top of page

Global South Public Space Platform

Public space only comes alive when it is used. But using public space in South African cities is to come up against a long history linking back to Apartheid spatial planning.


From citizen initiatives and art, to informal businesses and food systems, a legacy of control permeates almost every aspect of public space.


This platform, produced through a collaboration with the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Southern Africa, offers a space to look across comparable contexts such as South Africa and Colombia, for ideas, exploration, and inspiration.


Comparing contexts

While cities like London and New York are often used as inspiration for South African urban interventions, the level of resources available are dwarfed by those cities. City budgets show just how much this is the case.

City budget ($US Billions)


Differences between comparable contexts also offer new insights. For example, South Africa is an outlier with its low level of informal employment compared to other similar economies. Research shows that the large number of unemployed people in South Africa would, in many other countries, be employed in the informal economy.

Unemployment rate


Percentage of employment that is informal


Public space and purpose driven regulations

Using public space in South Africa is constrained by a compliance and control-driven regulatory framework. 


For instance, a temporary road closure in most municipalities requires an event permit. And an event permit requires compliance with a host of expensive and onerous regulations. Informal trading is likewise constrained by the state, paradoxically, given the levels of unemployment. 


This is not to say that there should be no regulation. Public space is just that - public. There needs to be a rational policy and legal framework to govern its use so that there is a broad public benefit. 

Read our research brief on public space and informality where we outline this in more detail here:

Using Public Space in the Global South 4 Dec 2023.jpg

Projects and ideas

On this Global South Public Space Platform, we have begun collecting interesting examples that to help enable the use of public space for public good.


This is just the beginning of unpacking, exploring, and testing new ways of using public space in the Global South. We'd love to hear your ideas too.


Global South Conversations 

Local South produced four video snippets through conversations with people working on, and thinking about, public space, informality, and local economies in South Africa and Colombia. Click below to watch them.


Events and resources

Do you know of a project or event that you'd like to showcase on the platform? 

Share it with us!

Thanks for submitting!

pop up bicyce workshop ciclovia_edited.jpg
bottom of page