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Bridging the urban-rural gap in facilitating local economic development: the case study of uMgungundlovu District Municipality.

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Local Economic Development (LED) is an approach to economic development that enables communities to work together thus inspiring the realization of sustainable economic growth and development for all. However, uMgungundlovu District Municipality is still challenged by issues of poverty, unemployment and inequality, which hinder the realization of growth and development within the District. As mandated by The Constitution, the District must promote and facilitate LED within the locality. However, the District cannot undertake this function alone, consequently, collaborative effort is needed among all local stakeholders within the District to promote LED. The aim of this study was to investigate how to bridge the urban-rural gap in facilitating LED within uMgungundlovu District Municipality and provide an understanding of this phenomenon. The study explored the urban-rural gaps in LED facilitation, identified the relevant stakeholders key in LED facilitation and the challenges that existed in trying to bridge this gap. The qualitative research method was used to collect data through in-depth open-ended interviews with eleven participants which included three junior, five middle and three senior management officials representing uMgungundlovu District Municipality; the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA); uMngeni Local Municipality; Mpofana Local Municipality; Mkhambathini Local Municipality; and Impendle Local Municipality. The case study participants were purposely selected based on their designation, role and level of experience in LED facilitation within the case study municipality. The data collected through interviews was themed and categorized using the thematic approach and then analysed. The results revealed that there were gaps in the understanding of LED planning, facilitation and implementation along with gaps in resource planning and provision within uMgungundlovu District. The study also revealed that numerous stakeholders were relevant in facilitating LED within the District, including: the District municipality; local municipalities; private sector; institutional structures; labour movement; traditional leaders; and supporting sector departments. Service delivery issues, infrastructure and the overall lack of capacity, skills and collaboration were found to hinder the successful implementation and facilitation of LED. This was especially evident within the more rural areas where most of these resources were either limited or non-existent. It is recommended that the District improves on service delivery and infrastructure provision, especially in the more rural areas, to enable access of opportunities. The District should create a platform for stakeholder engagement, with the inclusion of traditional leaders to help drive LED facilitation within rural areas, whilst also promoting skills and capacity building through training and mentorship, development of rural development strategies targeting the development of rural areas, increased funding for LED promotion and the promotion of collaborative governance. The implications of this study can improve LED facilitation in uMgungundlovu District Municipality and encourage further research on the topic within the country.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.