Significant spatial and structural changes have occurred in the business sector of intermediate-sized cities in South Africa since the mid-1990s. These changes can largely be ascribed to responses of entrepreneurs, from both formal and informal sectors, to the profound changes that have taken place in business markets in those cities over the period. This paper addresses the question how the business environment has changed in three rather representative intermediate-sized cities in the North West Province of South Africa since the demise of apartheid and what economic, environmental, social and political key factors may have played a role in those changes. It analyses changes in the spatial distribution of formal and informal businesses in those cities and, based on that, identifies general trends in the structural changes that have become apparent in them since the political transition. Some general conclusions are drawn from our survey results. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.