How cities can meet the needs of changing citizens in a changing world.

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PwC Cities and Urbanisation

PwC’s Future Cities model asks how cities can meet the needs of changing citizens in a changing world.

Future Cities

PwC’s Future Cities model asks how cities can meet the needs of changing citizens in a changing world. We consider the outcomes that make a successful city of the future, and the strategies and capabilities cities must adopt to achieve these.

These include areas, both traditional and modern, that should be high on all cities’ agendas. Although some of these may gain more press coverage, we do not view any one area as more important than another. Every city has its own problems, culture, capacity and politics and these determine what will work best.

Our focus is primarily to help city governments succeed, but there are few urban problems that can be solved without the involvement of local businesses, charities, communities, academics - and you and me.

City outcomes - Understanding city success

Personalised services

Treat citizens like customers

Citizens have diverse and complex needs which vary with their life stage and circumstances. Service delivery must be both personalised and responsive. For example, being able to see your bills online and up-to-date, or receiving an extra wheelie bin if you have a larger family.

Sustainability and resilience

Plan for the worst

Ensure that when things go wrong, services can be maintained, people and assets protected, and resources preserved. Contingency planning and up to date, independent risk surveys, or greenhouse gas and pollution controls that go beyond national limits.

Resilience can mean many things, but we recognise four different types.

Growth and livability

Plan for the best

Build a city where people can live happy, healthy, productive lives, from cradle to grave.

Investing in education, skills and safe, cohesive communities; making the city a desirable place to invest, do business and trade with; helping people get around easily and ensuring equality of opportunity.

City capabilities - Enabling how cities work

Cities are built around departments for good reason – they house specialist skills and institutional knowledge. But there are some functions which cross many departments and which also require specialist skills. We recognise seven areas which have potential to be transformative if cities get them right: Powers & Incentives, Urban intelligence, Digital city, Data-led delivery, Infrastructure & Transport, Urban Finance and People & Culture.

These functions will exist to some degree in all cities, even if they are called different things, but they typically fit into the existing department system. Digital will fall under traditional IT. Separate asset registers may exist for water and electricity, and revenues will be collected by different contractors. Innovation rarely exists outside of HR and by-laws remains unchanged for decades at a time.

In our view, investment in these seven cross-city capabilities would create teams to focus on these areas, with the potential to make departments able to deliver much more effectively.

See each of the seven capabilities in more detail by clicking the button below.


Citizen strategies - Changing how cities think

Citizen centricity

Many organisations we work with struggle to understand and engage their customers. Cities are no different, except that they have less incentive to do so - citizens cannot cancel their subscription. But the gains to be made are just as real. Active citizen centricity - such as personalised services and billing - requires engagement and data. Passive citizen centricity, including online ‘self-service’ applications, is a good place to start. In the longer term, balancing citizen goals is difficult - as highlighted by our seven citizen lenses.

Transversal management

Historically, cities have grown in specialised silos motivated by departmental goals, not citizen outcomes. Moving towards ‘outcome-based government’ can be done in different ways. In some cases, permanent cross departmental units and business partners can help. Where outcomes are strongly linked - in transport and housing, or health and social care - there may be an argument for merging them.


From national road laws, to college course content, to interest rates, cities do not control most of what happens within their borders - yet they probably have more power than anyone else, and are most likely to be held responsible by voters. Cities must align their planning and build their relationships between other levels of government and the private sector, which are often dysfunctional.

Municipal Performance Index

PwC’s Municipal Performance Index (MPI) is a detailed benchmarking tool that measures performance in South African local government across more than 1,000 datapoints spread across three major areas: socioeconomic, service delivery, and governance.

As well as the country’s 8 metros, the dashboard also has full data for the nine provinces, 19 secondary cities, 44 districts and 186 smaller local municipalities, which makes it a powerful guide to understanding performance across the country. Click here to see more and to interact with the data.

Why work with us

PwC works alongside local and national governments, and often with the support or collaboration of a range of development partners around the world, to help address the challenges of rapid urbanisation. Operating across PwC’s global network, our multidisciplinary Cities & Urbanisation team have worked at the leading edge of these issues in over 20 countries and are now able to bring PwC’s full range of professional service capabilities to make every city a City of Opportunity.

“There is no ‘right’ way to run a city, but all cities can be run better. At PwC we work with city governments to navigate a changing world and changing citizens, helping them to become ‘Cities of Opportunity’ for the people who live, work and play there”

Jon Williams, Head of Cities & Urbanisation, PwC Africa
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Contact us

Craig Kesson

Craig Kesson

Partner | Public Sector and Infrastructure Transformation Capability Leader, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 21 529 2000

Ashley Mabasa

Ashley Mabasa

Manager, PwC South Africa

Tel: +27 (0) 21 529 2041