Research to focus on applied local economic development

Annette Willemse -- Mon, 09/08/2014 - 12:51

Research to focus on applied local economic development

Local Economic Development (LED) is viewed as one of the most important strategies to decrease poverty levels - especially within the South African context. By making local economies grow, LED initiatives aim to create jobs; stimulate entrepreneurial ventures and income generating opportunities; foster collaborative partnerships and better stakeholder decision-making. 

With this in mind, researchers from the School of Economic Sciences 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 represents an entity within the bhive Enterprise Development Centre (EDC). 

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.

More about the project leader

Dr Meyer joined the University in 2011. He graduated in 1987 at the Potchefstroom Campus as a Town and Regional Planner. Since then he has worked as a consultant for government and the private sector on spatial and economic aspects. He has also worked for the national departments of Rural Development and Land Reform, Constitutional Development and Planning, as well the local municipalities of Boksburg and Midvaal.

During his career he has also compiled a large number of spatial and economic development strategies for all spheres of government. 

The workings of AppLED

AppLED is an informal structure managed open for collaboration with any staff member, student or even external parties, depending on the type of project and if external expertise is needed. Other members include the staff at the department of Economics within the School of Economics.  The world-renowned researcher and expert on LED, Prof E Blakely, is an extraordinary professor within the AppLED structure, and Dr A Venter was recently appointed as a research fellow within the team.

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.