Doing Business

City of Johannesburg Goes Digital: Online Construction Permit System Launched

Author: Letta Kaseke

On the 28th of October 2021, the City of Johannesburg had a soft launch of the web-based construction permit system. This achievement is a welcomed step towards increasing the efficiency of the services offered by the Department of Development Planning within the Johannesburg Metro.

The new web-based system intends to modernize and streamline the manual Site Development and Building Plan permit system (

Previously, South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) members had to submit their building plans the City manually, which was a tedious time consuming task. The process entailed a paper-based system of manually capturing and processing building plans.  The resultant effect was longer building approval lead times which was detrimental for the industry at large. In addition, the manual system had undesirable consequences of limitations with submissions (submissions had to be made within set time frames), overcrowding at the municipal building by ‘runners’ as well as an overburdened staff who had to ensure checklists were adhered to prior to accepting submissions.

The online system is used in 14 other international jurisdictions all of which have reported successes in efficiency, the City of Johannesburg is the first South African city to pilot the open-source system. The current lead-time for decisions (approvals or refusals) on commercial property building plans is circa 30 days, the new web-based permitting system is anticipated to reduce the turnaround time to 15 days (assuming the application has all required documentation. Furthermore, the system will provide real-time updates of every stage of the application process, invaluable information which ensures transparency throughout the building plan application process.

The web-based Construction Permitting system is as a result of an extensive consultative peer-to-peer process including with multi-faceted stakeholders. Engagements with National government through the Ease of Doing Business Programme spearheaded by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic), National Treasury, National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS), World Bank, Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), SACAP representatives and other Metros. The collaboration with a diverse stakeholder base has culminated in a robust, well-rounded construction permitting system which is of a world standard.

The launch of the online Construction Permitting system is in-line with the South African government’s wide-scale investment drive to reinvigorate the South African economy supported by an investment climate reform programme which aims to create an enabling business environment. As such, the launch by the City of Johannesburg showcases South Africa’s abilities and commitment to business environment reforms; a clear indication to investors that South Africa continues to be a competitive favourable investment destination.