Rethinking LED: “Local Economic Development” in Intermediate Cities

Rethinking Doing “LED” in Intermediate Cities is the latest volume in a series of exploratory studies on the “differentiated approach to governance” focusing on intermediate cities, from the South African Cities Network (SACN). The first four volumes were: a data-driven study seeking to define “secondary cities” (2012); a qualitative study into six intermediate cities exploring possible differences or uniqueness compared to metros (2014); a deeper study into apartheid’s displaced settlements examining the need for a more nuanced articulation of differentiation, drilling down to a sub-municipal level (2016); and a study assessing the interpretation of “spatial transformation” contained in the national urban policy in intermediate cities compared to metros (2017). The series has become an important and consistent reference point for building national attention and understanding about intermediate cities.


This fifth study follows the series’ tradition of responding both to emerging themes from previous studies and to cues from the urban policy environment. Specifically, this report picks up on the observation from the fourth study that more needs to be done to address the inherent economic vulnerability of intermediate cities, including through economic diversification and strengthening municipal capacities. In addition, this fifth study was formulated during a period of dire economic climate, making the economy a focal point for the country. This research series on intermediate cities continues to contribute to an important knowledge base that supports more targeted and effective urban policy, governance, planning and management interventions. This kind of continuous learning and implementation improvement will be critical to the success of the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF).