Vanessa Watson

Emeritus Professor

Is currently a senior research scholar in the City and Regional Planning post-graduate programme in the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, and is a founder and executive member of the African Centre for Cities at UCT.

She publishes and is on the editorial boards of several international journals in the field of city planning, and is the Global South Editor of Urban Studies. Her field of research is planning theory, and she is PI on a research project funded by ESRC/Dfid called Consuming Urban Poverty, and PI of the Dfid funded project Planning and Corruption in Africa, both operating under the auspices of the African Centre for Cities

Recent Publications:

Journal articles:

Watson V (2020 in press): Decolonizing Planning Education: perspectives from the global south. Arcplan

Skinner C and V Watson (2020): Planning and informal food traders under Covid-19: the South African case.  Town Planning Review, Viewpoint.

Watson, V (2020): Digital Visualisation As a New Driver of Urban Change in Africa, Urban Planning,   DOI: 10.17645/up.vXiX.2989

Watson, V (2019): The return of the city-region in the new urban agenda: is this relevant in the Global South? Regional Studies Pp 1-10

Battersby J and V Watson (2019) The planned ‘city-region’ in the New Urban Agenda: an appropriate framing for urban food security?  Town Planning Review.  Pp 498-518

Skinner C and V Watson (2019) The informal economy in cities of the global south: challenges to the planning lexicon. Urban Planning International 34(2)  DOI:10.22217/upi.2018.548. Translated into Chinese from chapter in book Bhan G et al 2018.

Battersby J and V Watson (2018) Addressing food security in African cities, Nature (Sustainability). volume 1, April, 153-155. Available at:

Borland, R, R Morrell and V Watson (2018) Southern Agency: Navigating National and Global Imperatives in Climate Research. Global Environmental Politics 18(3).

Watson V (2017) Planning and the new urban agenda, Urban Design, Winter: 12-13. 

Watson, V (2016) Shifting Approaches to Planning Theory: Global North and South,  Urban Planning 1(4): 32-41.  DOI: 10.17645/up.v1i4.727
Open access at

Watson, V (2016)  Locating Planning in the New Urban Agenda of the Urban Sustainable Development Goal. Planning Theory 15(4) 435-448.

Watson, V (2016) Planning mono-culture or planning difference? Planning Theory and Practice 4.  10.1080/14649357.2016.1230364 online

Smit, W., de Lannoy, A., Dover, R. V. H., Lambert, E. V., Levitt, N., & Watson, V. (2015). Making unhealthy places: The built environment and non-communicable diseases in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Health & Place, 35, 11-18.

Watson, V (2015): The allure of ‘smart city’ rhetoric: India and Africa. Dialogues in Human Geography, 5(1), 36-39.

Watson V (2014): The case for a Southern perspective in planning theory. International Journal of E-Planning Research, 3(1), pp 23-37.

Watson V (2014): Will the profession speak out? Winners and losers in the future African city. Planning Theory and Practice, Interface, 15 (1) pp 115-118. 

Watson, V (2014): Co-production and collaboration in planning – the difference. Planning Theory and Practice, 15 (1) pp 62-76. 

Watson, V (2014): African urban fantasies: dreams or nightmares? Environment and Urbanization, 26(1): 213-229

Watson, V (2013): The ethics of planners and their professional bodies: response to Flyvbjerg, Cities, 32, 167–168

Watson, V and N Odendaal (2013): Changing planning education in Africa: the role of the Association of African Planning Schools, Journal of Planning Education and Research, 33(1) pp. 96 – 107.

Watson, V (2013): Planning and the ‘stubborn realities’ of global south-east cities: some emerging ideas, Planning Theory 12(1), 81-100. (online May 24th2012)


Battersby J and V Watson (2020 in press) The planned ‘city-region’ in the New Urban Agenda: an appropriate framing for urban food security?  Jonathan Crush, Bruce Frayne and Gareth Haysom (eds.), International Handbook on Urban Food Security in the Global South (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar). Chapter 17

Skinner, C and V Watson (2020): The Informal Economy in Urban Africa: Challenging Planning Theory and Praxis, in The Informal Economy Revisited: examining the past, envisioning the future: pp 123-131,  M Chen and F Carre (editors). Routledge. ISBN 9780367191511

Watson, V (2020): Urban policy mobilities and city futures: the case of African cities. In Dilworth R and T Weaver (eds), pp 214-227. The role of ideas in urban political development, University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia. ISBN 978-0-8122-5225-5

Battersby, J and V Watson (2018): Improving urban food security in African cities: Critically assessing the role of informal retailers.   in Integrating Food into Urban Planning, Y Cabannes and C Marocchino (eds), Food and Agricultural Organization and UCL Press.

