SPL Researchers Participate in SU–Makerere University Outreach

To celebrate and strengthen the long standing collaborative relationship between Stellenbosch University and Makerere University, the Centre for Collaboration in Africa (CCA) afforded several postgraduate students and young staff the opportunity to visit and explore the Southern region of Uganda, on 4-9 September 2017. Among the delegation were Suzanne Smit, PhD candidate, and Dr Jacquie Walubwa, PostdDoctoral Fellow, from the School of Public leadership who were representing the urban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment (uMAMA) research group.

uMAMA, under leadership of Prof Josephine Kaviti Musango, is currently working on a cross African research project with Dr Amollo Ambole from the University of Nairobi, Kenya and Dr Kareem Buyana from Makerere University, Uganda to develop co-designed gender responsive options for improved household energy provision and better health outcomes in urban informal settlements.

Ms Smit, whose research focuses on human activity, land-use and energy flows in urban informal settlements, described the visit as being “deeply impactful in terms of the cultural nuances and historical context”. “My work has thus far been limited to the South African landscape and this has been a real eye-opener, especially with regard to the size and scope of the informal economy and the differences in informal settlement types in Uganda. This visit has reaffirmed my belief in research that is contextually grounded and the need to understand what drives the phenomenon of slums or informal settlements across Africa. Nothing quite drives this home than exploring these spaces first hand.”

According to Dr Walubwa the visit to Africa was a learning experience for improved collaborations from one centre of excellence to another.

SU_Makerere team photo
Front: Dr Amollo Ambole (Nairobi University and Principal Investigator), back right: Dr Buyana Kareem (Co-investigator, Makerere University); to his left: Dr Jacque Walubwa (Stellenbosch Univ) and to her Left: Suzanne Smit (Stellenbosch University). Other members include community leaders, field researchers and researchers from Makerere University.

LIRA proposal: Gendered Geographies of Energy Transitions

LIRA 2030's second call for proposals is out and one of uMAMA collaborators, Dr. Kareem Buyana is currently participating in a trans-disciplinary training being held in Kampala. He will be presenting on gendered geographies of energy transitions in line with the current LIRA project.

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uMAMA researchers attend International System Dynamics Summer School and Conference in Boston

Prof. Josephine K. Musango and Benjamin Batinge of the urban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment Research Team (uMAMA) based in the School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University, attended the 2017 Conference of the international System Dynamics Society, hosted in Boston in July 2017, to share their latest research on electricity access in Africa. A one-week Summer School precedes the conference. Mr Batinge participated in the Summer School, hosted by the System Dynamics group of MIT. Also in attendance was a wide range of participants from across the globe and industry. As part of a welcome reception on the first day, participants played “the beer game” – (a supply chain game involving decision-making in dynamic environment). They also interacted with the epidemic and market growth models. The participants at this year´s Summer School were grouped into two based on their level of exposure to System Dynamics Modelling: beginner and advanced groups. The beginner track was for individuals with little or no experience with System Dynamics Modelling. The advanced track involved more in-depth modelling techniques including soft systems, model calibrations, and optimization.

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Benjamin in a lecture room at the MIT Sloan School of Management

The classes where conducted by three MIT professors, each focusing on a different modelling dimension. All classes were held at the MIT Sloan School of Management. The summer school lectures spanned nine hours, starting at 8:00 am till 5:00 pm. In-between sessions, there were two breaks (morning and late afternoon) and then a lunch break lasting an hour. At the end of each day, there was a presentation pertaining practical application of system Dynamics.
After the Summer School, the sixtieth anniversary of System Dynamics (organized by the System Dynamics Society), and held in Boston, Cambridge, commenced the following week. The annual System Dynamics PhD Colloquium preceded the conference. The conference brought together practitioners, thinkers and researchers working in different fields including engineering, economics, business, health, and psychology, among others. The uMAMA team presented a paper: Batinge B., Musango K. J., and Brent A. C. (2017). Boosting electricity access in Africa through private sector financing. The paper, co-authored by Mr Batinge and his PhD advisors; Prof. Musango and Prof. Brent, investigates the potential and viability of private sector funding as a conduit to attaining universal energy access in Africa by 2030.

