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Monday 15 January 13:53

GSF seminar explores spatial challenges of South Africa's peri-urban expansion

News: Jun 07, 2023

University of Western Cape

The spatial challenges resulting from the peri-urban expansion of small rural towns in South Africa's Limpopo Province took centre stage during a panel discussion organized by Global Sustainable Futures. The event was held as part of the SASUF Research and Innovation Week 2023, an initiative by the South Africa-Sweden University Forum, from March 27th to March 31st.

Global Sustainable Futures (GSF) and Ass. Prof. Marie Thynell recently organized a seminar addressing the spatial and service challenges arising from the peri-urban expansion of small rural towns in South Africa's Limpopo Province. Held as part of the SASUF Research and Innovation Week 2023, the event brought together researchers from seven South Africa and Swedish universities to shed light on the impact of migration and urbanization on the surroundings of these towns.

Marie Thynell emphasized the significance of the event, stating, "The week in Cape Town provided several important and new contacts, as well as an increased understanding of the conditions for cooperation with South African universities. It was the first time I met my research group and it was very important for the collaboration”.

Participants had the opportunity to delve into the profound expansion of small rural towns in South Africa, driven by the twin forces of migration and urbanization. A group of researchers has conducted an in-depth investigation into the impact of these forces on small rural towns in the Vhembe District of Limpopo Province. The critical fieldwork was carried out by master’s students at the University of Venda, a historically disadvantaged South African university. The findings were presented during a seminar led by Marie Thynell. The speakers explored the consequences of this expansion on sensitive areas, municipal services, and livelihoods. Their insights provide valuable information for policymakers and urban planners, not only in South Africa but also in other regions.

The panel featured researchers from both South Africa and Sweden, including:

  • Dr. Emaculate Ingwani, Senior Lecturer, University of Venda (Team Leader, South Africa)
  • Prof. Nils Ekelund, Professor, Malmö University (Team Leader, Sweden)
  • Prof. Sadhana Manik, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Prof. Verna Nel, Professor, University of Free State, South Africa
  • Prof. Trynos Gumbo, Professor, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Doctoral and master students from two South African universities.


 Dr. Emaculate Ingwani from the University of Venda is Team Leader for the South African research team. She was vital for the successful local arrangements in South Africa.


Marie Thynell commented on the event, saying, "The discussion proved to be an enlightening exchange of ideas and insights into the spatial challenges arising from the expansion of small and poor rural towns in South Africa."

The SASUF Research and Innovation Week 2023 offered a platform for robust discussions and valuable contributions toward addressing the spatial challenges associated with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 and peri-urban expansion in South Africa. The discussion ended with the formulation of the next steps in the collaborative partnership and a project that addresses current challenges in Musina, a border city and the South African gateway to Africa.

“The event was really productive in making new valuable contacts and cross-fertilize research experiences from North and South. It is incredibly valuable that the university enables this type of participation in international collaborations as there is still a lack of funding for collaborative projects between North and South in line with SDG 17”, Marie Thynell concluded.

In addition to Marie Thynell, eleven delegates from the University of Gothenburg actively participated in the SASUF Research and Innovation Week, hosted by the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa.

Top image: The Swedish flag was raised outside the University of the Western Cape during SASUF Research and Innovation Week in South Africa

BY: Nina Silow

Page Manager: Webbredaktionen|Last update: 3/3/2023

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