This chapter discusses whether South Africa is currently addressing a new emerging international urban agenda, particularly fostered by UNESCO, which promotes a cultural approach to rural and urban development. This agenda is rooted in cultural and indigenous planning, which is seen as a condition to achieve sustainability. It is essential to engage meaningfully with local communities and their diversities, and ultimately to enable a post-colonial transition of a deeply divided country like South Africa.
To do so, the IUDF (Integrated Urban Development Framework), a strategic national policy document adopted in 2016, is examined. The aim is to understand whether this document challenges, or conversely legitimates, existing euro-centric urban models, which are deemed problematic to fully recognise the diversity and the needs of people and places in former colonial countries. The authors argue that the merit of this policy lies in the acknowledgement of the rural-urban interdependencies of South Africa, and the need of increasing community participation, which are both premises of valuing African cultural values. However, while the diagnosis is correct, most solutions proposed are still primarily western-centric, and the historic roots of inequality are not systematically addressed, with the risk of perpetuating social divisions and culture-deaf urban planning approaches.