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South Africa’s Informal Economy

Research Findings from Nine Townships

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01 January 2016


Township Studies Librarian Two

Research Report

Township Studies Group

South Africa

The Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation (SLF) prides itself on groundbreaking research, policy engagement and the development of appropriate innovation strategies in order to contribute towards the improvement of livelihoods in poor urban communities. Over a five-year period, SLF has undertaken empirical research into the largely understudied field of the township informal economy in South Africa. These activities were undertaken as part of the Formalising Informal Micro-Enterprises (FIME) project.

This booklet presents a summary of the ground-breaking findings of SLF’s informal economy research. Some of the findings have been published in academic papers and journal articles. A list of such articles can be found at the end of this document. The document is comprised of a range of visual materials (including maps) available on the SLF website (www.livelihoods.org.za) and the EmergentCity portal (www.emergentcity.co.za). The FIME micro-enterprise survey dataset can be publically accessed via the DataFirst platform (www.datafirst.uct.ac.za). The dataset comprises a record of 10,499 census points (not publically released) and 3365 survey interviews with microentrepreneurs in five sectors across eight of the original research sites (a ninth site has subsequently been researched).

This document is intended for policymakers, business strategists, academic researchers and development practitioners.


Abstract based directly on the original source


Website References

Economic empowerment



Human settlements

Informal sector

Informal settlements



Poverty & inequality


South Africa


Sustainable development

Township Studies Group

Township economies


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