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BAFFI Solène



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Solène Baffi is a doctor in geography. She finished her thesis in January 2016 dealing with railway transport in South Africa.
The thesis focuses on the role of the railways in implementing segregation at both interurban and intra-urban scales over the long term and the possible readaptation of this infrastructure nowadays.
Her recent research dealt with the intra-urban mobilities of tourists in Cape Town, as well as the evolution of the governance and the diffusion of new technologies in the urban transport sector.


2016 | Phd in Geography , “Railways and city in territorialization processes in South Africa : from separation to integration ?”, supervised by Anne Bretagnolle, (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

2010 - 2011 | Master 2 Emerging and developing countries in Geography, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Master thesis : “The role of an historic axis in the metropolitan integration process, the case of Main Road in Cape Town

2009 - 2010 | Master 1 Emerging and developing countries in Geography, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Master thesis : “Public Transports in Cape Town : fragmentation or structuration ?

2008 - 2009 | Bachelor of Geography, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

2006 - 2008 | Hypokhâgne and Khâgne moderne, Lycée Fénelon


2019 | Project manager at CODATU

2016 - 2018 | Postdoctoral fellow at Stellenbosch University, South Africa

2014 - 2015 | Temporary Lecturer and Research Assistant at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

2011 - 2014 | Short-term lecturer at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

2011 - 2014 | Research engineer (ERC GeoDiverCity, project leader : Denise Pumain)


2018 | postdoctoral mobility grant ATLAS from Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme and Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud

2017 | Nomination for the CNU-CNFG thesis prize

2014 | Mobility grant from École Doctorale de Géographie de Paris

2011 and 2012 | Mobility grant from Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud


Key words : South Africa, Cape Town, railways, BRT, urban transport, territorialisation, inclusion and exclusion, intra-urban mobilities

Abstract of the thesis :
First railway network in Africa, the South African Railways constitute a privileged marker of the territorial mutations that have been shaping this country for decades. The radicalism of political systems shows through the persistency of segregative schemes of which the railways, as part of the planning toolbox, are one of the elements. The inertia of this infrastructure questions its re-appropriation and insertion into the various planning projects over the long term. This thesis approaches the long-term dynamics of ’territorialisation’ in South Africa through the prism of railways. This study focuses on the interaction between cities and the railway network, at both the interurban and the intra-urban levels.
In order to understand this interaction, cities’ location and railways diffusion patterns are analysed, with a specific emphasis on the shape of the network. Indeed, through their pattern, railways express the intentions of actors in charge of planning at the national level. By the flows it supports and the mobilities it enhances, it gives us information on the socioeconomic requirements of society and the power relations it contains. Thus, this thesis relies on a qualitative and quantitative approach aiming to outline the structuring effects of the railways in South Africa over the long term.
Its political use by successive segregationist powers explains partly why nowadays railways keep on marking partition in the post-apartheid urban space and in the practices of city dwellers. However, the recent rail renewal observed in the metropolises, Cape Town in particular, might indicate a possible major inflection in the persistency of inherited dynamics. Indeed, the evolution of the rail offer demonstrates a shift towards a co-construction trend between South African society and urban planning unheard of until now.


since 2019 | Scientific reviews, Flux

2018 | Co-organisation of the workshop "Cities, geo-technologies and data-driven urbanism" with Mercy Brown-Luthango (UCT), Nancy Odendaal (UCT), Élisabeth Peyroux (CNRS) and Herrie Schalekamp (UCT), 11 June 2018, University of Cape Town, South Africa

since 2018 | Scientific reviews, Echogéo and Cybergéo

2016 | Evaluation of research projects, National Research Foundation, South Africa

2013 - 2015 | Co-supervision of Master students of the programme Emerging and Developing countries at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne with Olivier Ninot

2014 | Organisation of a methodology seminar on the public transport linkages in Cape Town at Stellenbosch University in collaboration with Ronnie Donaldson

2012 | Co-founder member of the association REDGéoD (Réseau des étudiants et des diplômés en géographie du développement)

2011-2016 | Member of the ERC GeoDiverCity led by Denise Pumain


Baffi S., Cottineau C., (2020). « What is emerging ? Understanding Urbanisation Dynamics in BRICS Countries Through a Geographical Approach, the Case of Russia and South Africa », in D. Pumain, Theories and Models of Urbanization, Springer, pp. 209-234,

Baffi S., Donaldson R., Spocter M. (2019). « Tourist Mobilities in Cape Town: Unveiling Practices in the Post-apartheid City », Tourism Planning & Development, DOI: 10.1080/21568316.2019.1673807

Baffi S., Turok I., Vacchiani-Marcuzzo C. (2018). « Coming to terms with the legacy of social control and exclusion ? ». in Pumain D., Rozenblat C., Velasquez E. International and Transnational Perspectives on Urban Systems, Singapore : Springer, pp.285-314.

