JOHANNESBURG - South Africa must focus on strengthening linkages between urban and rural development to achieve sustainable and inclusive progress, the deputy minister for Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs Andries Nel has said.

Nels told a conference on the regeneration of small towns that some of the challenges affecting the country’s ability to strengthen the linkages between the two spaces included tensions between elected councils and traditional leadership over land use and land development planning, as well as poor infrastructure, particularly in transportation and communication.

"Clearly, the solution to poverty in rural areas cannot be found in the rural economy alone," Nels said. "Rural growth needs access to urban markets and vibrant non-farm sectors. Equally, the growth of urban areas can be compromised by inadequate rural development."

He said development strategies must recognise the interdependence of rural and urban spaces, while a comprehensive, integrated approach to urban development needed to respond to the reality of migration to peri- urban areas.

In 2016 cabinet adopted the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) which aims to support and guide South African cities and towns to achieve spatial transformation while protecting the environment.

"The Small Towns Regeneration Programme is an integral part of the implementation of the IUDF," Nel said.

"Small towns are a necessary and important link to the development of rural regions, and the role of small towns as service centres, within a hierarchy of settlements, is emphasised."

- African News Agency (ANA)