South African policymakers are increasingly advocating for creative industry entrepreneurship to play a vital role in the economic development of cities, for example, by creating pathways for job creation and encouraging urban regeneration. The question, ‘How can we use creative industries for the economic regeneration of urban regions?’ is dealt with in this study. This paper addresses the question in three ways: examining the international debates about the effectiveness of creative projects as tools for urban development; deliberating on the factors that cause city authorities to put more importance on policies guiding creative industries; and describing the evolution of creative industries in two South African cities: Johannesburg and Cape Town.

In this paper, I argue that the role of creative industries in South Africa, as a promoter of urban development as an essential component of broader development plans, has been dynamic, but also problematic at times. I interrogate the role of creative industries in a range of areas: urban regeneration; the integration of creativity in urban development projects; the current creative economy indicators; policies to address creative diversity and social inclusion issues within the communities; and the potential of creative projects for community empowerment and involvement.