English: Despite rapid advances and sizeable middle-class formation in many African
countries, development planning is still frustrated by the absence of reliable, relevant
and up-to-date data. Even though South Africa is in a more fortunate position with
regard to the availability of such data, it also has data gaps, notably with regard to
informal economic activities in the rural areas of the country. This exploratory article
engages the use of proxy indicators to provide cues as to the state of a local economy.
The article explores the relationship between a number of potential proxy indicators
and the national economy in order to identify those proxy indicators that mirror the
national economy. An interview approach was used to test the identified indicators
in three small towns in order to establish whether the nationally determined proxies
reflect economic trends in practice. The six proxy indicators that closely mirrored
the local economies of the three sampled towns represent a modest, introductory
exploration of an area worthy of far more empirical research.