The Future Growth of Urbanization in South Africa: Strategies and Factors


As many other developing countries, South Africa has a number of social and economic issues to be solved. The situation in the state is complicated by some political events of the 20th century. The regime of apartheid, based on racial inequality and discrimination, interfered with the development of the region. With the fall of apartheid, some positive tendencies and democratic moods were felt in the strategies of the government. The first steps to racial equality were made, but new problems also appeared.

Nowadays, South Africa is in the process of urbanization, but it also faces the challenge of metropolitan cities being full of locals and immigrants and not being able to satisfy their needs. The paper offers an urbanization strategy of the secondary city, based on building smaller cities, the ones that have all necessary resources to promote globalization. Hopefully, this strategy will be adopted by South Africa, and the government will remember its negative experience of promoting social inequality.

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The Political System of Apartheid

Not all small children and teenagers like to study history at school. However, the majority of adults find history fascinating. This sphere of knowledge gives people a chance to see the connection between all historic events and their circumstances, which influences historic breaking points. South Africa is one of the most interesting regions for historic studies. Its variety of cultures, traditions, and views form a political and  social system of the state. This paper investigates the period of apartheid in the South African history, the rise of the African National Congress (ANC), and it strives to prove that South Africa needs some original urbanization strategy to solve its social and economic problems. 

The Legal Basis of Apartheid and Its Influence on Social Groups

A period of apartheid was complicated for South Africa. However, it was a voluntary decision of white voters to choose the government that supported the politics of apartheid in 1948. Many Africans lost their civil rights as a result of this political strategy. Political scholars have widely discussed why this repressive regime was established in South Africa; and the most common point of view is that it was the only logical extension of the African history at that time. “Apartheid rested on a long legacy of racial discrimination. Many apartheid laws merely rested on previous colonial policies and segregation legislation”. These laws were the trite foundations for the new policy.

All actions of Africans were subject to the law by race, which firmly divided whites and blacks. The Population Regulation Act of 1950 clearly determined the racial policy in South Africa and divided all people into “white” and “colored” or “native”. Another important document was the Native Laws Amendment Act, which regulated the usage of passes for white citizens. Public Safety Act and Criminal Law Amendment Act allowed authorities to execute any person whom they considered to be a threat. Thus, the government did everything possible to develop an effective legislation to ground their discrimination policies.

The Fall of Apartheid and the Rise of the ANC

Such open legalized racial inequality impacted different population groups, namely black people of South Africa. They lost their rights as citizens and could not choose the place to live, freely access medical services, vote, and enter the territories where whites lived. Developed countries recognized South Africa to be a state, where racial segregation and discrimination were blooming. The region had to apply some measures to change the situation.

The negative influence of apartheid on black population of South Africa increased the indignation of this racial group, and black people started to sound their complaints. After 1948, black members of the ANC (African National Congress) formed a revolutionary movement – the Youth League, the representatives of which “believed Africans would be freed only by their own efforts”. Mandela, Govan Mbeki Alfred Nzo, and other members, promoted the development of Defiance Campaign. The adoption of the Freedom Charter contributed to the fall of apartheid, but it was not accepted by the communist government. As a result, it banned the ANC, but the organization was restored in 1994. By this year, apartheid gradually weakened and fell with the help of workers’ and students’ manifestations. The contribution of its members to creating racial equality in South Africa will be always remembered.  

The Future Growth of Urbanization in South Africa: Strategies and Factors

Urbanization is a well-known phenomenon for any state. It is a logical stage of development when the government wants to develop and modernize rural areas and promote the growth of the cities. The political and social life in South Africa contributed to the decisions of the officials to urbanize the area in the 1950s. The majority of the population lived in rural areas, and this condition created additional economic and social problems. However, the government decided to choose the simplest strategy of just substituting the slums, in which blacks live, by better accomodations. However, this plan was not successful. 

An urbanization strategy, which was not properly developed, gave some negative results. “The disorder and public health issues associated with urbanization in South Africa led to an urban management approach based on curtailing urban growth by controlling city life”. 30 per cent of the population lived in four largest metropolitan centers at that time, and blacks resided mostly in the informal settlements. This situation is “an example of polarized urbanization and unbalanced regional development”. Van der Merwe states that “in South Africa, a strategy of growth point development and industrial decentralization has been used to address the problem”. However, these policies were still based on supporting the regime of apartheid and could not fully promote the process of urbanization as the separation of blacks from whites was still the most important goal.

Urbanization Strategies in South Africa: Factors

As it is stated in the first part of the work, the significant changes happened in the political and social life of South Africa with the activities of the newly elected ANC in 1994. Its main aim was to improve housing development and building accommodations for poor urban citizens. The ANC saw the connection of the urbanization issue with other social problems. The current situation with urbanization in South Africa is much better than it was in the times of the nationalist government as 60 per cent of the population live in urban areas nowadays. However there are some important factors which make the government reconsider its urbanization strategies. These factors are as follows: (1) a constant flow of immigrants going to large metropolitan cities, which cannot already provide normal living conditions for them; (2) an increased level of unemployment in the most popular immigrant destinations; (3) decreased quality of life and limited access to healthcare services for immigrants due to a significant number of them. Thus, a simple classical strategy of developing big cities and metropolitan areas is not effective. 

The Secondary City Strategy

The strategy for urbanization in South Africa, which will work better for the region, is offered by van der Merwe. This is the strategy of developing secondary cities. The notion “secondary city” (sometimes substituted by “middle-size city” or “intermediate city”) is interpreted differently by scholars. However, they all agree that a secondary city should be defined following its three main elements: size, function, and location. Thus, an optimal size of the secondary city conforms to optimal size of its population and possesses a corresponding infrastructure. The function which a secondary city should perform is offering both locals and immigrants the same benefits which any metropolitan city offers but without experiencing difficulties as to managing the flow of citizens. Secondary cities should create additional work positions and offer a better quality of life. In other words, these cities can assist metropolitan areas in performing their functions. “Distance from existing primary metropolitan centers is probably the most critical factor affecting location”. Secondary cities should be situated either very close to the metropolitan areas (becoming the suburbs) or not too far away for the convenience of transportation and business operations. Therefore, it is not easy to give a single definition of a secondary city because to be the one, a city should comport with certain criteria.

The Success of the Secondary City Strategy

If all three parameters of a city confirm that it can be named secondary, it is also important to determine whether this city will be successful in the process of urbanization. The following number of questions should have positive answers if a secondary city has a promising future:

  1. Can the population of the city grow quickly without brining any inconveniences to the citizens? Can it contribute to increasing employment level?
  2. Has the city a potential for a steady and diversified economic growth to provide high quality of life for its inhabitants?
  3. Has the growth of the city contributed to contracting inequality between the regions of the country and people living in the state?

The urbanization based on secondary cities is not offered to South Africa as some experimental method. The experience of some developed countries, namely Great Britain, France, Australia, and the USA shows that secondary cities have a potential to improve the situation with urbanizing the state. However, building a secondary city is not just developing a city, which is smaller in size than large cities and metropolitan areas. It should meet certain expectations to be the main tool of urbanization strategy.     

Conclusion and Recommendations

It is important to note that South Africa has passed a complicated way of development. Moreover, it is still in the active process of urbanization. Nowadays, progressive leaders realize that the period of apartheid has affected all aspects of social life of the population. Currently, racial equality is one of the necessary conditions of the state’s development. The proposed urbanization theory of the secondary cities suits South Africa best of all. It can also be recommended that the country should concentrate on this type of urbanization because it will additionally help to solve some complicated economic issues. South African people should remember the sad lessons of apartheid and continue to promote racial equality.    

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