The impact of local economic development strategy in creating employment opportunities for youth and women in Lekwa Local Municipality

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University of Zululand
Globally, researchers and governments recognised the role of Local Economic Development (LED) as an important tool to create jobs, alleviate poverty, and improve quality of life. To this end, after the LED model was proposed by the growth of Japan in the 1970s, as a catalyst for socio-economic development, South Africa’s local government bears the responsibility to ensure LED succeeds. Underpinned by developmental state theory, this study investigated the LED program’s influence in creating employment opportunities for youth and women in Lekwa Local Municipality (LLM) from 2016 to 2021, during this period in the review of socio-economic challenges pervaded the country and continued to be a major obstacle for an economy emerging from recession. Additionally, the socio-economic difficulties that South Africa is facing are viewed by the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 as a severe emergency that needs to be addressed urgently. This study adopted a qualitative approach as it sought deep insight into the experiences of youth and women in LLM. The qualitative study aimed to explore the lived experiences of human behaviour through providing in-depth contextualized understandings and meanings of LED programs. The design of the study was exploratory descriptive, providing a deeper understanding of the experiences of youth and women by generating descriptive data. This helped the researcher to establish a clearer understanding of their experiences. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with 23 participants including women and youths, a few of whom were municipal officials because of their active participation in the council operation and their relationship with LED initiatives in LLM. The sampling method of the study was purposive sampling which was drawn to enable the researcher to focus on phenomena that were central to the research questions based on expertise of the groups of individuals identified as key participants. Participation in the study was voluntary and consensual and the identity of the participants was protected through using pseudonyms of instead of participants’ names. This was explained in the consent forms by assuring participants in research of the protection of their personal information is one of the most important parts of protecting research participants. The trustworthiness of the qualitative data was assuring through the use of worthy consideration that no favouritism was involved in identifying or selecting participants which was achieved by developing selection criteria for participants. Thematic analysis was used to identify common themes in the data. The data was analyzed through content analysis, using the NVivo software as it allowed the researcher to transcribe the data and generate themes. The findings of the study revealed that the previous LED initiatives' failures in LLM amongst others, to identify and implement high-impact interventions, were a great concern among some participants. Another finding was that the officials of the municipality were unable to fight socio-economic challenges such as unemployment, poverty, and inequality alone, resulting in their collaboration with private sector programmes to assist in poverty alleviation and job creation. The study also found the failures of government institutions to ensure that LED programs take the needs of local communities into account. The evidence of the study also found nepotism and employment of people based on their political affiliation and rank in political parties as one of the problems in the LED program. Despite these weaknesses, the study found that the municipality was doing well in investing in education because the huge number of young people amassed relevant knowledge and skills through training will in the future support the growth economy and the development of Lekwa. Based on the theoretical framework of the study, it appeared that there is a need for the South African government to build a developmental state through local government to redress the socio-economic challenges created by the injustices of the past. Overall, the findings showed how the LED program might help the Lekwa Local Municipality's socioeconomic challenges. The study made the following recommendations: 1) The municipality must educate its people about LED and its importance. 2) All stakeholders involved in the implementation of the LED strategy must participate fully to increase impact. 3) Partnerships with young people and women-led businesses must be strengthened to address socio-economic challenges as this will open a space for more stable job opportunities. Overall, the findings show how the LED Strategy might help the Lekwa Local Municipality's socioeconomic challenges. Since the study it clarified how LED Strategy might assist in addressing socioeconomic issues in South African municipalities, the study is unique.
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Development Studies in the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies at the University of Zululand, South Africa [2023].