The Changing Spatial Economy of Cities: An Exploratory Analysis of Cape Town

Programme Type: ProjectsUrban Research Programme: Applied Urban Research
Publication Date: 2012

The spatial economy of South African cities is generally believed to be experiencing selective deconcentration, which may exacerbate social inequality because of the physical disconnection between jobs and population. This paper assesses whether the locational pattern of economic activity across Cape Town is following this trajectory, using data from the Regional Service Council levies between 2001 and 2005. One of the main findings is that the city centre and areas close to the centre have maintained their economic dominance, therefore Cape Town remains a monocentric city. Yet the pattern of recent growth is more dispersed than the prior distribution because suburban nodes have gained a disproportionate share of new activity. In addition, the pattern of recent growth is skewed towards the high-income suburbs and away from the Cape Flats where most of the city’s poor live. This uneven growth trajectory may be a source of concern for economic, social and environmental reasons.

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