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.

Register fo 5ASDC

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uMAMA researchers participate at International Renewable Energy Conference

On 26 – 28 October, uMAMA Research Group Leader, Dr Josephine Musango and PhD researcher, Suzanne Smit, participated at the International Renewable Energy Conference held in Gaborone, Botswana.

A paper titled, 'an investigation into energy flows in urban slums in an African context' was presented, which is also co-authored with Dr Zora Kovacic and Professor Alan Brent of Industrial Engineering and uMAMA Research Group co-Leader. The paper argues that we need to understand the
material reality of slums and their role as complex subsystems that affect and are affected by the wider urban system. Furthermore, we need to challenge our conceptions and assumptions about slums and their inhabitants and engage in real world, bottom-up research that portrays the material reality of these spaces if we ever want to provide affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.


Registration for 4ASDC

You are kindly reminded to register for the Fourth Annual System Dynamics Conference (4ASDC) which will take place in Stellenbosch on 17-18 November using the link:
Proof of registration fees payment should be send to and
Registration deadline has been extended to
25 October 2016.
Please note that the conference venue is:
Markötter, Paul Roos, Stellenbosch. Conference Schedule is available here and information on the directions to the venue and possible accommodation around Stellenbosch is available here.
If you have any queries please contact Josephine and Mapule on and  respectively.


Second Chicago Forum for Global Cities

Excited Matie student, George Frederick (Rickus) Cronje is back from meeting global leaders at the Chicago Forum for Global Cities held on 1 – 3 June 2016 in Chicago, USA.

The conference brought together global leaders from business, education, culture and civics. Topics were addressed in the form of panel discussions where a variety of global cities were represented. The panel discussions were superbly moderated by Financial Times journalists and ranged from topics such as transportation hubs to cultural heritage, safety threats, inclusivity, disruptive technologies, climate change and many more. All panel discussions can be freely accessed online at:

At the conference, ‘I served as Stellenbosch University's representative and formed part of the Student Delegation. The Student Delegation consisted of 28 students from 21 different countries and I was the only African student’, says Rickus.

An experience and food for thought that stood out for Rickus was his engagement with Claudio Orrego, Governor of the Metropolitan Region of Santiago, Chile. Claudio emphasised that ‘if we want to decrease violence in cities we should invest in high quality infrastructure in the poorest communities of cities. We build social ghettos and then wonder why there is violence’.

Claudio’s argument relates well with Rickus Master’s research which is titled: A Business Case for Renewable Energy Technology Leapfrogging in Informal Settlements, supervised by Dr Josephine Kaviti Musango at School of Public Leadership and co-supervised by Imke de Kock at Industrial Engineering. His Masters study is part of urban Modelling and Metabolism Assessment (uMAMA), a research team within the Centre for Complex Systems in Transitions (CST), which aims to engage with various stakeholders ranging from city planners, decision-makers, scholars and civil society in co-creating sustainable cities and communities. Rickus has a heart for community development and would like to use his new-found perspective in being a catalyst for change in underserved communities.

Rickus’ nomination and selection to participate at the 2nd Chicago Forum on Global Cities came through the Postgraduate & International Office and School of Public Leadership.

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Our Student Delegation:
Myself and Ivo Daalber, President, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs:

Myself at the Chicago Forum on Global Cities: