Photography by:
  • Amanda van der Walt

Township economies in the GCR

The legacy of apartheid left South Africa with highly uneven patterns of urban development, not only between urban areas, but also within them. The immediate post-apartheid period identified townships as sites of ‘service delivery backlogs’ that also lack economic and employment opportunities. But up until now, these areas and the many burgeoning informal settlements dotted all over the GCR have remained marginalized from mainstream economic opportunities that are taken for granted in other urban spatial zones. An emerging and pervasive assumption in governmental circles seems to be that despite their contextual challenges, townships and informal settlements represent an under-utilized resource for the future that must be transformed into sustainable, habitable, and economically productive environments. In this project, we are acutely aware that (re)building the township economy cannot occur in isolation from urban integrating strategies.

The main goal of the project is to find ways through which municipalities in the GCR can embed economic development targeted at the disadvantaged population groups within municipal integrated spatial and socio-economic planning frameworks. A review of the experience gained in designing, managing and implementing other interventions in the past (for example, the Special Presidential Projects on Urban Renewal) may generate useful lessons which can be applied at a broader level.


This is going to be mainly a desk-based qualitative study that relies on extensive review of the available knowledge, published papers and government strategic documents to create a meaningful narrative of the township economy. This will be backed by empirical evidence from the field.

Relevant literature is being gathered.


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