Economic empowerment zone programmes in Soweto, South Africa: a case of urban renewal projects

03 February 2015

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa stipulates guidelines for local government functions. Section 152, of the Constitution lists six objectives of local government. According to the six objectives, local government is required to promote social and economic development for its communities. In South Africa, this objective is met through urban renewal projects, among others. Urban renewal is an economic engine and a reform mechanism for the growth and development of local government. Urban renewal projects comprise of Economic Empowerment Zone (EEZ) programmes. In Soweto, EEZ is delivered by the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) through the Department of Economic Development. Ten EEZ programmes were initiated in the CoJ. These programmes are designated by law that focuses on historically under-developed areas. The programme aims to empower poor persons, particularly the Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) to become self-sufficient. The programme package includes job creation and resources and business opportunities for the most economically distressed areas of South Africa. In Soweto, the programme aims tofoster increased investment, business formation and business expansion. Globally, unemployment is one of the most important challenges facing poor people. The promotion of SMMEs has become an objective across government departments in a developmental state. Urban renewal projects have their successes and failures. This article evaluates the EEZ programme and the perceptions of the beneficiaries in Soweto. Theoretical analysis and empirical surveys will be conducted. A series of recommendations will be offered towards increased performance of EEZ programmes.