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Prof. Josephine Musango and Benjamin Batinge at the poster presentation session

The uMAMA team´s research at the conference was presented both in the poster session and model expo. As one of the few presentations pertaining Africa, it attracted attention of participants and a continuous interaction throughout the session. The team received positive feedback from individuals of similar research focus. During the model expo session, participants had the opportunity to interact with models displayed on computers. They provided insights, suggestions, and ideas on how individual models can be improved.
The system Dynamics Society contains various special interest groups such as energy, economics, business, health, environment, and agriculture. There are also sub-regional and country chapters such as African and South African chapters respectively. These special interest groups and chapters often meet a number of times a year. At the conference where a significant number of their members converge, it is an ideal meeting place and time for these groups.

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Some participants of the South African Chapter Meeting at the International System Dynamics Conference

The South African Chapter of the System Dynamics Society had a meeting during the conference. In attendance were members of the South African chapter present, and other African chapter members. Also in attendance were affiliate members whose research or areas of interest relates to South African or Africa in general. Above is a picture of some attendants at the chapter meeting. Overall, the conference was very successful and next year´s conference is scheduled to take place in Reykjavik, Iceland. The uMAMA team strives to advance its research activities and participate in the upcoming South African System Dynamics Conference scheduled for November at the University of Pretoria, and also with more papers at the International System Dynamics Conference next year.

uMAMA research is showcased at the 2017 ISIE-ISSST Conference in Chicago

Prof. Josephine K Musango and Paul K Currie, of the urban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment Research Team (uMAMA) based in the School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University, attended the 2017 Conference of the international Society of Industrial Ecology, hosted in Chicago in June 2017, to share their latest research into resource consumption in urbanising Africa. The conference brings together practitioners, thinkers and researchers working in industrial ecology, a field concerned with resource flows and sustainability in different industries, cities and economies.

They presented five papers:

Baynes T & Musango JK. estimation of global urban domestic material consumption.
Currie P & Musango J. A sustainable urban utopia – derived through a critical urban metabolism framework.
Musango JK & Currie P. The resource implications of informal upgrading in Cape Town: Lessons from Differential Urban Metabolism
Currie P & Musango JK. Measuring Household Metabolism in the City of Cape Town: A first step to a Differential Urban Metabolis
Bergesen J, Baynes T, Musango JK, Suh S. Integrated life cycle assessment of resource efficient urban systems


Tim Baynes, of CSIRO, presented a paper co-authored with Josephine based on research they are contributing to the UNEP’s report, Resources for Future Urbanisation (REFURB). The presentation detailed the process and outputs of estimating domestic urban consumption levels for each of the world regions, and the various scenarios which project future consumption trends. Similarly, Sangwon Suh, of University of California - Santa Barbara, also presented a co-authored paper in which Josephine contributed, based on REFURB project.

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The uMAMA project, The resource implications of informal upgrading in Cape Town: Lessons from Differential Urban Metabolism, was presented both orally and as a poster (found here) The project constitutes Paul’s PhD study and a few Master’s level studies and will investigate in detail how resources are consumed in different areas of Cape Town, over time. uMAMA understands urban metabolism as “a complexity of socio-technical and socio-ecological processes by which flows of materials, energy, people and information shape the city, service the needs of its populace, and impact the surrounding hinterland” The image bellow shows an analogy for our knowledge of the metabolism of cities, and arguing for a differential understanding of urban metabolism:

DUM Allegory
Analogising our current understanding of urban metabolism as a low-resolution image of the city of Cape Town. Urban Metabolic studies offer some useful basic information, perhaps detailing the type and quantity of resources through the city, perhaps allowing comparison of the relative resource efficiency of different cities, but not providing enough detail to guide local actions by urban planners and managers. The importance of a differential urban metabolic assessment is to provide this image of a city with more definition, so as to support local actions. This is necessarily more data intense, but with more data, a higher resolution image of the city’s metabolism may emerge.


uMAMA aims to communicate much of its quantitative research findings in novel ways, making use of visualisation and storytelling to share the notions of urban metabolism and urban resource sustainability to wider audiences. As part of the conference’s lightning presentations, Paul read a poem (available here), named the memory of water (or Cape Town’s unsustainable linear water metabolism and the lack of anticipatory planning that led to crisis), which conveyed some of the feelings related to the Western Cape’s prevailing water emergency.

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views of downtown Chicago past the Chicago River (left) and Lake Michigan (right).


The conference was an invaluable event for networking with thought leaders in industrial ecology and urban metabolism. The growth of the concept of urban metabolism across the discourses of political, urban, industrial and human ecology is promising, and uMAMA looks forward to more engagement with in the Sustainable Urban Systems chapter of the society, as well as to presenting the outcomes of its continued research at ISIE 2019 in Beijing.




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