the drafting of framework documents.

(66) Herb Market Fire Response – A fire destroyed around a third of the Traditional Herb and Medicine Market, burning the stock and personal belongings of 77 traders. In response, over $2,000USD was raised through a crowdfunding campaign and distributed to the effected traders. In addition, AeT facilitated rent relief for those effected.

(67) Incident Forums – These regular meetings were initiated by trader leaders and are facilitated by AeT, to obtain regular feedback regarding harassment, enforcement and legal challenges, to identify items for immediate redress or strategic litigation – and to track issues over time.

(68) Gender and Energy Research – Provided research and strategic programme input for a proposed workshop by a research consortium (led by University of Twente and Energy Research Centre at University of Cape Town) to disseminate findings on their Gender and Energy use in the Informal Food Sector: Evidence from Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa research. The workshop took place to better understand energy use of enterprises in this sector, how regulation and other contextual factors influence operations of these enterprises and to jointly seek solutions on how policy action can promote sustainability in the Informal Street Food Sector while empowering those that operate in it.

(69) LAP Analysis – Along with students from MIT Create, the Urban Futures Centre and the eThekwini Municipality Municipal Institute of Learning, AeT co-hosted a workshop on the recently approved Local Area Plan (LAP). The workshop was focused on ‘Bridging the Formal and Informal Divide for more Equitable and Thriving Urban Economies’.

(70) Municipal Workshops – Municipal Institute of Learning (MILE) engagement focused on women in energy and recyclers.

(71) World Bank Webinar – AeT presented a case study on Warwick Junction for the World Bank, in collaboration with Marty Chen of WIEGO. This webinar was targeted to their clients in Africa. The case study highlighted the pre-existing presence of informal traders and the developed infrastructure. It revealed that through inclusive design processes, Warwick Junction is a transformed urban public space that is functional and integrated.

(72) Recyclers Trolleys – In partnership with Rhodes University and the Inner-City Cardboard Recyclers, AeT developed six prototypes in 2012, two of which were highly rated by recyclers during piloting. The project progressed, with a need for further engineering refinements and ergonomic testing of the two preferred prototypes.

(73) WRI Ross Prize for Cities announced AeT as one of the top 5 finalists for their role in the urban transformation of Warwick Junction. School Area Road Safety Assessments and Improvements (SARSAI) was announced as the winner in April 2019.