Sindiswa Sympathy Mtetwa


Sindiswa Sympathy Mtetwa

Research Info

The role of public participation in city branding processes as a tool for urban regeneration in a South African City: A case study of the city of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal

Since ancient times cities around the world have been constantly transforming themselves to meet the standards of the current regimes. In an increasingly competitive and interconnected global economy, cities are strategically adopting various models and approaches that enable them to differentiate themselves and their products from other cities.  This has led to an increase in cities reinventing and renovating themselves through various urban regeneration projects and programmes. one such model is the city branding model, where cities create and develop a city brand that show a positive perception of their city. Much popular in western countries, South African metropolitan cities including the city of Durban have also adopted the concept of city branding in order to compete at a global level. 

Although the concept of city branding has not received much scholarly attention, there has been an increase in the debates on city branding mainly around the issue of importance of city branding in developing countries. In the forefront of these debates is the issue of public participation in city branding and urban regeneration processes. Zooming specifically to South African cities which have been characterised with issues of inequalities and social exclusion, this study pursued to understand the role of public participation in city branding processes, using the City of Durban as a case study.  The city of Durban has been specifically selected because it is spatially fascinating thus making it a unique product of urban regeneration and it is amongst the few metropolitan cities in South Africa to be branded and unlike its competitors the city of Johannesburg and Cape Town, it is not fully developed, which poses the opportunity to explore. 

Applying a qualitative research approach, this study selected a sample of 37 respondents to firstly capture the knowledge and perception of residents on the Durban city brand.  It also seeks to examine the nature and extent of public participation in the branding of South African metropolitan cities by ascertaining the key stakeholders.

Lastly, the study assessed whether there is a correlation between city branding and urban regeneration in the city of Durban.  The study findings showed that the City of Durban has made commendable progress in rejuvenating the city and developing a sustainable city brand but with a few underlying challenges.  Through using various methods including social medium platforms, surveys and formulating policies, the city of Durban continues to find effective ways to engage and promote public participation.  This study thus supports consistent collaborative planning in decision-making processes in order to enable communities and authorities to communicate effectively to encourage meaningful public participation.