A critical evaluation of the operational application of various settlement typologies in South Africa


  • Isabel Schmidt Statistics South Africa
  • Danie du Plessis Stellenbosch University, South Africa




development programmes, settlement typologies, spatial units


This article critically evaluates the definition and operational application of various settlement typologies across selected government departments for the purposes of the planning, implementation and monitoring of development programmes. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods are applied and informant and group interviews are conducted with 21 different government departments or entities. Nine different typologies are identified and compared on the basis of the requirements highlighted during the group interviews and international best practice. Discussions with the various interest groups highlight the need for a functional typology that consists of a number of categories or classes that can be combined as needed and not be restricted to a simple urban-rural dichotomy. A more dynamic and accessible linkage between the spatial units of analysis of the various typologies is also required. It is found that the South African City Network/Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) settlement typology meets most of the criteria set by the literature as well as the groups interviewed. In view of the widespread use of the Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) data and typologies, it is recommended that the South African City Network/CSIR typologies should dovetail as much as possible with the 2011-census data and classification system.


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How to Cite

Schmidt, I. and du Plessis, D. (2013) “A critical evaluation of the operational application of various settlement typologies in South Africa”, Town and Regional Planning, 63, pp. 12–23. doi: 10.38140/trp.v63i0.529.



Research articles