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C.M. Rogerson

01 March 2000


Township Studies Librarian Two


Township Studies Group

South Africa


Website References

Built environment

Economic empowerment

Human settlements

Informal sector


Policy commentaries

Poverty & inequality


South Africa

Township Studies Group


Emerging from Apartheid's Shadow

South Africa's Informal Economy

Since the late 1970s, issues surrounding the informal economy have become an important research focus for South African scholars. Three recent books have appeared on the subject, a number of monographs treat specific segments of the informal economy and national bibliographies list between 200 300 research investigations on different facets of South Africa's informal economy. This broad range of research seeks to document the origins, growth, and workings of South Africa's informal economy and its potential for resolving national problems of burgeoning unemployment and poverty. While policy issues have been at the forefront of much recent South African work on the informal economy, local researchers have not overlooked the contextualization of the South African situation within international theoretical debates of informal economy, informality or informalization.

In this article, I argue that South Africa's informal economy is in the process of coming out of the dark shadows cast by forty years of apartheid planning. The reconstruction initiatives of post-apartheid South Africa, promoting and supporting the development of the small, medium and micro-enterprise (SMME) sector, including the informal economy, have been of major policy significance. A watershed policy shift has occurred from the apartheid period when policymakers either largely neglected the SMME economy or, in the case of a black-owned informal enterprise, actively discouraged the SMME economy through negative or repressive measures. Historically, under apartheid, the minority white-run government, at both national and local levels, opposed the informal economy, especially the black informal entrepreneur. By contrast, the new policy objectives of democratic South Africa on both the national and local levels of government, including the promotion of job opportunities, poverty alleviation, and local economic development, are beginning to provide official support for developing the SMME economy.

Abstract based directly on the original source


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