Local economic development in South Africa is not a new phenomenon with a range of evidence pointing to several incipient LED initiatives taking place in many cities and towns beginning during the 1930s. Nevertheless, in the apartheid era, local planning initiatives went into decline and became dwarfed by "top-down" central government-led initiatives of regional planning and industrial decentralization focussed upon the Bantustans. From the early 1990s there occurred a gradual re-emergence of LED initiatives in the country‟s largest cities. Since the democratic transition, however, LED has been elevated from isolated local development intervention, mainly in cities, to an obligatory mandate for all local authorities in terms of the National Constitution.
The themes for this paper are:
- The legislative and policy environment for LED;
- The evolution of LED across national, provincial and local tiers since 1995;
- The linkages of LED within wider spatial planning frameworks;
- Good practices for LED especially in terms of cluster development;
- Data issues and the identification of competitive advantage; and municipalities;
- The appropriate role of LED in the context of 'the urban future';
- Capacity challenges facing LED – generically and between different sized municipalities; and
- Key issues for policy discussion and possible research.
The material presented in the paper represents 'evidenced-based research' and draws from the findings of recent academic work, critical analysis of policy documentation around spatial planning frameworks, internal DPLG material, and direct inputs provided by DPLG personnel.