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Alison Todes

Prof. Alison Todes

University of the Witwatersrand

Professor Alison Todes' earlier research focused on regional development and South African settlements, with particular attention to the economies of marginal places. This is a theme she has returned to from time to time. More recently her work has focused on strategic spatial planning and spatial frameworks, and their relationship to the complex socio-spatial and economic trends and dynamics in cities. She has also looked at a wider set of planning policies, their efficacy and actual impacts, and how they have dealt with concerns such as gender equity and sustainability. 

Alison joined the School of Architecture and Planning as Professor of Urban and Regional Planning in 2007, and was Programme Director for Planning from 2008 to mid-2011. She was previously Research Director in the Urban Rural and Economic Development Programme at the Human Sciences Research Council, and a Professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Housing at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa. She has researched and published extensively in the field of urban and regional development, local government and planning.

For Alison's most recent publications and other projects, see:


Paula Meth

Dr. Paula Meth

University of Sheffield 

Dr. Paula Meth’s work examines ‘urban lives in the global South’ and spans Urban Studies (including Planning), Human Geography, and Development Studies. She completed her undergraduate (Geography and Sociology, 1991) and Masters (Town Planning, 1994) degrees in South Africa at the University of Natal, Durban; and her PhD in Geography at the University of Cambridge in 1998. Paula taught Human Geography at Sheffield Hallam before moving to the University of Sheffield in 2004. She is now a Reader in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, University of Sheffield

Paula is an active member of Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID), and is the current ‘Cities’ Theme Lead for SIID

For Paula's most recent publications and other projects, see:


Sarah Charlton

Prof. Sarah Charlton

University of the Witwatersrand

Prof. Sarah Charlton is an Associate Professor teaching in the School of Architecture and Planning at Wits. A key research area is on forms of low-income housing and homelessness. Sarah explores ways in which poor people make use of the city, with a particular interest in the geographies of home and work. She’s also interested in state interventions into infrastructure, including low-income housing, and in peoples’ responses to these.  She has worked on various policy and strategy documents for different spheres of government. Sarah has a PhD from the University of Sheffield, focusing on the South African state’s ‘RDP’ housing programme, and a Masters from the University of Natal (now KZN). Since 2016 she has been playing an editorial role on the journal African Studies.

For Sarah's most recent publications and other projects, see:

Tom Goodfellow

Dr. Tom Goodfellow

University of Sheffield

Dr. Tom Goodfellow is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield. His research concerns the political economy of urban development in Africa, with a particular focus on Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia. He is especially interested in the politics of urban informality, urban conflict and violence, land governance and taxation, and the link between these and urban infrastructure and housing.  Before coming to Sheffield he was a Teaching Fellow at the LSE, where he undertook his PhD in International Development, and was also an adviser to Oxfam GB on urban development issues. In recent years he has conducted research in cities including Addis Ababa, Kigali and Lagos on land policy, taxation, housing development and property rights. Alongside the urban peripheries project, he is also working on a project about the increasing role of China and other ‘new’ development actors in urban development in Addis Ababa and Kampala. He is co-author of Cities and Development (Routledge, 2016).

For Tom's most recent publications and other projects, see:


Margot Rubin

Dr. Margot Rubin

University of the Witwatersrand

Dr. Margot Rubin is a senior researcher and faculty member in the University of the Witwatersrand (South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning) in Johannesburg. Since 2002, she has worked as a researcher, and policy and development consultant focusing on housing and urban development issues, and has contributed to a number of research reports on behalf of the National Department of Housing, the Johannesburg Development Agency, SRK Engineering, World Bank, Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and Urban LandMark.

Margot's PhD in Urban Planning and Politics interrogates the role of the legal system in urban governance and its effect on the distribution of scarce resources and larger questions around democracy. She also holds a Masters in Urban Geography from the University of Pretoria, an Honours degree in Geography and Environmental Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Philosophy. Of late, Margot has been writing about inner city regeneration, housing policy and is currently engaged in work around mega housing projects and issues of gender and the city.

For Margot's most recent publications and other projects, see:

Philip Harrison

Prof. Philip Harrison

University of the Witwatersrand

Philip Harrison is the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He also serves on South Africa's National Planning Commission. He holds a doctoral degree from the University of Natal (Durban) and a masters degree in urban planning from the same institution. He is a registered member of the South African Council of Planners (SACPLAN) and the South African Planning Institute (SAPI).