Baffi S. (2017). « La mise en place d’un bus à Haut Niveau de Service au Cap, un outil de normalisation de la ville sud-africaine ? », EchoGéo, 40,

Baffi S. (2017). « De la mobilité à l’accessibilité : l’évolution des transports comme ressources dans la ville sud-africaine », EchoGéo, 40,

Baffi S., Vivet J. (2017). « L’Afrique australe : un ensemble composite, inégalement intégré à la mondialisation », Géoconfluences, Dossiers régionaux, Afrique(s) : dynamiques régionales,

Pumain D., Swerts E., Cottineau C., Vacchiani-Marcuzzo C., Ignazzi A., Bretagnolle A., Delisle F., Cura R., Lizzi L. and Baffi S. (2015). « Multilevel comparison of large urban systems », Cybergéo, document 706,

Baffi S. (2014). « Railroads to civilization. The railroad in South Africa’s territorial policies »,l’Espace Géographique, vol. 43 n° 4, pp. 338-355,

Musil C., Ninot O., Baffi S., Drevelle M. (2014). Évolutions des systèmes de transport urbain en périphérie du Cap et de Hanoï – entre pragmatisme et ambitions métropolitaines, in Chaléard J-L ., Métropoles aux Suds. Le défi des périphéries ?, Karthala, 444p.

Baffi S. (2012). « Pratiques d’une métropole émergente par les usagers des transports en commun, le cas du Cap, Afrique du Sud », Echogéo, n° 21,


Baffi S. (2019). « Paratransit operators; are they marginal actors in African cities ? », Conference at l’École Africaine des Métiers de l’Architecture et de l’Urbanisme, 19 February 2019, Lomé

Baffi S. (2018). « New technologies in the urban transport sector in Cape Town : reconfiguration of the governance, transformation of the offer and evolution of mobility practices », Conference at the Centre Interuniversitaire d’Étude de la Mobilité, 22 November 2018, Brussels

Baffi S. (2018). « The ’disruptive’ potential of ICTs in the transport sector in Cape Town, South Africa », IFAS-Research seminar, 20 August 2018, Stellenbosch University

Baffi S., Donaldson R., Spocter M. (2018). « Transport and tourism: the tourists’ perception of the MyCiti experience », 5th Tourism Seminar of the City of Cape Town, 6 June 2018, Cape Town

Baffi S., Cottineau C. (2017). « What is emerging ? Understanding urbanisation dynamics in BRICS countries through a geographical approach, the case of Russia and South Africa », GeoDiverCity International Workshop, 12-13 October 2017, Paris

Baffi S. (2017). « Towards a diversification of services in the cities of the South ? The case of the BRT in Cape Town », Conference at the Centre Interuniversitaire d’Étude de la Mobilité, 4 October 2017, Brussels

Vacchiani-Marcuzzo C., Baffi S. (2017). « Cape Town, a city emerging within international networks. », International Geography Festival, 29 September - 1 October 2017, Saint-Dié-des-Vosges

Raimbault J., Baffi S. (2017). « Structural Segregation: Assessing the impact of South African Apartheid on Underlying Dynamics of Interactions between Networks and Territories. », European Colloquium in Theoretical and Quantitative Geography, 7-11 September 2017, York 〈halshs-01584914〉

Baffi S. (2016). « Public transports in South Africa : from separation tools to inclusion tools ? », Society of South African Geographers conference, 25-28 September 2016, Stellenbosch University

Baffi S. (2016). « What kind of collective transports in post-apartheid South Africa ? », Conference at the Centre Interuniversitaire d’Étude de la Mobilité, 24 February 2016, Brussels

Baffi S. (2015). « Intra-urban rural spaces in Cape Town, an obstacle for transport policies ? », Labex Dynamite Ville-Campagne seminar, 13 March 2015, Paris

Baffi S. (2014). « Spatio-temporal analysis of cities and transport interactions in South Africa », AFITL colluquium, 20 October 2014, Université Paris-Est Marne-La-Vallée

Baffi S. (2014). « Public policies in Cape Town : from a transport network to a transport system ? », Society of South African Geographers conference, 22-27 June 2014, University of Fort Hare

Baffi S. (2014). « Network or system in the post-apartheid metropolis ? », ASRDLF colloquium, 3-5 February 2014, Université Paris-Est Marne-La-Vallée

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