State of Local Economic Development in Africa
Local Economic Development
“Local Economic Development is a process where the local actors shape and share the future of their territory. We could define it as a participatory process that encourages and facilitates partnership between the local stakeholders, enabling the joint design and implementation of strategies, mainly based on the competitive use of the local resources, with the final aim of creating decent jobs and sustainable economic activities.” (Canzanelli 2001: 9)
Local economic development refers to development strategies that are territorially based and locally owned and managed, with priority areas that include increasing employment levels and economic growth.
LED typically takes a territorial approach and focuses on the development of a region or locality rather than an industrial sector. Development strategies are generally top-down, with the central government deciding where intervention is needed with little or no input from local actors. In contrast, the LED approach focuses on development from below and advocates the need for promoting economic development in all areas. Local governments are better placed to interact with local economic and social actors, allowing them to formulate development strategies in co-operation with local stakeholders and thereby making them better tailored to local needs.
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As LED is firmly rooted within the sphere of local government UCLG Africa provides access to best practice strategies, methods and tools that can help local governments empower local communities and find dynamic uses for local resources that stimulate the creation of sustainable and good quality employment opportunities. To this end, UCLG Africa will release a triennial report on the “State of Local Economic Development in Africa,” that documents on-going initiatives and innovations developed in Africa, where new narratives and debates emerging from these experiences will be shared and disseminated. A position paper will also be produced on the territorial approach to local economic development highlighting, in particular, the role of local governments in the transition towards sustainable local economies in Africa.
Migration and the Diaspora
Cities and local authorities are at the heart of the migration movements and evidence shows that in 2013 there were 22 million migrants due to climate change and 51 million refugees avoiding persecution and wars, with a significant number coming from Africa. The current discourse on migration focuses much attention on the issue of security, which is why the solutions that have been put in place do not offer tangible results in the long run.
UCLG Africa highlights that people migrate from a local government to settle in another local government, therefore unless the human dimension of migration is addressed, which means treating the root causes of departure at the local level and the integration of migrants in the local societies they settle in, there is no way the issue of migration can find a suitable and sustainable response.
With regard to the diaspora borne out of the migration process, one should not ignore the huge contribution these migrants and the diaspora have made to the development of their localities and countries. Experts say that the remittances from migrants are now out-stripping the amount of international public aid with an annual figure of 300 billion US dollars in 2010, which is more than double the international development aid now standing at 149 billion US dollars. Africa receives annually 0.5 billion dollars from her migrants and diaspora, representing on average between 10 to 15% of the GDP. UCLG Africa advocates first and foremost, to consider the local treatment of the migration challenge before anything else, in order to handle it with humanity and care. During the Africities7 Summit in Johannesburg UCLG Africa’s membership adopted an African Local Government Charter on Migrants highlighting the need to protect the rights of migrants and to value their contribution to the local development.
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Based on this evidence, UCLG Africa is proposing a specific local government-centered approach to the migration issue, which will provide technical assistance to cities implementing the African Local Government Charter on Migrants from UCLG Africa experts.
Culture and Heritage
UCLG Africa collaborates with different institutions to have African culture and heritage recognized as a key contributor to local economic development. It advocates for African local governments to be signatory to the UCLG Agenda for culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development.
Our work aims to encourage African local governments to have an inventory of their tangible and intangible cultural heritage and to have it registered at the national and world heritage registry. To this end, UCLG Africa collaborates with the Committee on Culture of UCLG World; the World Heritage Center of UNESCO; the International Council on Monuments and Sites; the African School of Heritage in Porto Novo, Benin; the Mediterranean Network of the Medinas; the African Network of Cities for the Promotion of Culture and Heritage; RAPEC, and ARTEFACTS, African NGOs active in the field of cultural heritage and industries, as well as the African Association of Traditional Authorities. UCLG Africa is also in talks with the United Nations World Tourism Organization; the International Institute for Peace through Tourism; and the International Institute of ‘Life Beyond Tourism.’ Through these collaborations UCLG Africa will raise awareness amongst members on the prospect of culture and heritage as builders of local identity.
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UCLG Africa wishes to mobilize the ecosystem formed by these institutions to witness drastic progress in the consideration of culture and heritage as a source of prosperity for African local government, through their involvement in the activities of culture and heritage registration, partnership with traditional authorities and eco and cultural tourism promotion.