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.

June 2023
Upcoming Events
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
v22        1 2 3 4
v23  5 6 7 8 9 10 11
v24  12 13 14 15 16 17 18
v25  19 20 21 22 23 24 25
v26  26 27 28 29 30    


Call for Project Proposals Pdf, 402.9 kB.

Deadline: 15 September 2022


- Fourth Call for Research Proposals Pdf, 1.3 MB.

Closed: 1 September 2022


- Catalysing Curriculum Change at Universities in SSA 2022 Pdf, 1.3 MB.

Deadline extended to 1 Nov. 2022


Deadline: 31 October 2022

MOBILITY GRANT 2022- MAC-MG 2022 Pdf, 447.1 kB.

Deadline: 31 October 2022

Blog! Blog! Blog!

Global Mobility Research

This Meeting of the Minds' blog monthly releases interviews of global transportation researchers from the VREF's Future Urban Transport Program Network.


This CityFix series, produced by the WRI (World Ressources Institute) Ross Center for Sustainable Cities and supported by the VREF, discusses walking and cycling in cities with a special focus on low- and middle-income countries.

About VREF

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). 

Our Vision: Sustainable transport for equitable access in urban areas


© Copyright VREF