Are Gauteng's townships reaping the benefit of mall development?

In 2012, AfricaScope issued a press release entitled: Maponya Mall best located large regional shopping centre in Gauteng (see below).The article emphasized the importance of building malls in the townships of Gauteng. Over the last 6 years there has been the the development of malls in many of the townships but none of them being super regional malls. Our research in 2012 showed that there were at least 6 optimally located super regional mall sites in Gauteng townships.

There seems to be a continued reluctance of developers to build large malls in townships. We would rather continue to saturate the higher per capita income suburbs. Considering the growth in the disposable income of the highly populated Gauteng townships, the continued growth of the middle class and the population growth rate, townships must surely be high potential areas for mall development. This is over and above the necessity for mall development in townships to create jobs and create a micro-economic climate for further development.


Pretoria, February 2012. The Maponya Mall is in a league of its own when it comes to being closest to the largest number of people and within a short travelling time. Within approximately 5 min travel time by road using a car or taxi, 1.2 million people have access to the Maponya Mall. This was determined from an accessibility study of large shopping centres in Gauteng done by AfricaScope. The accessibility study models the allocation of people (demand) to the location of the large shopping centres (supply) across the existing road network in Gauteng and using a car or taxi as the mode of transport.

If the estimated 10.5 million people living in Gauteng (2009 estimates) are equally allocated to the large regional shopping centres included in the study, one would expect the size of the population within each shopping centre’s catchment area to be around 617 000 people. A review of the graph in Figure 1 shows that Maponya Mall stands out from the rest. It also shows that only five of the large shopping centres reach the benchmark population size of 617 000 people and these include Festival, Eastgate, East Rand, Wonderpark and Southgate. All five of these shopping centres reach their catchment population within 13-16 min.

The shopping centres of Menlyn Park and Sandton City reach just under 600 000 people within a travel time of 17-20 min. All the remaining large shopping centres struggle to reach a population of 200 000 people within a travel time of 5 min and above. This large variation in the number of the people within the catchment area of large shopping centres and travel times indicates that optimizing the location of large shopping centres in relation to where the demand is does not seem to have been a major criterion. As a consequence, what one sees is that large shopping centres are largely over concentrated in the wealthier suburbs of Gauteng leaving the township areas without access to large shopping centres.

This is contrary to an article in the Business Day in 2008 on the big shopping centres where it states that Gauteng is “overshopped”. Map 2 below shows the disparity between where the large shopping centres are located and where the largest concentrations of people are living. A review of all other sized shopping centres in Gauteng continues to show that they are located in the wealthier suburbs and not necessarily where the largest demand or concentrations of people are located. A further analysis of where shopping centres are located in relation to where the concentrations of the working population are located is being considered. Furthermore, this disparity is exacerbated in Johannesburg where large shopping centres are located much closer to one another than those in Pretoria.

On average each large shopping centre is 8 minutes travel time away from its nearest competitor while their uncontested catchment areas have a radius of only 4 minutes travel time. Table 1 below shows the distance in travel time by car along the road network from each large shopping centre to its nearest competitor and what the radius of its uncontested catchment areas is in kilometers based on an average travel speed of 60 kmph.

Table 1: Nearest neighboring mall

The average travel time from anywhere in Gauteng to the nearest large shopping centre is almost 14 minutes by car or taxi. The worst case travel time is almost 2 hours while 99% of the population are in reach of the nearest large shopping centre within 41 minutes, 95% of the population is within 33 minutes and 90% of the population is within 27.5 minutes. Fifty percent of the population living in Gauteng is within 11.9 minutes of a large shopping centre. What this provides is some guidance on what large shopping centres should possibly aim in terms of a travel time when looking at their optimum location from a travel time and market share perspective.

What can be concluded is that the wealthier suburbs of Gauteng are probably “over shopped” but not so for the whole of Gauteng. However, there is a real opportunity to locate large shopping centres in the township areas. The mix of retailers, offices, entertainment and government services will be key to the success of these shopping centres. Many new developers are showing the way in making shopping centres successful in urban townships and rural communities throughout the country. From the accessibility study and considering the present locations of large regional shopping we believe that there are at least ten sites where new large regional shopping centres like Maponya Mall can be located.