Philip has worked in the field of urban planning for around 25 years, in the public, private and academic sectors. He worked previously as an Urban Planner for the Natal Provincial Administration (1988-92); for a private planning firm (1992-93); as a Lecturer and Associate Professor at the then University of Natal (1994-2000); as Professor of Urban Planning and Associate Dean at Wits University (2001-2006); as Executive Director: Development Planning and Urban Management for the City of Johannesburg (2006-2010); and, since March 2010 as South African Research Chair in Development Planning and Modeling at Wits. As Executive Director in the City of Johannesburg, Philip was the head of a department responsible for forward spatial planning for the city, the approval of development applications, spatial information systems, urban management programmes, and had administrative oversight over special projects such as inner city redevelopment, the Alexandra Renewal Programme, Cosmo City development. In April 2010, Philip was appointed by the State President as a member of the National Planning Commission, and has been closely involved in the preparation of a National Development Plan for South Africa.

For Philip's most recent publications and other projects, see:

Jennifer Houghton

Dr. Jennifer Houghton

University of Sheffield, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and University of the Witwatersrand

Jennifer Houghton completed her PhD in urban geography at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2010 and undertook a post-doctoral research fellowship in the Department of Geography at the University of the Free State from 2010-2012. Her PhD and post-doctoral research was focused on urban change in South African cities, with particular emphasis on the relationship between economic growth, post apartheid transformation and neoliberalism. From 2012, she was involved with the Regional and Local Economic Development Initiative (RLEDI) in the Graduate School of Business and Leadership at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and managed the project from 2014 to mid-2016. This multi-pronged initiative is fully funded by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs and aims to build deeper knowledge and greater capacity for economic growth and socio-economic upliftment in both urban and rural areas within KwaZulu-Natal. Currently, Jennifer holds a research fellowship at UKZN and the University of the Witwatersrand as well as working on a collaborative project with the University of Sheffield on development within the peripheries of cities in South Africa and Ethiopia. She is also involved in multiple projects focused on research and capacity building needs within South Africa, including an assessment of the economic value of heritage resources in a local government context, the development of an institute to support capacity development for aerotropolis developments in Africa, and supervision of postgraduate economic development research. Jennifer’s research interests incorporate regional economic development processes in South Africa as well as a continuing focus on urban development mechanisms in Africa. Jennifer has recently published articles in Local Economy, Urban Studies, the Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography and Urban Forum as well as various book chapters.

Download a list of Jennifer's publications.


Tatenda Mukwedeya

Dr. Tatenda Mukwedeya

University of Sheffield and University of the Witwatersrand

Dr. Tatenda Mukwedeya is a sociologist with interests in politics, development and the state. His current role as research associate in Sheffield’s department of Urban Studies and Planning involves work on the “Living the urban periphery” project which seeks to understand how transformation in the peripheries of African cities, (specifically related to infrastructural investments and economic change) is shaped, governed and experienced with a view to informing urban governance and strategies for urban poverty reduction.

Tatenda completed his undergraduate degree in Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Zimbabwe and my masters in Development Sociology from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. His PhD, also from the University of the Witwatersrand traced the trajectory of intra-party politics in South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) during the post-apartheid era.

For Tatenda's most recent publications and other projects, see:

Zhengli Huang

Dr. Zhengli Huang

University of Sheffield 

Zhengli Huang is currently working as Research Associate in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield. She is a PhD from Tongji University studying informal settlements in cities in Africa, focusing on the dynamic nature of these settlements and their symbiotic relationship with urbanization. She is currently working with Thomas Goodfellow in Sheffield University on a research about China’s impact in African urbanization, taking Ethiopia and Uganda as case studies.

Zhengli worked as an intern for UN-Habitat in 2011 when she developed research interests in cities in Africa, particularly focusing on two subjects. The first one is urban informality in the African cities, reflected in the form of housing. The second subject concerns impact by the Chinese companies, especially those involved in infrastructure projects. She has carried out and participated in several research projects on urbanization in African cities and surveys on Chinese enterprises in African countries, mostly in Kenya, Zambia and South Africa. Her recent publications include the special issue of Urban China: Chinese Urbanism in Africa which she co-edited, and Is China Building Africa in European Financial Review.

Metadel Sileshi Belihu

Metadel Sileshi Belihu 

Emerging City Lab Addis Ababa

Metadel Sileshi Belihu is a researcher and lecturer at ECL-AA (Emerging City Lab Addis Ababa), a collaborative research and teaching center between EiABC (Ethiopian Institute of Architecture Building Construction and City Development), AAU and BUW (Bauhaus University Weimar). She is currently a research coordinator for IN3 (Integrated infrastructures) – a research project funded by BMBF (German Federal Ministry of Education and Research) and run by ECL-AA.

