Leaving a Lasting Legacy

The Vuthela iLembe Local Economic Development (LED) Support Programme was a unique programme to test a more comprehensive approach to local economic development that has contributed towards important reforms in municipalities in iLembe that if sustained will have left a lasting legacy.

This was the resounding sentiment that emerged from the programme’s Swiss donor, public representatives from all spheres of government and private sector partners at the programme’s close-out workshop held recently.

The six-year programme received funding of just over R151-million from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), supported through financial and in-kind co-contributions from the associated municipalities. It was undertaken in partnership with iLembe District Municipality and the local municipalities of KwaDukuza and Mandeni, and the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (KZN EDTEA), with Mariswe (Pty) Ltd as implementing agent. The iLembe Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism was included as a partner in the Programme Steering Committee.

Towards inclusive economic growth

Head of SECO South Africa Daniel Lauchenauer said the 37 projects completed through the funding had succeeded in improving capacities of local government which should contribute towards more inclusive economic growth in the district.

“The main objective was to promote a more viable and resource-efficient private sector, reliable economic frameworks and more favourable investment opportunities,” said Lauchenauer.

“We have seen many good and positive outcomes during the course of the programme and there are many lessons to consider.

“The Vuthela Programme remains critically relevant in the current economic and developmental context that South Africa finds itself in,” he said.

iLembe District Municipality Mayor Councillor TP Shandu thanked SECO for funding the Vuthela Programme and the key partners for executing it successfully.

“Your support has contributed to the development of the district and has improved the lives of residents,” said Councillor Shandu. “Our municipal institutions are now in a much better position to achieve positive outcomes for the district, and to build on our efforts to respond to unemployment and poverty.

“The learnings from the programme will help us to serve our people better in the future.”

Business enabling environment

Vuthela Programme Manager Richard Clacey said the programme aimed to strengthen the business enabling environment for inclusive, sustainable growth in many innovative ways.

“The conceptual design went beyond what is traditionally regarded as local economic development,” said Clacey. “This programme attempted to move away from the duality in policy debate between addressing poverty and stimulating economic growth through promoting local competitiveness.

“We needed systemic interventions around enabling the business environment, reforms in municipal finance management, infrastructure development, and municipal and other regulatory approvals, enterprise skills training and partnerships.

“The Vuthela Programme was intended to ignite the process, as the name implies, The programme has come to an end but there is still much work to be done to complete the process. Systems have been put in place to resolve many of the persistent problems that were identified at the programme’s design and inception, and still remain with us today.”

CEO of the iLembe Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Cobus Oelofse, congratulated the Vuthela Programme on its successes and on achieving a positive image for the district.

“The programme remains relevant to South Africa’s development priorities and has left many positive impacts for the district to build on,” said Oelofse.      

Integrated approach

KZN EDTEA representative Lucy Mokoena said the Vuthela Programme had benefitted local government by taking an integrated approach to economic development.

“It was an empowering and challenging programme that built capacity across all its components,” she said. “Some achievements and lessons learnt are already being used by other government departments.”

National Treasury representative Ofentse Lekwape said Vuthela was a well managed Official Development Assistance (ODA) Programme and he congratulated the Vuthela Programme partners, manager and team for their resilience and professionalism.

“Key to the success of the programme was the implementation support on the projects that municipal officials did not have the capacity to undertake. We had flexibility in the system and an understanding partner in SECO. It has been a hugely successful relationship,” he said.

The KwaDukuza Local Municipality’s member of the Project Management Team, Sikhumbuzo Hlongwane, said contributions to the local economy included improving the ease of doing business to unlock economic development and improving the enabling environment by developing policies and plans for building the infrastructure needed to support LED.

Financial management and governance oversight was improved, which contributed to investor confidence in the municipal area.

Hlongwane appealed for the programme to be included in the municipality’s scorecards and individual performance contracts in the future. He also suggested that the Vuthela brand be maintained and used after the funded programme has officially ended.

“The Vuthela brand represents a successful programme and it inspires confidence whenever it is mentioned. It would be great if the iLembe district can continue to use the brand to promote municipal projects in the future,” said Hlongwane.

Photo: Daniel Lauchenauer, Head of SECO South Africa