2020: A Year in Review

11 Dec 2020 - 12:45

The year 2020 has been an incredibly taxing time for many of us, both personally and professionally. URERU has experienced a number of disruptions and challenges as we had to adapt to new ways of working in a world besieged by a global pandemic. Nevertheless, we are still able to look back over the past 12 months with a sense of pride in URERU’s achievements. We are also embracing a growing sense of optimism for the year ahead with the prospect of our lives, and hence our work at URERU, returning to some degree of normality.

Below we have outlined some of our biggest milestones in 2020 in terms of our research, the impact of our work and various other activities we have been involved with. Further, we have put together some key areas of work we plan on executing in 2021.


Due to the restrictions the global pandemic brought with it, we decided to spend 2020 consolidating our research projects and limiting the establishment of new research projects.

This year saw a strong technological focus to the research work that we have been engaged with. These projects were centred around technology and its increasing role in urban development and real estate. In March we started a project examining open data in South African municipalities and understanding the challenges that city governments in South Africa face when looking to drive data-driven forms of governance. This work will be published early next year. We also expanded on the Property Technology (PropTech) research. This project focusses on mapping the PropTech ecosystem across Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in an attempt to better understanding this burgeoning sector. We published a report on East African Proptech firms and are currently mapping West Africa’s PropTech ecosystem. We also concluded our smart city report series that looked at the City of Cape Town’s (CoCT) Digital City Strategy. You can access the reports from our website.

In terms of other research work we are using a number of public and private databases to analyse the residential and commercial property markets in Cape Town. This will form an important platform for a number of research projects that will have direct impact for policy development and supporting sustainable growth in the property sector.

Finally, we have continued our work on the Night-time Economy with the Central City Improvement District in Cape Town’s CBD. This research is becoming central to the recovery strategy for the city’s CBD.


A fundamental objective of URERU is to produce research that has direct applicability to policy and practice. Our work in 2020 is testament to the central role research institutions can play in bridging knowledge and operational gaps between public and private sector.

Our work has played an important role in supporting the development of policy in Cape Town. Our work on micro-developers in Khayelitsha in part led to the formal recognition of these micro-enterprises. The CoCT has since put forward a number of recommendations to support micro-developers and the important role they play in providing affordable rental accommodation at scale. We are also working closely with the CoCT in developing their Inclusionary Housing Policy and the broader Human Settlements Strategy. We  also inputted  into the CoCT’s post-COVID recovery strategy.

Aside from policy support we have also been proactive about providing platforms for skills development, dialogue and bridging gaps between the public and private sector. Earlier in the year we established the Public Sector Property Forum which is housed in our Public Land Development Research Programme. The forum aims to undertake research to support public sector property development, build collaboration between stakeholders undertaking public property development, build a body of knowledge for ‘best practice’; and provide training and support for public property development. A number of online forum seminars have been held with municipalities, provincial governments and State owned Enterprises from across the country, covering topics on how to add value to the development process; how to extract broader socio-economic value from developments; and the different types of transactional structures that can be used in public private type property developments. To replace our face-to-face quarterly seminars we created the round table seminars in partnership with Quoin online. Five seminars have been held this year covering a range of real estate related topics. We are also in the process of releasing a series of ‘fireside chats’ with legends of the South African property sector which will be released soon.

Other Activities:

In term of other activities not listed above, we have continued to build on the success of the Journal of African Real Estate Research and are about to release out latest issue. In August URERU underwent a 5-year review to be reaccredited by UCT in order to remain as a research unit until 2025. In addition, the research unit has incubated the birth of a new research unit within the Construction Economics and Management Department at UCT; Sustainability & Cyber Research Unit for the Built Environment (S+CUBE). The aim of S+CUBE is to develop a rapidly responsive research agenda which allows us to gain an understanding of the impact 4.0 IR on a sustainable built environment as well as the way in which new technologies will improve the linkages that exist between the various components outlined before. Finally, in other work we have updated and amended the map of the development process in partnership with the Western Cape Property Development Forum based on discussions with industry professionals. You can access the updated version here.

What to Expect in 2021:

Next year we hope to get back to business as usual and complete our projects on PropTech and the Night-time Economy. In 2021 ours seminars will experiment with a new format which will include study tours. We are also looking to publish some of our early research findings from the Property Data project. The unit is currently in the process of creating a book on African real estate which we plan on publishing towards the end of 2021. In terms of new research directions, we plan on also investigating the economics of land use management schemes. We will also be focusing research on examining real estate decision-making in public and private sector. Lastly, it is intended to extend the scope and reach of Public Sector Property Forum and plan to deepen the work we have been carrying out in providing input to different economic and housing policies being developed by the CoCT.