Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states have been urged to mainstream the developmental aspirations at local government level to leverage strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
The SADC executive secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence-Tax remarked yesterday that, though local governments are seen as critical players in implementation and achievement of the SADC Development Goals (SDG), this happens albeit at a snail’s pace.
Addressing the Commonwealth Local Government conference, which started on Tuesday in Gaborone, Lawrence-Tax said not mainstreaming regional objectives has led to lack of implementation and lowered achievement.
She appealed to central governments to merge regional developmental aspirations with those at the national level, with a thread of connectedness to development objectives at local government.
“If indeed we want to achieve sustainable development, local government entities need to be brought on board,” said Tax.
“Regional aspirations must be trickled down to local governments,” she said.
Lawrence-Tax stressed that the private sector must not be left out of the equation, as it was highly recognised in the industrialisation process, together with non-governmental actors.
Moreover, she said a regional planning platform that would bring on board both the central and local government was crucial. This platform, she said, would deliver efficiently when designed such that best practices were shared within member states, whose purpose would be to optimise collective resolution of challenges.
Lawrence-Tax was presenting on a session that sought to identify and how best to implement economic growth and sustainable growth and development and the new SDG provisions on strong, inclusive and sustainable growth and decent work for all with particular emphasis on local economic development.
South African minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Pravin Gordhan, said countries had to take into account concerns of inequalities, new technologies as well as the quality of the growth that they were in pursuit of.
Speaking on the role of local government in support of economic development, growth and regional integration, he said governments needed to ensure that the rewards of economic were shared equally.
After 20 years of democratic rule, Gordhan said his country was a typical example of unshared growth, as the divide between blacks and whites remains pronounced.
He said the status quo was presenting formidable challenges, noting that sound leadership was key to creation of inclusive development.
“Leadership with integrity and one that can convince the populace that it’s worth their trust and not corrupt,” he said.
He stressed that a caliber of leadership able to manage conflicting interests and able to negotiate at all sections of the society without being a servant to just one is key.
Gordhan urged that a change of mindset was critical for local government to be a key driver of growth through putting in place structures and policies for fruitful partnerships. The conference ends today.