Degree to grow local govt capacity


30 July 2013

Local government is critical to South Africa’s industrialisation, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said at the launch of a Bachelor of Economics (Local Economic Development) degree at the University of the Western Cape on Monday.

“South Africa needs municipalities that are effective, and developments need to start there,” Davies said in a statement.

He said the programme, sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), would help municipalities to stimulate area-based economic development by identifying economic gaps and working with small businesses to close those gaps.

“Ultimately this intervention will assist the DTI to achieve its strategic objective of industrial development, competitiveness and employment creation in all corners of the country, ensuring that key economic policies like the IPAP [Industrial Policy Action Plan] are understood and driven at a local level.”

Four-year degree programme

The four-year degree programme is offered by the University of the Western Cape in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg through their B. Econ (Local Economic Development) degree.

The programme commenced in 2012 with 26 registered students, of whom 23 have progressed to their second year, with 30 new students currently doing their first year.

“Bursaries will be available for the students enrolling for the degree in 2013,” Sipho Zikode, deputy director-general in the DTI’s broadening participation division, said in a statement on Monday.

Zikode added that the DTI was currently negotiating with municipalities to take students for in-service training to complete their qualifications.

University of the Western Cape vice-chancellor Brian O’Connel said the university was honoured to partner with the government on the initiative, adding that the only way South Africa could address the inherited challenges of apartheid was by developing the appropriate competencies.

Capacity building programme

The degree programme forms part of a comprehensive capacity building programme designed to build economic and industrial development capacity at local government level.

It includes a short learning programme, as well as mentorship and research components targeting people already working in municipalities who are unable to attend the full-time degree course.

All universities who are members of the consortium have received appropriate training so that they can offer the programme to municipalities and all other interested individuals in their localities.

The short learning programme will be offered to municipalities by the University of the Western Cape, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Limpopo, Tshwane University of Technology, Walter Sisulu University, University of Fort Hare and Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

The capacity building programme was developed by the DTI in partnership with the South African Local Government Association, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and the Industrial Development Corporation.

SAinfo reporter