Urbanization in South Africa: a Frontier between the First and Third World

  • Isaac J. Van Der Merwe University of Stellenbosch
Keywords: Urbanization, Post-Apartheid City, First-Third World Frontier, Demographic Structure, Spatial Patterns, International City Model


South Africa's apartheid-induced cities are in the process of a critical restructuring in the changing South Africa of the 1990s. The reform of an effective and just postapartheid city require careful consideration of international links as a frontier between the First and Third World urbanization realities. This paper seeks to provide answers to the following two questions: What are the general characteristics and problems of the South African city; and where do these cities fit into the international framework? Research has shown that the South African apartheid city corresponded to a multi-faceted international profile of First World prosperity, Second World central intervention and Third World deprivation. While the South African city displayed numerous similarities to international city form, it also obtained a unique character as a result of the legal enforcement of apartheid. This is demonstrated in an analysis of South Africa's national urbanization patterns as well as its internal social and management structure. Restructuring the post-apartheid city will have to take account of the reality that the present South African city is intrinsically a frontier version of the colonial Third World city and the Western first world city and that it is likely to revert increasingly to the former as apartheid disappears.


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