Outside the Core: Towards an Understanding of Intermediate Cities in South Africa

Much of the urban research conducted around the world focuses on world cities or larger metropolitan areas. Although such research is essential, smaller and intermediate-sized urban centres appear to be neglected. Historically, the South African Cities Network (SACN) has concentrated on the eight metropolitan municipalities and Msunduzi. However, in 2012 the SACN embarked on an initial exploration of intermediate cities, with the publication of Secondary Cities in South Africa: The Start of a Conversation.


Further research was undertaken to deepen the understanding of intermediate cities in South Africa, using a set of key policy questions. The project was motivated by the need to understand intermediate cities in relation to the different categorisations of settlements and the differentiation debate, within the context of growing pressure to increase the number of metropolitan areas (which are commonly assumed to be the logical trajectory for intermediate cities). Six case studies were included in this research: City of Matlosana, Emalahleni, Emfuleni, George, Polokwane and uMhlathuze.