Review Article

Questioning governance of urban informality: A study of township economy in Alexandra, Johannesburg

Blessings Masuku
Journal of Foresight and Thought Leadership | Vol 2, No 1 | a20 | DOI: | © 2023 Blessings Masuku | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 December 2022 | Published: 19 June 2023

About the author(s)

Blessings Masuku, Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


Background: This study presents informality as a center of in-depth analysis by referencing current studies to demonstrate how this perspective foregrounds new and emerging pragmatic literature developments on urban informality, notably informality as a strategy for livelihood earning for disadvantaged groups.

Aim: The purpose of this study was to examine the approach of the city of Johannesburg in its inclusive policy of urban spatial planning and management. This study interrogates what regulatory frameworks are in place that govern urban informality, notably informal trading.

Methods: This study utilised in-depth interviews and policy document reviews. This study focused on township economy in Alexandra. The data collected were analysed using correlation and cross-tabulation methods.

Results: Findings reveal that measures adopted by city authorities to govern informality are largely fragmented and uncoordinated; especially, the procedures on licensing, permit application and infrastructure access and provision for street vendors are intricate, cumbersome, and costly.

Conclusion: The city of Johannesburg still overlooks the crucial economic role of township economies by clamping down on informal trade and forcing the informal traders to formalise their practice.

Contribution: This study contributes to the emerging urban informality scholarship by exploring how city regulations and management conceptualise and engage with urban informality.


informality; urban spatial planning and governance; street food vendors; township economy, informal food sector, regulatory framework.

JEL Codes

J78: Public Policy

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities


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Crossref Citations

1. Rethinking South Africa’s household energy poverty through the lens of off-grid energy transition
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Development Southern Africa  vol: 41  issue: 3  first page: 467  year: 2024  
doi: 10.1080/0376835X.2023.2300411