The concept of the township economy has been around for a while. But it remains fuzzy: is it about transforming townships into better places to live or creating industrial clusters in their midst? In either case, success depends on understanding and dealing with the deep-seated structural blockages to small business growth in SA, especially in working-class areas.

The concept is more relevant now because Covid-19 has devastated small businesses, with black owners losing out disproportionately. The number of small formal enterprises declined by about a 10th, from almost 700,000 to 630,000, from early 2020 to early 2021. Black owners’ share in all formal businesses dropped from 60% to 50%...

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