Home-based enterprises and associated livelihoods in peripheral townships

Common amongst many South African townships, and often located on the urban periphery, home-based enterprises provide households livelihood strategies that can respond to shocks (positive or negative). Although the state is starting to show some understanding of these activities (through their recognition in state policy), often regulations do not allow for and fully encompass the dynamics of these home-based activities.

This study, undertaken as a dissertation at University of Witwatersrand, explored the home-based activities and associated livelihoods of the township of Lufhereng, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa, which has currently completed its first phase of development. The area exhibits a variety of home-based enterprises which include hair salons, spaza shops, electrical repair centres, shoe repair centres, gaming areas and fast-food home-based enterprises. Home-based enterprise owners either rented space for trade in Lufhereng, traded on municipal land or operated their business from their home (where the typologies of these structures were either formal brick structures or non-formal tent structures). Through the use of documents about the study area, interviews and consultation with literature, the study revealed that the location of home-based enterprises and their associated livelihoods on the urban periphery is an intricate problem which requires more than one blanket solution, and that a variety of flexible solutions–applicable to different contexts–must be developed.

The main objective of the research was to understand how home-based economic activities and associated livelihoods in Lufhereng are shaped by their peripheral location. This sparked questions such as: ‘What Home Based Economic activities are evident in Lufhereng?’, ‘What are the advantages and disadvantages of running HBEs from a peripheral location?’ and ‘How do Home Based economic activities (operating in a peripheral location) affect the associated livelihoods?’.

The Housing and the Economy model speaks to the value of a house as public asset (with respect to economic growth, job creation and sustainable human settlements) and as an individual asset (social, financial and economic). This examination of the impact of spatial location (in relation to the city centre) on home-based enterprises speaks directly to the value of a house or a home as a financial asset for individual households. In addition to providing for basic needs (shelter) and social value as a setting for family life, houses offer a base for economic activity and a means of livelihoods for many families–either via rental income or as the setting for small businesses. This research therefore directly contributes to a deeper understanding of these dimensions of the larger model.

The dissertation was presented by Nonhlanhla Bianca Mathibela to the faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment in 2019, in fulfilment of the requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree (with Honours) in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.


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