Key Points:

  • Small towns are a neglected component of the urban hierarchy in South Africa. These centres have unique difficulties requiring both targeted intervention and local, innovative strategies.
  • Small towns have seldom been conceptualised as key elements in South Africa’s national development. They have instead been seen as entities for administration or, at best, growth points for single sector development strategies.
  • Urban development and rural development strategies have been polarised and pursued in almost total isolation: rural development is about agriculture and urban development is about the management of big cities.
  • It is important to ensure that autonomous rural district councils, or some equivalent, are empowered to make local decisions about their own approaches to small town and rural reconstruction.
  • Small towns need to think entrepreneurially, share resources, and build networks and lobbies to promote small town interests. The towns should establish a national Small Town Network to share information, ideas, and lobby for their needs.

Op-ed: Cinderella with potential: Small towns could play big role

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