Applied local economic research – new research focus for NWU Vaal

Annette Willemse -- Fri, 02/13/2015 - 11:25

Applied local economic research – new research focus for NWU Vaal

“The Faculty of Economic Sciences and Information Technology is giving shape to the day of tomorrow, by pro-actively anticipating the needs of business and industry in such a way that we blaze a trail of excellence and innovation within the higher education sector.

We are determined to make our impact felt – regionally, nationally and internationally.”

This is according to Prof Herman van der Merwe, Dean of the Faculty of Economic Sciences and Information Technology at the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal), during the first-ever Master Class Symposium on Local Economic Development.

Prof Herman van der Merwe Dr Danie Meyer

During this event, Prof Van der Merwe announced the establishment of a new research programme within the Faculty, which focuses on applied research through third stream income generating research projects, namely: AppLED (Applied Local Economic Development). With Local Economic Development being viewed as one of the most important strategies to decrease poverty levels – especially within the South African context, the Dean explained that the research will help to develop initiatives aimed at job creation, the stimulation of entrepreneurial ventures and income generating opportunities, the fostering of collaborative partnerships and ultimately better stakeholder decision making.

Heading-up the research programme is Dr Danie Meyer, Senior Lecturer from the School of Economics. His areas of expertise include LED, rural development, spatial planning and local government policy formulation.

The Master Class Symposium on Local Economic Development saw two Extra-Ordinary Professors within the School of Economic Sciences - Prof Ed Blakely (international expert on LED) and Prof Ivor Zwane, as well as several other speakers taking to the stage. The programme included presentations by Ms Mbali Blaai (an Honours student at the Vaal Triangle Campus), Mr Klippies Kritzinger (Vanderbijlpark Business Chamber), Dr Esabe Keyser (NWU Vaal School of Behavioural Sciences) and Dr Marius Venter (Center for Local Economic Development – CENLED, and the School of Economics at the University of Johannesburg)

Some of the topics on the agenda were: Small Business Development; The poor, savings and literacy; Business Development and Local Economic Development.

More about AppLED

Researchers from the School of Economic Sciences – within the Faculty of Economic Sciences and Information Technology, have come together to form AppLED (Applied Research: Local Economic Development) – a research programme which focuses on applied research  through third stream income generating research projects. 

AppLED is an informal structure that allows for collaboration with any staff member, student or even external parties, depending on the type of project and if external expertise is needed.

The vision of AppLED is to provide municipalities with support regarding strategic planning, spatial planning, LED and any other assistance required in order to improve service delivery. According to Dr Meyer it is envisaged that all applied research projects will result in research outputs in the form of research articles for publication. Postgraduate students will also be included in practical research endeavours as part of the project.

 

Projects already completed include LED strategies and LUMS (Land Use Management Systems) for several municipalities, including: Fezile Dabi District Municipality in the Northern Free State, the Metsimaholo Local Municipality in the Northern Free State and the Sedibeng District Municipality in Gauteng. Other projects includes assisting Sasol Industries with the compilation of a Corporate Social Investment (CSI) Master Plan and assisting the Sedibeng District Municipality with comments regarding an integrated transport plan, and the establishment of the Vaal Logistics Hub. The latter refers to a Special Economic Zone to facilitate inland port for freight and logistics, and facilitate the movement of goods from manufacturing and other sectors for domestic, national and international destinations.

According to Dr Meyer, the ultimate goals of AppLED is to be a major source of support and information to ensure municipalities can accelerate service delivery and economic development. "Research outputs will be made available to municipalities and regular workshops will be held to transfer knowledge and to exchange ideas," explains Dr Meyer and adds that AppLED is already represented on the Sedibeng Mayoral Investment Council and the Fezile Dabi District Municipality's LED Forum

* Local Economic Development (LED) is an approach to economic development, particularly in the developing world that, as its name implies, places importance on activities in and by cities, districts and regions. This involves added micro-economic measures at the local level to complement macro-economic measures at the national level. LED encompasses a range of disciplines including physical planning, economics and marketing - all with the goal of building up the economic capacity of a local area to improve its economic future and the quality of life for all.

 

Members of academia, local goverment, business representatives and entrepreneurs attended the
first Master Class Symposium on Local Economic Development