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Creative Industries, Inequality and Social Development: Developments, Impacts and Challenges in Cape Town


Creative industries are often regarded as avenues for urban regeneration, economic development and job creation. The growth of creative industries is linked to post-Fordist economic restructuring in cities. As a result, the economic base of cities has moved away from manufacturing to knowledge-intensive and service-based industries. While countries in the Global South generally contribute marginally to the global economy, some countries are seeking to enhance their competitiveness in the global environment and gain from opportunities presented by the creative economy. Policymakers in the Global South have therefore adopted creative industry policies, and often link these to social development outcomes. However, this presents various challenges. The literature indicates that creative industries can exacerbate existing inequalities and marginalise working class residents. Furthermore, the benefits of creative urban renewal do not necessarily reach poor communities. This paper contributes to debates regarding the role of creative industries in the urban economies of cities in the Global South. This reflects on the impacts of creative urban renewal, and the implications for social development and policy. It also considers recent development and challenges around creative industry promotion in Cape Town, with specific reference to the city-fringe neighbourhood of Woodstock.

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  1. Visser and Kotze (2008) indicate that there has been a general silence on gentrification in South African cities with little measure or informed response to the impacts of gentrification in the local academic and policy environment.

  2. Harris (2008) indicates that socio–spatial inequality is more pronounced in Lower Parel than in the comparative case, i.e. Bankside in London.

  3. The interviews with new media firms in Cape Town indicated that Woodstock and Observatory, in addition to Gardens in the inner city, are the two largest new media clusters in Cape Town.

  4. The City Council points out that the shift to commercial land use and high-density residential developments in the area are tendencies of creative urban redevelopment (City of Cape Town 2011).

  5. This trend corresponds with the establishment of the WID in 2005 and is corroborated by the interviews which point to the increased establishment of creative firms in area over the last 5–6 years.

  6. This study by Kotze on gentrification in a number of Cape Town’s inner city neighbourhoods (which includes Woodstock), is the most detailed study of gentrification in any South African city to date (Visser and Kotze 2008). It is also the most recent and detailed literature on the topic for Woodstock.

  7. The data was obtained from the Quantec database. More recent data at sub-place level for Woodstock was not available since the 2011 Census was still underway when the paper was being written.

  8. Dwellings owned (either fully or partially paid off) divided by dwellings rented.

  9. Annual average household income (current prices) was R48,139 in 1996 and R64,323 in 2001. These averages, available from Global Insight Southern Africa, were used as benchmarks in the calculations.

  10. Legislators, senior officials, professionals, assistant professionals, technician and clerks.

  11. This is clear from recent articles, reports and observations, i.e. crime soars in Woodstock (Weekend Argus 2009); squatters occupy decapitated buildings and homelessness is rampant (Woodstock Improvement District 2011, online); families in Woodstock are being evicted because they cannot afford rising rents (Western Cape Anti-eviction Campaign 2009).

  12. As informed by the interviews.


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The author wishes to thank the Human Science Research Council for the funding that made this study possible. She also thanks the respondents who participated in the interviews, and the reviewers for their critical and constructive comments on an earlier version of the paper. Further thanks to her colleagues, Neo Molotja and Madalitso Phiri, for their respective inputs during the first phase of the study and a special word of thanks to Wendy Job at the University of Johannesburg for creating the map.

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Correspondence to Irma Booyens.

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Booyens, I. Creative Industries, Inequality and Social Development: Developments, Impacts and Challenges in Cape Town. Urban Forum 23, 43–60 (2012).

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  • Creative industries
  • Cities
  • Inequality
  • Gentrification
  • Post-industrial
  • Urban renewal