Urban Forum

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 397–412 | Cite as

Durban’s Back of Port Project: a Local Spatial Knowledge Production Process Framed by Urban Entrepreneurialism

  • Patrick MartelEmail author
  • Catherine Sutherland


Cities position themselves to compete in the global economy using large-scale entrepreneurial interventions, which have the potential to significantly alter urban landscapes (Harvey 1989). Within this broad urban entrepreneurial approach, it is useful to reflect on localised knowledge production processes and the actors and power embedded in them, which result in particular urban development outcomes in cities. This paper analyses a spatial planning exercise, the Back of Port (BoP) Project, initiated in Durban in 2007 by its administrative entity eThekwini Municipality, and produced by local consultants, which reflects a particular form of urban entrepreneurialism. The BoP Project aimed to increase the competitiveness of the Durban port through improving city infrastructure, addressing congestion at the port-city interface and ensuring economic growth in the city, in a highly contested and political space. The resultant knowledge production process and the spatial framework that was produced, were shaped by global urban policy and the politics and practices of local government, civil society organisations and the knowledge fields of specialist consultants. The BoP spatial planning exercise reveals how urban policy is unfolding in a city in the South, in response to global processes of urban economic development, national imperatives and local challenges. The research reveals that knowledges associated with an economic and functional discourse-coalition became hegemonic, whilst counter-hegemonic knowledges around social and environmental justice struggled to frame the spatial plan.


Knowledge production Entrepreneurial urbanism Spatial planning Urban-economic policy-making 



The authors would like to acknowledge the valuable and insightful comments provided by two anonymous referees.