As a lecturer, she is currently a studio head for the class of Masters of Architectural Engineering. The focus of the studios she is engaged in is related to guiding rapid urbanization in two areas. The first is related to planning of small emerging towns as providers of facilities to mitigate migration to bigger cities – also in line with IN3, and the second is related to enabling secondary towns to absorb rural to urban migration. Prior to her position at ECL-AA, she worked for the housing chair as a studio head of a course, for undergraduate students, in Housing and Inner-City Redevelopment. The focus of the studio was finding alternative strategies and designs for on-site relocation of residents, as opposed to the current widely practiced IHDP housing scheme of Addis Ababa.

She has a special interest in housing, informality and activities – on which she has based her Master’s Thesis. Her MSc Degree is in Housing and Sustainable Development from EiABC and she did her BSc in Architecture and Urban Planning at Addis Ababa University, south campus (currently known as EiABC). She has been engaged in various housing related research projects, mainly about Addis Ababa. These include: Formalizing the informal, Kotebe Hanna Mariam, The State of Addis Report, and Urban Housing and Poverty.

Meseret Kassahun

Meseret Kassahun

Addis Ababa University

Meseret Kassahun Desta has a Ph.D. in Social Work from Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago and joined Addis Ababa University as assistant professor in November 2012. In her teaching career, Meseret has been teaching Master of Social Work and Bachelor of Social Work courses such as: Social Policy Analysis and Social Development as well as Social Development and Social Change.

As a researcher/consultant, Meseret has designed and conducted several studies using quantitative, qualitative, and mixed research methods. Her most recent research includes Urban Transport Governance in Ethiopia using the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit as a case example. She also served as a lead author for the State of Addis Ababa Report under the auspices of UN-Habtat. Meseret’s research interest includes gender equality, social protection, child protection, as well as migration and refugee issues. In addition, Meseret conducted a study that looked at the effect of conflict on women’s economic and social security in the Horn of Africa under the auspices of UNECA and assessed the implementation of the “Women’s in Security and Peace Agenda (UNSCR-1325) in humanitarian setting in Ethiopia under the auspices of UN-Women. In addition to research related exposure and experience, Meseret had ten-years practical work experience as program coordinator and Manager in rural and urban development initiatives in Ethiopia from 1994 – 2004.

Yohana Eyob

Yohana Eyob  

Addis Ababa University 

Yohana Eyob is a lecturer and researcher based in the Housing Chair at the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture Building Construction and City Development, Addis Ababa University. She recently joined the Ethiopian Federal Housing Corporation as a team leader for project study and follow-up section. She has completed her BSc degree in Architecture and Urban Planning and her MSc degree in Housing and Sustainable Development from EiABC, Addis Ababa University. Her research interest is in housing and urbanization and how these brought change and transformation in people’s way of living, with a special focus on the urban poor. With this interest she has been teaching and conducting studios with her students on how to bring a win-win strategy to rehouse the poor inner city dwellers of Addis Ababa a city which is undergoing huge redevelopment process. She has collaborated with Prof. Peter Kellet from University of Newcastle to research the transformation of peoples’ lifestyles under the title ‘From Courtyards to Condominiums’ by looking at two cases the single floor old housing in the inner city and the new multi floor condominiums and how the change affects the lifestyle of people.

Richard Ballard

Dr. Richard Ballard

Gauteng City-Region Observatory

Dr. Richard Ballard is a principal researcher at the Gauteng City-Region Observatory. He is trained in the field of geography, having completed an Honours Degree in Geography at the University of Natal in 1994 and a PHD in Geography at the University of Wales, Swansea, in 2002. Richard's research has followed two broad themes. The first is the way in which white people have experienced desegregation as experienced in post-apartheid cities. This includes reactions to street traders, shack dwellers, desegregating suburbs, and an analysis of gated communities. The second is the way in which government and the public interact in the context of poverty and joblessness, with a particular interest in social movements, participatory mechanisms, the role of ward and PR councillors, and social policy mechanisms such as cash transfers. His research at GCRO includes urban mixing and new large-scale private developments.

For Richard's most recent publications and other projects, see:


Alli Appelbaum

Alli Appelbaum

University of the Witwatersrand

Alli Appelbaum is a researcher at the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. She holds a Masters in Regional and Urban Planning Studies (with distinction) from the London School of Economics and Political Science, as well as a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Urban History (in the first class) and a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and History (with distinction), both from the University of Cape Town. Her largest recent projects include work on middle-class suburban governance and transit-oriented development in Johannesburg.

She does a variety of ad hoc work for the Living the Urban Periphery project, including research through key informant interviews and developing and managing the website.