South African apartheid legacies, socio-economic development needs and employment challenges (especially youth unemployment) require intervention at a fundamental and large scale. Development of generative regions, can only take place if initiatives, investments, plans and projects would consider, facilitate, strengthen and extend functional economic regions and networks. The National Development Plan (NDP) has identified the need to target regional development according to regional dynamics in specific areas, to:

  • Maintain, expand and strengthen the existing network of gateways ports and corridors (with a specific emphasis on expanding inter-regional linkages) and regions that currently act as job engines;
  • Establish new growth zones, develop rural growth points and district gate ways;
  • Uplift lagging and declining regions, and strengthen existing export zones through strong regional and district gateways and networks;
  • Open up rural economic opportunities by strengthening connectivity and linkages of the functional economic network - between the international focused growth points (global and regional gateways) to rural growth points (district gateways) and in turn to smaller rural towns and villages;
  • Establish investor confidence and provide clear signals through a network of well functioning, well maintained and functionally linked places, logistical networks and connections; and
  • Support regional innovation, investment and job growth through high impact job drivers.

The Economic Development Department (EDD) set out to identify the above and support a process of identifying spatial job drivers in efforts at fast tracking the National Growth Path’s drive for job creation by developing a spatial understanding of regional strengths in relation to certain selected job drivers. Read more...

The project follows on various other regional analysis such as:

The project assisted in developing three differentiated regional readings of the South African space economy, namely:

  • Regional ‘spatial footprint’ of selected national job drivers
  • Municipal overview of regional economic performance and investment requirements
  • Regional economic networks role of towns as gateways and anchors

Also see Resource Document.

OUTPUT 1: Regional ‘spatial footprint’ of selected national job drivers

OUTPUT 2: Municipal overview of regional economic performance and investment requirements

OUTPUT 3: Regional economic networks role of towns as gateways and anchors

Insights & Findings

The analysis of boundary adjustments required the use of several analytical procedures to produce the required basic statistics and visual results that can be used to inform decision makers of the implications of boundary adjustments to the service areas, the population serviced and the capacity of courts. These measures all relate to physical access (distance). Current spatial demarcations such as Enumerator Areas, Small Areas, Sub-places, and Wards are not suitable for accessibility analysis due to their significant zone size variations across a region. As a result a more uniform tessellation was created for each analysis area. Using interaction-analysis software the implication of boundary adjustments on service areas and average network travel distances to courts can be determined. The following provides a mapped example of an Accessibility analysis (portion of the Limpopo province).

One of the premises of the analyses was that It is questionable whether a project based approach and ad hoc isolated interventions could address the multifaceted challenges of economic growth, enormous employment challenges and redress inequalities of the apartheid past? Such ad-hoc (or so-called watering can approaches) has proven in-effective internationally.

The project argued that sustainable rural development and African integration require much more than mere basic service provision or roll out of large scale infrastructure projects.

Within the analyses and EDD’s endeavours to strengthen the spatial dimension of the NGP job drivers, the thinking was to explore investment initiatives that might tap into, and/or make use of spatial multipliers, strengthen and extend industry linkages and networks within functional regional economies.

This however, would require a tie-in of government long-term development commitments and medium to short-term planning, funding and implementation, through plan-led spatially, ecologically and economically-smart/savvy investment and spending and which, by doing so, forges the creation of a single, cohesive, vibrant and resilient South Africa. Given the magnitude of development challenges and development legacies, it was recognised that the state had to play different roles in different contexts, with a more significant and active investment role in areas marked by decline and stagnation, or a more facilitative role (primarily ensuring that investment conditions are in place) in areas where the economy and networks are well established.

It was evident that engagement regarding regional spatial and economic development, investment priorities and spatial targeting approaches need to consider space economy realities, trends, regional networks and gateways, spatial realities of sector plans and the type of investment/spending that is required to unlock, sustain and optimise the real economic prospects/potentials of a place/places by exploiting their strengths.


The EDD in collaboration with Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) appointed the CSIR, SPS team in collaboration with Professors Mark Oranje, Andre Jordaan, Chris Roggerson and Ms. Annemarie Loots to develop a functional regional analysis of South Africa in support of this endeavour. The initiative was undertaken with inputs from a range of intergovernmental role players such as the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Constitutional Development, The Presidency, the PICC and relevant national clusters.

Contact persons EDD: Damon Matfield, Wendy Mapira
Contact person DRDLR: Clinton Heiman
Contact persons CSIR: Elsona van Huyssteen, Johan Maritz

For more information contact:

Johan Maritz, CSIR


Elsona van Huyssteen, CSIR

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