Watson, V and G Siame (2018): Alternative participatory planning practices in the global south: learning from co-production processes in informal communities. In S Knierbien and T Viderman (eds) Public space unbound: urban emancipation and the post-political condition. Routledge.

Bhan, G, S Srinivas and V Watson (2018): Introduction. In G Bhan, S Srinivas and V Watson Eds: Routledge Companion to Planning in the Global South. Routledge: London and New York. 1-22. 

Skinner, S and V Watson (2018): The Informal Economy in Cities of the Global South: Challenges to the Planning Lexicon in G Bhan, S Srinivas and V Watson Eds: Routledge Companion to Planning in the Global South. Routledge: London and New York. 140-152.

Gunder, M, A Mandanipour and V Watson (2018): Planning Theory: an Introduction. The Routledge Handbook of Planning Theory. Routledge: New York and Abingdon. Pp 1-12.  

Odendaal N and V Watson (2018): Partnerships in planning education: the Association of African Planning Schools (AAPS). In A Frank and C Silver (eds), Urban Planning Education: Beginnings, Global Movement and Future Prospects. Springer. Pp 147-160    

Watson, V (2017): New African city plans: local urban form and the escalation of urban inequalities, in A Datta and A Shaban (eds) Mega-urbanization in the Global South : Fast Cities and New Urban Utopias of the Postcolonial State. Pp 54-65 Routledge : Abingdon.  

Watson, V., (2015) Planning and Development. In: James D. Wright (editor-in-chief), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, Vol 18. Oxford: Elsevier. pp. 180–186.

Watson, V (2014): Learning planning from the South: ideas from the new urban frontiers, in S Parnell and S Oldfield (eds) The Routledge Handbook on Cities of the Global South. Routledge: London and New York. Pp 98-108.

Duminy, J, N Odendaal and V Watson (2014): The Education and Research Imperatives of Urban Planning Professionals in Africa, S Parnell and E Pieterse (eds) Africa’s Urban Revolution: Policy Pressure. Zed Press. Pp 184-199. ISBN 978 1 78032 520 0 pb

Smit, W, A de Lannoy, R Dover, E Lambert, N Levitt, V Watson (2014): Good houses make good people: making knowledge about health and environment in Cape Town, in Africa-Centred Knowledges: Crossing Fields and Worlds, B Cooper and R Morrell (eds). James Curry: Suffolk. Pp 142-162

Watson, V (2013): The Post-colonial dimension, in M Acuto and W Steele (eds), Global City Challenges. Pp.88-100. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137286864

Duminy, J, V Watson and N Odendaal (2013): Doing research in African cities: the case study method. Eds P Kresl and J Sobrino. Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Urban Economies. Edward Elgar: Cheltenham. Pp 153-172. ISBN 978 0 85793 461 1

Watson, V (2013): Building a Southern perspective on urban planning using the comparative case method, in K Ward (ed): A World of Cities: comparison across the disciplines. Cities@Manchester, Manchester. Pp 23-30 (not peer reviewed).

Watson V. (2013): Planning theory and practice in a global context, in G Young and D Stevenson (eds), The Ashgate Research Companion to Planning and Culture, Pp 121-134, Ashgate. ISBN 9781409422242 HBK


Battersby J and V Watson eds (2019):  Urban Food Systems Governance and Poverty in African Cities. Routledge, London. Open access. :

De Satge R and V Watson (2018):  Urban Planning in the Global South: Conflicting rationalities in contested urban space.  Palgrave.

Dewar D, A Todes and V Watson (1986, republished 2018): Regional Development and Settlement Policy: Premises and Prospects, Routledge Library editions: urban and regional economics. Routledge: London and New York. 

G Bhan, S Srinivas and V Watson Eds (2018): Routledge Companion to Planning in the Global South. Routledge: London and New York. 

Gunder, M., and A. Madanipour and V Watson (eds) (2018): The Routledge Handbook of Planning Theory. Routledge: New York and Abingdon.

Dewar D and V Watson (1990 and republished 2018): Urban Markets: Developing Informal Retailing, Routledge, London. Republished by Routledge Library Editions

Duminy, J, J Andreasen, F Lerise, N Odendaal and V Watson (2014): Planning and the case study method in Africa: the planner in dirty shoes. Palgrave Mc Millan: UK. ISBN hbk 978-1-137-30794-1

Contact Details:

Phone : +27 (0)21 650 2387
Fax: +27 (0)21 650 2383