An assessment of the experience of small town local economic development in the Eastern Cape Midlands

Pio, Elizabeth (2009) An assessment of the experience of small town local economic development in the Eastern Cape Midlands. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




This thesis is an assessment of the experience of small town local economic development in four towns namely Graaff-Reinet, Somerset East, Aberdeen and Pearston situated in the Eastern Cape Midlands, South Africa. It aims firstly to provide a critical overview of these selected small town economies before evaluating their local responses to the changing economic climate. The study is contextualized within the framework of locality development and emphasizes the heterogeneity of small towns with regards to physical, socio-economic, demographic and historical elements. From this, the original economic reasons for existence of these small towns are ascertained and then the major changes that occurred are identified. Amongst other aspects, the changes in the agricultural sector, the demographic changes particularly with regard to the significant increase in the urban population and the fluctuations in the quantity and types of businesses have all played a part in transforming the small towns’ economies. As a result of these changes and many external driving forces such as changes in the regional and national economy, there are many severe challenges facing these small towns especially regarding the high unemployment rate, the associated poverty, HIV/AIDS and the low volume or absence of private investment into these localities. The responses of these small towns to the daunting challenges that they face have been considered in terms of Local Economic Development (LED) strategies that have been implemented. The LED initiatives in each town are examined in the context of their general characteristics, objectives, achievements and challenges. Emphasis is placed on Somerset East as it is the only town in the study area that has a development agency actively promoting various forms of LED. What has ultimately been established is: in all four towns, LED is not making a significant or meaningful difference and that natural market and economic forces play an important role in shaping and dictating the local economy. Somerset East is the only town where the economy could potentially be restructured with the proposed mega market-led approach to tourism and planning in the form of the Boschberg Development node. Four sectors perceived to be required for locality development are considered in this study, namely the export sector, the human resources, the local service sector and the government agencies. It is ascertained that although these sectors need to be part of a symbiotic relationship to promote and enhance economic development, they are not present in all the towns and as a result development, at both a household and a macro town level, is further hindered. Ultimately, these small towns in the Eastern Cape Midlands defy the notion that they are dying. ‘Growth’ and ‘decline’ have been two central features throughout this thesis and one of the biggest contradictions and challenges that these small towns face is the population growth with a declining or stagnant economy that cannot accommodate the increased number of people.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:LED; local economic development; small towns; South Africa; town planning
Subjects:G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography > Rural settlements. Rural geography
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Geography
Supervisors:Fox, R. (Prof.)
ID Code:1759
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:10 Sep 2010 10:19
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:21
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