William “Billy” Cobbett has a notable professional history with over 30 years working at local, national and international levels around housing, local government, social exclusion and poverty. For the last 15 years, Billy led Cities Alliance, a global partnership for poverty reduction and the promotion of cities in sustainable development. Billy began his career of civic support and urban development as overall coordinator of Planact, a Johannesburg-based urban NGO providing policy and technical support to civic organizations and trade unions.

Billy then moved to African National Congress (ANC) headquarters in 1992, serving on the National Housing Forum, and prior to the historic 1994 election in South Africa, the Transitional Executive Council (TEC). Under President Mandela, Billy was appointed Director General of the National Department of Housing. Working closely with Minister Joe Slovo, he facilitated the adoption of South Africa’s first non-racial housing policy and national legislation. He later served as Director of Housing for Cape Town’s City Council and, after leaving South Africa, as UN-Habitat’s Acting Chief of the Shelter Branch in Nairobi, in which role he helped design and launch the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure. He subsequently joined the Cities Alliances at the World Bank as Senior Urban Upgrading Specialist.

Currently serving on the Board of Slum Dwellers International’s new Not for Profit Company, Billy is also a member of the Indian Institute for Human Settlement’s (IIHS) International Advisory Committee. Educated at Middlesex University in London, he has authored approximately thirty publications dealing almost exclusively with his native South Africa, particularly urbanization, apartheid urban policy and housing and migrancy.