Gauteng's urban space economy
- Graeme Götz
‘Urban space economy’ is shorthand for the distribution of economic activity in space, considering: how the spatial form of cities is structured by dynamic changes in economic activity; how economic opportunities and constraints are structured by spatial form, fabric and function; and the changing nature of economic space itself.
This project aims to:
- Deepen understanding of how the urban space economy of the GCR works, through innovative mapping, analysis of quantitative data, a number of qualitative case studies, and a re-examination of the theory;
- Interrogate how government in the city-region has understood the challenge of intervening in the space economy of Gauteng over the last two decades, and how it has built institutional arrangements and techniques through which to perform ‘economic development’ functions;
- Through (1) and (2), reach conclusions on how government in the GCR might sharpen future policy and practice on facilitating economic activity through spatial interventions.
It is also debatable whether ‘agglomeration’ is the most appropriate conceptual framework for understanding the space economy of ‘cities of the south’. Some cities house millions of people who somehow assemble a livelihood in the absence of any economic activity manifesting as ‘businesses’ located in commercial, industrial or retail property. Sometimes strange and idiosyncratic spaces in cities create unusual economic opportunities (see for example GCRO’s photo essay on 'Scavenger economies of the mine-dumpseconomies of the mine-dumps’). Often what bears explanation in economically dynamic neighbourhoods is how street and building spaces are configured, often provisionally, and in tenuous articulation with faraway places, by the micro-logics of production or trade. And frequently the most important economic agent in areas marginal to economic cores is government, with its sometimes peculiar conceptions of how the economy in that area ought to be developed.
This project explores the working of agglomeration economies in the GCR, and also dynamics in the space economy of the region that cannot be easily accounted for by the theory of agglomeration. A number of case studies on aspects of the GCR’s space economy are being written by GCRO staff and commissioned experts.