Commonwealth Local Government Forum

Local economic development at centre of EAC integration

17 March 2024

 

Local economic development was well and truly at the heart of discussions around the integration of the East African Community.

 

A diverse range of local government stakeholders came together in Arusha, Tanzania on 27-29 February 2024 for the 8th East African Local Government Forum. The event's focus was on local economic development (LED) in cross-border communities, and how this can reinforce the implementation of the East African Community (EAC) treaty commitments.

 

CLGF, the East African Local Government Association (EALGA), and the PORALG partnered to deliver this regional conference, which allowed participants to exchange views on how best to position local government to contribute effectively to  EAC integration and drive forward the development agenda. The discussions on LED had a special focus on cross-border communities and identified strategic solutions to common issues facing local government and subnational institutions in supporting economic development at a local level and reinforce EAC trade policy.

Local government at the epicentre of productivity

The opening keynote address was provided by Dr. Irene Isaka, Director-Social Sector Service, East Africa Community who said: “Local governments are the epicentre of productivity and to feed and ensure sustainable markets, it therefore becomes imperative the we at the EAC include and involve them in our discussions and planning processes. I therefore applaud EALGA and its partner, the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, for having taken the initiative to convene this platform where we as partners can jointly explore opportunities for joint action, through a sharing of practice at Local Government level and in our Border Communities.”

 

Over the course of the two-day meeting, sessions reflected on LED and cross-border realities, the needs of traditionally excluded groups, as well as providing practical examples around partnering with businesses, banks and other funding bodies to invest in the local economy.

Community driven integration

EALGA Chairperson Cllr. Jeanette Nyiramasengesho reminded participants that “We all know that local governments are the foot soldiers of development and participatory governance at the grassroots level. Therefore, we continue to argue that we are necessary to the EAC if it is to obtain the true sense of a community-driven integration process.”

 

A key point of discussion focused on local governments having the ability to provide leadership in identifying and leveraging natural, human and infrastructural resources in a district or region and, by so doing, they become promoters and facilitators of commercial and investment trade. It was also stressed that local government should prioritise local economic development through policy and practice. The flexibility of the LED approach was stressed as it looks to maximise the economic comparative advantage of local areas in terms of exploiting the business potential, resources and value chains, as well as being a useful entry point for addressing multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a local level. It was agreed that the local government sector must build its capacity to mainstream and institutionalise LED.

 

EALGA Secretary-General, Getrude Rose Gamwera, concluded the meeting by reminding all participants that the discussion over the past days demonstrated that local governments are already invested in promoting trade, and local leaders have the ideas and innovations to bring to the process. It was agreed to continue to work towards the EAC treaty commitments to ensure that the profile of local government, as well as both the successes and challenges, are fed into regional policy, going forward.

Understanding cross border LED dynamics

CLGF's Head of Programmes, Ms Claire Frost, said: "CLGF and EALGA are committed to working together, both to undertake targeted pilot work at country level to better understand the dynamics within cross-border LED, as well as at country and regional level to ensure that policy and programmes provide the right kind of support to local government in delivering development to the people of the East African Community."

 

 

 

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