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Economics of South African Townships

Special Focus on Diepsloot

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Sendeep Mahajan, Hans Binswanger, Rob Davies, Taye Mengistae, Dirk van Seventer, Precious Zikhali, Phindile Ngwenya, Dorothe Singer, Catherine Cross, Fernando Im, Kate Philip

22 August 2014

Sandeep Mahajan


Township Studies Librarian Two


Township Studies Group


Exacerbated by the near absence of an affordable public transport system, this makes job seeking and other forms of economic integration prohibitively expensive. Motivated by their uniqueness and their special place in South African economic and social life, this study seeks to develop a systematic understanding of the structure of the township economy. What emerges is a rich information base on the migration patterns to T&IS changes in their demographic profiles, their labour market characteristics, and their access to public and financial services. The study then look closely at Diepsloot, a large township in the Johannesburg Metropolitan Area, to bring out more vividly the economic realities and choices of township residents. Given the current dichotomous urban structure, modernizing the township economy and enabling its convergence with the much richer urban centres has the potential to unleash significant productivity gains. Breaking out of the current low-level equilibrium however will require a comprehensive and holistic policy agenda, with significant complementarities among the major policy reforms. While the study tells a rich and coherent story about development patterns in South African townships and points to some broad policy directions, its research and analysis will generally need to be deepened before being translated into direct policy action.


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Economic conditions




Human settlements

South Africa

Township Studies Group

Township economies

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