Misplaced Expectations? The Experience of Applied Local Economic Development in Post-Apartheid South Africa
A hallmark of post-apartheid South Africa has been the introduction of bold and innovative policy in areas ranging from the national Constitution to resource management policy. In line with this approach, there has been a clear commitment to principles of decentralization and participatory development, with Local Economic Development (LED) featuring prominently in national, provincial and local government pronouncements and planning. Despite considerable policy and funding support for LED, results at best can be described as only modest. This paper critically reflects on the importance attached to LED in South Africa, what has been attempted over the last decade, and the various reasons that might explain the limitations experienced with applied LED, including those that are inherent in the nature of LED and those that can be attributed to local factors. The paper draws upon field-based research undertaken over more than a decade and the findings of a major study undertaken by an international development finance organization. The paper raises challenging questions about the nature, focus and potential of LED as an appropriate development intervention.
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