This research analyses how the urban form and internal structure of the city of Cape Town, South Africa, has changed in recent decades.

Using satellite imagery and census data, it examines overall disparities in growth, internal socioeconomic dynamics and infrastructure within the city. An innovative, data-driven method is used to identify and compare distinct neighbourhood types that make up the city’s physical, social and economic fabric.

Key findings:
  • Cape Town is one of the most unequal and segregated cities in the world.
  • More than 25 years into democracy, the city has not changed its basic colonial and apartheid urban form.
  • Economic gaps, infrastructure deficiencies and housing dynamics perpetuate historic injustices and create new urban challenges (informality, violent crime, land occupation).
  • In-migration is shifting the racial mix, but race and social class remain
    the dominant factors that shape neighbourhood differences.
  • Some neighbourhoods along the Voortrekker Road corridor are changing more quickly, reflecting their proximity to economic nodes and more affordable property.
  • More concerted policies and determined implementation around education, health, affordable housing, policing and basic services are required to shift the trajectory towards a more integrated and inclusive city.