Uplifting small towns in post-apartheid South Africa: The experience of the Amathole Economic Development Agency (Aspire)
Aspire is the regional economic development agency of the Amathole District Municipality (ADM) in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The Eastern Cape Province is one of South Africa’s most impoverished areas, with a high proportion of its population living in the former apartheid-created rural homelands of Ciskei and Transkei. Aspire was mandated by the ADM in 2005 to ‘promote and implement development policies in areas of economic production and investment’. Aspire has since conceptualized and is now implementing its regional development strategy aimed at regenerating small towns in Amathole, and developing ‘corridors’ along four major transport routes in the District. This thesis critically analyses Aspire’s regional development process by undertaking a series of key informant interviews, and by examining two towns where field-based research was undertaken and in which Aspire is working. Hamburg is a coastal village where Aspire is building the ‘Hamburg Artists’ Retreat’ in an attempt to leverage further investment into the town. Alice is a rural town in which the historically significant University of Fort Hare is located. Aspire is attempting to establish stronger ‘links’ between the University and Alice in order to regenerate it. Aspire’s regional development process is a refreshing deviation from other post-apartheid development strategies, such as the RDP and GEAR strategies, and LED initiatives. Aspire is essentially a ‘facilitator’ of development. It has gained significant funding to implement its strategy and is recognised nationally for its development approach. Aspire facilitates discussions between local communities and both the public and private sectors in order to create collective small town visions. In doing so, Aspire hopes to empower the local communities and officials, who live in and administer the small towns it works in. The agency hopes to have a ‘demonstration effect’ on local municipalities so they can drive development without Aspire, ensuring its process is sustainable. However, Aspire has not yet developed a truly sustainable process, but is making meaningful and significant impacts in the development of Amathole.
Advisor: Binns , J.A. (Tony)
Degree Name: Master of Planning
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Small towns; Regional development; Regional planning; Regional economy
Research Type: Thesis