Image enhancement and local economic development in Johannesburg

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43 Citations (Scopus)


This paper has tracked the birth of local economic initiatives in South Africa's most important city. It was argued that Johannesburg's fledgeling LED programmes must be interpreted in large measure as a defensive response to the city's weak economic performance during the late apartheid years. The range of LED initiatives that are currently being introduced in the city have distinct parallels in the policy experiences of many North American and Western European urban areas affected by global economic restructuring. Of particular significance is Johannesburg's programmes to reconstruct the city's tarnished image and escape its status as one of the world's pariah cities (cf. Fitzsimons 1995). In the context of the urban developing world, the Johannesburg's LED experience must be viewed as somewhat innovative. One recent overview on the 'state of the art' of LED initiatives in the developing world highlighted their limited and undeveloped nature, particularly in Africa (Rogerson 1995b). The traditional roles assumed by African local governments (and more particularly of urban managers) centred on issues of the prevention and control of development rather than the active promotion of economic development (Stren 1992). In Johannesburg, as in a growing number of other South African cities, one essential challenge now being taken up by urban managers is the task of promoting urban economic development and of attracting new investment to cities rather than acting to prevent such development. As one pioneer in LED planning in Africa the experience of post-apartheid Johannesburg may offer important lessons for other large African cities in tackling the policy challenges posed by global economic restructuring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-158
Number of pages20
JournalUrban Forum
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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