This study, which is based on the private sector perception of urban regeneration initiatives in the Johannesburg Inner City, critically evaluates the current strategy employed by the City of Johannesburg which elevates private sector investment as the mainstay for inner city revival and the pillar for achieving what it calls “a world-class African city”. It argues that, in spite of the positive outcomes that have occurred in the inner city since the advent of urban regeneration, the initiatives informed by the current strategy and designed to induce private sector investment have contributed to urban change only in limited ways. The motives behind the urban regeneration initiatives and the private sector perception do not correspond. General market factors and trends such as the high demand for space, relatively low property prices, perceived financial returns on investment, risk diversification and have been the main motivating factors for private sector investment decisions and subsequent urban growth. Conversely, the urban regeneration initiatives, while making a noticeable impact, are perceived to have played only a secondary role. Factors perceived to be acting as deterrents to private sector investment also relate largely to those aspects at which various urban regeneration initiatives are targeted. For instance, factors such as poor by-law enforcement, neglected degenerating buildings, crime and inadequate delivery of municipal services are increasingly seen to be contributing to limiting investment in the inner city. This suggests that urban regeneration initiatives are perceived as not achieving the intended objectives or as needing strengthening. In addition, policy instruments such as the Urban Development Zone, City Improvement District, the Johannesburg Development Agency, the Better Building Programme and crime prevention measures, which are the pillars of Johannesburg’s regeneration strategy, are each generally perceived to have yielded significant benefits and advantages in the inner city. However, these instruments are also perceived to have some shortcomings and limitations both as concepts and in practice. There is a pervasive perception that the effectiveness of these instruments is marred by, among other things, the fact that they do not embrace the wider inner city, but parts thereof, and have not been implemented in an integrated manner. The findings of the study, particularly around inadequate delivery of municipal services and lax by-law enforcement, also raise serious questions about the plausibility of the competitive cities approach that underpins the City of Johannesburg’s urban regeneration strategy, suggesting that more work is required around the relevance of the competitive cities approach in the Johannesburg Inner City.