Special Economic Zones in the Global South: Between integrated spaces and enclaves – a literature review


  • Carolina Kiesel University of Cologne
  • Peter Dannenberg University of Cologne




Special Economic Zones, enclaves, economic development, linkages, Global South


Special Economic Zones (SEZs) have gained massively in popularity worldwide and particularly in the Global South. However, they are also discussed as a controversial economic policy instrument. Some analyses view SEZs as promising spaces with integrative linkages, while other studies see them as enclaves marked by spatial and economic segregation. To shed light on the various and partly contradictory perceptions of SEZs, this paper reviews literature on SEZs in the Global South and suggests a differentiated and more comprehensive view for SEZ analyses in order to understand their different characteristics, interactions, and the related processes between SEZs and their host regions. Our review goes beyond dichotomies of viewing SEZs as enclavistic or integrated spaces. Instead, it systematically outlines how even a single SEZ can integrate into regions in some ways, while remaining disintegrated in other ways. Here, we build on recent studies of SEZs in the Global South, employing the enclave approach as a conceptual basis, and include conceptual works on economic linkages and global production networks.

Author Biographies

Carolina Kiesel, University of Cologne

Carolina Kiesel has a Master of Science in Human Geography and works for the working group “Human Geography - Urban and Regional Development” at the University of Cologne, Germany. She is currently finishing her doctoral thesis on special economic zones in Sub Saharan Africa. Current research interests involve regional development in the Global South, local and global production networks, socio-environmental impacts, and development policies.

Peter Dannenberg, University of Cologne

Prof Dr Peter Dannenberg is a Professor of Urban and Regional Development at the Institute of Geography and the Global South Studies Center at the University of Cologne, Albertus Magnus Platz 50923 Cologne, Germany, e-mail: p.dannenberg@uni-koeln.de. He is Principal investigator in the Collaborative Research Centre 228 “Future Rural Africa: Future-making and social-ecological transformation” (www.crc228.de).  His research interests include economic geography, transformation processes, infrastructures, dynamics of globalization, and related regional impacts.




How to Cite

Kiesel, C., & Dannenberg, P. (2023). Special Economic Zones in the Global South: Between integrated spaces and enclaves – a literature review. DIE ERDE – Journal of the Geographical Society of Berlin, 154(1-2), 5–19. https://doi.org/10.12854/erde-2023-606



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