Does Sustainable Development Guarantee Liveability and Inclusivity: A Comment on the African Cities?

The spatial challenges across the world have motivated several researchers to evolve several concepts and theories to aid spatial development, ensuring that development is undertaken so that all facets of the urban space are considered. In a rapidly urbanizing world with high economic, environmental, and social instability, decision-makers increasingly turn to programs and policies to enhance urban development. The various approaches to urban development evolved by various scholars and urban development experts include sustainable urban development, urban liveability, and Inclusive development.

While sustainable development remains a complicated endeavour and is “not readily captured in precise definition,” a variety of organizations, including municipalities, states, advocacy groups, and private corporations, have accepted the challenge, examining their actions and assessing progress towards sustainability (Bell and Morse 2008). In setting sustainable urban development objectives and steering policies to meet them, many organizations recognize the importance of evidence-driven tools for measuring success and understanding progress. According to urban scholars, the sustainable urban development notion can be examined on the triad of economic prosperity, social development, and environmental considerations as indicators (Bauler et al., 2007; Morse and Bell, 2012). These indicators of sustainable urban development aid the evaluation of development in a manner that is relative to present and future development.

In the continuous evaluation of city development, sustainable urban development is considered insufficient to meet the city’s needs, which is the opening point for urban liveability. This aspect is critical to city development as observable evidence has shown that cities could attain sustainability but lack the essential ingredient of liveability. Litman (2010) perceived liveability as the subset of sustainability goals that directly affect community members, such as local economic development, local environmental quality, equity, affordability, public safety and health, and community cohesion (positive interactions among neighbours).

Extant literature has established three important indicators critical to urban liveability ideals: quality of life, liveable communities, and placemaking or shaping (Aulia, 2016). These indicators have helped to measure urban liveability within the city system effectively. Looking at the critical measuring indicators of urban liveability, which requires that the city becomes an aggregation of liveable communities, residents’ quality of life is enhanced. Place-shaping endeavours are given the right of place, thereby promoting a healthy environment. It is also noteworthy that a city might attain sustainability and be liveable, but inclusivity might be a challenge.

According to UN-Habitat (2015), making human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, as propounded by the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 11 of the United Nations (UN), is a major developmental challenge. The principal purpose of the inclusivity paradigm includes improving access to (i) adequate, safe, and affordable housing to reduce the proportion of the urban population living in slums, informal settlements, or inadequate housing; (ii) an affordable public transport system, and (iii) safe, inclusive, green and public spaces.

Consequently, cities in Africa which are regularly quoted as some of the world’s most exclusionary cities, are seen making efforts to improve access to housing and reduce inequalities (Turok, 2018). Spatial inequalities (e.g., segregating patterns) and socio-economic inequalities such as income distribution, interlinked with racial differentiation, describe the city (Everatt, 2014). UN-Habitat (2015) evaluated inclusivity on a triad of safety, resilience, and equity. Noting that for a city to be deemed inclusive, it must pass the threshold of being a safe environment that provides equal opportunity to all the groups within her space and provide resilient infrastructure against various challenges but natural and man-made. Various areas of linkages and tension have been noticeable in evaluating these concepts. Therefore, these noticeable linkages and tension are aggregated into a triad of consumption patterns in terms of resources intake and utilization, access to the city, and equity for all concerned persons in the city.

This triad of indicators that tries to address the inefficiencies within sustainability, urban liveability, and inclusivity can motivate a paradigmatic change in city development. Therefore, the way forward in the analysis of city development is to appraise the city development from the standpoint of strength and the mitigated disadvantage of consumption pattern in resource use, access to the city for all groups, and equity for all residents and classes within the city spaces. In the final analysis, it is observable that a city can be deemed sustainable but not achieve liveability.

Also, sustainability and urban liveability can be achieved within the city space but with complete neglect of inclusivity, thereby excluding certain groups or classes of residents within the city spaces either in housing, transport, public spaces, or economic exclusions. Hence, the three crucial elements must be effectively enhanced for holistic city development.


  1. Aulia, D. N. (2016). A framework for exploring liveable communities in the residential environment. Case study: public housing in Medan, Indonesia. Procedia-social and behavioural sciences, 234, 336-343.
  2. Bauler, T., Douglas, I., Daniels, P., Demkine, V., Eisenmenger, N., Grosskurth, J., & van Woerden, J. (2007). We are identifying methodological challenges. Sustainability indicators: a scientific assessment, 49-64.
  3. Bell, S., & Morse, S. (2012). Sustainability indicators: measuring the immeasurable? Routledge.
  4. Litman, T. (2010). Sustainability and liveability: Summary definitions, goals, objectives, and performance indicators. Victoria Transport Policy Institute: British Columbia
  5. Turok, I. (2018). Worlds apart: spatial inequalities in South Africa. Confronting inequality: The South African crisis. Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 129-151.
  6. UN-Habitat (2015). Sustainable Development Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. A Guide to Assist National and Local Governments to Monitor and Report on SDG Goal 11 + Indicators Monitoring Framework – Definitions – Metadata – UN-Habitat Technical Support. Retrieved from


Medayese Samuel is a thoroughbred Urban and Regional Planner. He had his first degree in urban and Regional Planning from the Federal University of Technology Minna and a Masters’s from Ibadan, Nigeria. Medayese Samuel is currently researching for his Ph.D. in Town and Regional Planning at the University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa, in the Town and Regional Planning Discipline under the Supervision of Prof. H.H Magidimisha-Chipungu-SARChI Chair for Inclusive-Cities; research where he hopes to unveil the nexus of sustainable urban development-Urban liveability-Inclusive physical development in North-Central Nigeria; hoping this research will evolve a model for a paradigm shift in City development in Africa. He is widely published in highly-rated books and journals published by reputable international publishers. Most of his publications are focused on Transport development, Urban development, planning evolution, and sustainable urban development. Medayese Samuel is currently a part of the team in the SARChI Chair for Inclusive Cities project, School of Built Environment and Development Studies, UKZN.

Samuel Medayese; Hangwelani Magidimisha-Chipungu
University of KwaZulu-Natal

Related Posts