  1. Barnett, C., & Scott, D. (2007). The reach of citizenship: locating the politics of industrial air pollution in Durban and beyond. Urban Forum, 18(4), 289–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brenner, N., & Theodore, N. (2002). Cities and the geographies of “Actually Existing Neoliberalism”. Antipode, 34(3), 349–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brooks, S., Sutherland, C., Scott, D., & Guy, H. (2010). Integrating qualitative methodologies into risk assessment: insights from South Durban. South African Journal of Science, 106(9), 1–10.Google Scholar
  4. Broughton, T. (2017). Legal fight over R4.5 Billion Logistics Park, News24, 15 September, 2017.
  5. Croese, S. (2018). Global urban policymaking in Africa: a view from Angola through the redevelopment of the Bay of Luanda. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 42(2), 198–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Desai, A. (2018). Race, place and everyday life in Contemporary South Africa: Wentworth, Durban. Urban Forum, 21(3), 283–298.Google Scholar
  7. Douglass, M. (2000). Mega-urban regions and world city formation: globalisation, the economic crisis and urban policy issues in Pacific Asia. Urban Studies, 37, 2315–2335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. eThekwini Municipality (2008). A local area plan and land use management scheme for the back of port interface zone: incorporating the areas of Congella, Clairwood, Jacobs and Mobeni as defined in the Durban Town Planning Scheme. Terms of Reference Document. Development Planning, Environment and Management Unit.Google Scholar
  9. Freund, B. (2002). City Hall and the direction of development. In Freund, B. and Padayachee, V. (Eds.). (2002). (D) urban Vortex, Pietermaritzburg : University of Natal Press.Google Scholar
  10. Hajer, M.A. (1995). The politics of environmental discourse: Ecological modernization and the policy process, New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Hajer, M.A. (2000). Transnational networks as transnational policy discourse: some observations on the politics of spatial development in Europe. In Salet, W. and Faludi, A. (Eds.). (2000). The revival of strategic spatial planning, Amsterdam: KNAW.Google Scholar
  12. Hajer, M.A. (2003). A frame in the fields: policymaking and the reinvention of politics. In Hajer, M.A. and Wagenaar, H. (Eds.). (2003). Deliberative policy analysis: understanding governance in the network society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Hajer, M.A. (2005). Coalitions, practices, and meaning in environmental politics: from acid rain to BSE. In Howarth, D. and Torfing, J. (Eds.). (2005). Discourse theory in European politics: identity, policy and governance, Hampshire: 1st Ed, Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  14. Hajer, M.A. and Laws, D. (2006). Ordering through discourse. In Moran, M., Rein, M. and Goodin, R.E. (Eds.). (2006). The Oxford handbook of public policy, New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hall, P.V. and Robbins, G. (2002). Economic development for a new era. In Freund, B. and Padayachee, V. (Eds.). (2002). (D) urban Vortex, Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hall, P.V. and Robbins, G. (2006). Which link, in which chain? Inserting Durban into global automotive supply chains, Working Paper No 46, School of Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal.Google Scholar
  17. Harvey, D. (1989). From managerialism to entrepreneurialism: the transformation in urban governance in late capitalism. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 71(1), 3–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Holgersen, S., & Baeten, G. (2017). Beyond a liberal critique of ‘Trickle Down’: urban planning in the city of Malmö. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 40(6), 1170–1185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jessop, B. (1998). The narrative of enterprise and the enterprise of narrative: place marketing and the entrepreneurial city. In T. Hall and P. Hubbard (Eds.), The entrepreneurial city. Chichester, Wiley.Google Scholar
  20. Jones, T. (2002). The Port of Durban—lynchpin of the local economy?. In Freund, B. and Padayachee, V. (Eds.). (2000). (D) urban Vortex, Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press.Google Scholar
  21. Jones, H. (2009). Policy-making as discourse: a review of recent knowledge-to-policy literature, A Joint IKM Emergent-ODI Working Paper No. 5.Google Scholar
  22. Kennedy, L. (2015). The politics and changing paradigm of megaproject development in metropolitan cities. Habitat International, 45, 163–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lutchman, C. (2018) Frustration over racecourse proposal, The Post, 25 February, 2018.Google Scholar
  24. Martel, P. (2016). An examination of the knowledge production process in a spatial planning exercise: the case study of the Back of Port Project in Durban, South Africa, unpublished MSc thesis, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.Google Scholar
  25. Mather, A.A. and Reddy, K. (2008). Expansion plans for the Port of Durban: what are the issues for the City of Durban?. COPEDEC VII, Paper No: M-05, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 1–15.Google Scholar
  26. McCann, E. (2013). Policy boosterism, policy mobilities, and the extrospective city. Urban Geography, 34(1), 5–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Merk, O. (2013). The competitiveness of global port-cities: the case of Antofagasta – Chile, OECD regional development working papers, 2013/15, OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  28. Merk, O. and Dang, T.T. (2013). The effectiveness of port-city policies: a comparative approach, OECD regional development working papers, 2013/25, OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  29. Mickez, R. (2012). Interviewing elites: addressing methodological issues. Qualitative Inquiry, 18(6), 482–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Notteboom, T. E., & Rodrigue, J. P. (2005). Port regionalization: towards a new phase in port development. Maritime Policy & Management, 1–22.Google Scholar
  31. Parnell, S., & Robinson, J. (2012). (re) theorizing cities from the global south: looking beyond neoliberalism. Urban Geography, 33(4), 593–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Peck, J. and Theodore, N. (2015) Fast policy: experimental statecraft at the thresholds of neoliberalism. Minneapolis, MN : University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  33. Peck, J., Theodore, N., & Brenner, N. (2010). Postneoliberalism and its malcontents. Antipode, 41(1), 94–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Peck, J., Theodore, N., & Brenner, N. (2013). Neoliberal Urbanism Redux?. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 37(3), 1091–1099.Google Scholar
  35. Peck and Tickell. (2002). Neoliberalizing space. Antipode, 34, 380–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Price Waterhouse Cooper (2018). Strengthening Africa’s gateway to trade. Report complied by PwC’s capital projects and infrastructure transport and logistics team. Accessed 8 Oct 2018
  37. Scott, D. (2003). ‘Creative Destruction’: early modernist planning in the South Durban industrial zone, South Africa. Journal of Southern African Studies, 29(1), 235–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Scott, D., & Barnett, C. (2009). Something in the air: civic science and contentious environmental politics in post-apartheid South Africa. Geoforum, 40, 373–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Scott, D., Oelofse, C., & Guy, C. (2002). Double trouble: environmental injustice in South Durban. Agenda, (52), 50–57.Google Scholar
  40. Sutherland, C., Scott, D., Philp, K., Maphumulo, S., Martel, P., Dray, A., Joubert, R., Sim, V., Forrest, C. and Van Niekerk, M. (2009). Social impact assessment. A local area plan and land use management scheme for the back of port Interface, consultant report prepared for eThekwini Municipality, Durban.Google Scholar
  41. Van der Lugt, L. M., & Langen, P. W. (2005). The changing role of ports as locations for logistics activities. Journal of International Logistics and Trade, 3(2), 59–72.Google Scholar
  42. Ward, C., & Swyngedouw, E. (2018). Neoliberalisation from the ground up: Insurgent capital, regional struggle and the assetisation of land. Antipode, 50(4), 1077–1097.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Built Environment and Development StudiesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalDurbanSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations