21 December 2018

Namibia: Transforming the Economy of Small Towns in Namibia Through LED Practice

Local Economic Development practice (LED) is about maximising human welfare and providing a sound economic, social and environmental base for both present and future generation.

The success of LED relies on representatives of public, private, Non-governmental Organisation and the community sectors working together to make a difference. The main aim of LED initiatives is to encourage local participation and consensus building to determine economic and social welfare initiatives for the locality. There is a sentiment of perception that, without finances LED is impossible as nothing can be implemented without money; however, it has been proven that there are other alternatives or means to execute and achieve LED with limited or no funds at all.

The Namibian government needs to acknowledge that sustainable local economic development depends to a great extent on how knowledge is successfully generated and applied. Indeed, the changing contexts for local development points to a strong need to understand and adopt the innovation systems approach as an analytical framework. The innovation systems approach pays particular attention to the developmental outcomes of the practical application of creative activities recognizing the unique geography of the locality. Thus, it facilitates the generation of relevant knowledge, provides access to knowledge, enables knowledge sharing, and emphasizes learning.

Local authority and regional councilors under the decentralisation concept in line with government national development objectives of NDPs and Vision 2030 are custodian or drivers in implementing government's programmes for development in Namibia.

Sustainable Economic Development is a bottom up approach on the basis of promoting local approaches that responds to the local needs and conditions reference to Harvard Business School professor Dany Rodrik. Namibia is part and parcel of the international community and a member of SADC region and thus has placed itself firmly on the international map, in other words is an active global partner.

To accelerate the transformation of Small Towns' Economy in Namibia, it is recommended, amongst others, that the Local Authorities adopt LED plans and programmes, which include integrated development plans, continuously collect data and analyse the trends and further have Monitoring, Evaluation & Benchmarking, support and capacitate the SME and the informal Sector through training workshops. They should involve the residents and community organisations to identify and develop public amenities and last but not least, improve functional relationship between Local Authorities and Regional Councils through the creation of an effective network.

LED approaches are distinguished most radically from traditional development approaches in their focus on a defined territory. What links the different approaches together is the common concern for making local economies robust and creating productive jobs and incomes for local populations and also the recognition that local or regional competitive advantage rests on local interactions, knowledge spillovers and institutional synergies. Although the activity of LED embodies a clear economic focus it is not simply about economic growth, rather it is geared ultimately towards attaining a sustainable development pattern which accommodates and reconciles economic, social and ecological issues and objectives.

* Peya Junior Mushelenga is an Economic Development Officer at the Lüderitz Town Council and MBA-strategy student with the University of Namibia (Unam).

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