Urban-Scale Material Flow Analysis in a South African Context: A Cape Town Feasibility Study

Thesis
2015

Urban-scale Material Flow Analyses (MFAs) in the global south provide unique challenges compared to national MFAs and to urban MFAs in the north. In order to determine the feasibility of undertaking an urban-scale MFA in the global south, this dissertation sets out to undertake an MFA on Cape Town, and thoroughly analyze the data collection process, document the challenges, and interpret data quantity and quality. Data were found for nearly all flows defined in the Eurostat methodology, but only for the most recent of three consecutive years under study. Data quality is challenged by high variance in reliability of sources, difficulty in obtaining documents, additional work required to process the data, lack of data on informal or illegal flows, and the scattered distribution of sources. Data collection took 345 hours during a period of 22 and involved interaction with a total of 325 contacts and 86 documents. The principal activities were related to contacting and interacting with people. Most time was spent on e-mailing and meeting people, and significant time was furthermore spent on transportation to and from meetings. Not all time was spent effectively and efficiently. Chasing unreliable data and unproductive cross-checking were the principal culprits. Despite the challenges, the quantity and quality of data are of a sufficient level to provide interesting insights into the urban metabolism for Cape Town, and undertaking this kind of urban-scale MFA is thus deemed feasible. Once a time-consuming, initial MFA has identified valuable and reliable sources, periodic repetition should be relatively uncomplicated. Through government involvement or industry cooperation, data collection and data sharing with a few key stakeholders can make regular urban MFA reporting a feasible reality. This work shows who those key stakeholders are and how researchers and government can undertake and improve future urban MFA studies - not only on Cape Town but also on other regions and cities in South Africa.

Reference spaces

  • Cape Town