Photo: University Cape Town

The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Micro-dynamics and Macro-processes: a Maputo-Johannesburg comparative study of intrahousehold decision-making and state-investment in transit

EP-2019-MAC-03, Associate Professor Sarah Charlton



Governments in South Africa and Mozambique have made significant investments in transport infrastructure over the last decade but this has not always resulted in changes to transit patterns in the metropolitan areas of Johannesburg and Maputo. To understand how transport infrastructure is used by residents in these cities, this research project will examine the nuances of household mobility, access and decision-making in selected sites in Johannesburg and Maputo, and locate these everyday and lived experiences relative to government transport plans and policies in each location.

The institutional partners are the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), including three research entities Gauteng City-Region Observatory, Centre for Urban and Built Environment Studies and South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, and in Maputo, the University of Eduardo Mondlane. There will also be additional support from partners at the University of Sheffield and ETH Zurich.

The study will use a variety of disciplinary approaches broadly connected to urban studies and a range of methods, including an innovative mobile app to monitor and map access and mobility, focus groups, auto-photography, digital diaries and deep qualitative interviews. A key feature is the engagement of both undergraduate and postgraduate students who will undertake aspects of the research under staff supervision.

Aside from the fieldwork, the project also intends to undertake a joint team workshop in each city, exposing students to research team dialogue and comparative methodological approaches, and helping build and strengthen existing relationships between the two institutions that have been fostered over the last decade. While the two cities of Johannesburg and Maputo are geographically relatively close to one-another on the continent, they have distinct histories and features, as well as some similarities, making for rich comparative research although this has been relatively limited to date.

Associate Professor Sarah Charlton directed CUBES from July 2013 to December 2014 and is Associate Director of CUBES in 2019. She has been teaching in the School of Architecture & Planning at Wits since 2003, and prior to that worked for eThekwini municipality and for the housing and development-oriented non profit organisation Built Environment Support Group (BESG).

Her academic research explores the ways in which poor people make use of the city, with a particular interest in the geographies of ‘home’ and ‘work’. She has a long-standing interest and involvement in housing, and her doctorate focused on the South African government’s ‘RDP’ housing programme.

Current research interests include everyday lives in the city, and the interface between development initiatives of the state and peoples’ responses to these.

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VREF invites applications for research grants to support
projects to be implemented 2022 under the programme for “Mobility & Access in African Cities”.

Deadline: 15 September 2021

MOBILITY GRANT 2021- MAC-MG 2021PDF (pdf, 443.4 kB)

The VREF invites PhD students and advanced master students from Sub-Saharan African (SSA) universities to apply for a Mobility Grant (MG) to support a visit to another SSA university with up to SEK 25 000.


The VREF invites PhD students and researchers in early stages of their career to apply for a Study Visit Grant to be supported with up to SEK 30 000.

CALL FOR NOMINATION FOR the Håkan Frisinger Award for Excellence in Transportation Research

The VREF invites universities located in Sweden to nominate candidates for The Håkan Frisinger Award (Håkan Frisingers pris till framstående transportforskare) and apply for a VREF Visiting Researcher Grant for the nominated candidate.

Closed on 2021-03-15.

Read more...PDF (pdf, 233.8 kB)

Lee Schipper Memorial Scholarships for Sustainable Transport and Energy Efficiency targets supporting the momentum of Lee Schipper’s contribution to the international policy dialogue in these fields.

This yearly award is aimed at supporting young individual researchers and students in is pursuance.

Call deadline: March 1, 2021 .


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The Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF) inspires, initiates and supports research and educational activities through the Future Urban Transport Programme - How to deal with the complexity of urban transport (FUT). 

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