Urban poverty in Cape Town

22 Dec 2011

This paper describes key findings of a household livelihood survey conducted in impoverished African settlements in Cape Town, one of Africa’s wealthiest cities. Poverty in these areas is strongly shaped by the history of the Eastern Cape’s adverse spatial incorporation into the South African economy. Migrants from the rural areas are highly dependent on and integrated into the increasingly monetized economy – but are simultaneously marginalized and adversely incorporated within it. Survey findings show the costs and implications of this failure of the formal economy to provide adequate livelihoods. While many eke out a living in a vital yet marginal informal economy, these strategies are thoroughly linked to and dependent on the income that can be secured through participation in the formal job market. Those who are unable to find a foothold in the urban economy are highly vulnerable and are at risk of being confined to long-term poverty traps.