Igniting Local Economic Development in the iLembe District

Press release, 01.12.2017

Launch of the iLembe Project
Ambassador Helene Budliger Artieda ©FDFA

The Vuthela iLembe Local Economic Development Programme was launched at a prestigious breakfast meeting on 29 November in Ballito, located in the iLembe District of KwaZulu-Natal.  This programme is funded through the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) in a CHF 8.3 million partnership that includes the municipalities of the iLembe District, KwaDukuza and Mandeni, the National Treasury and the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environment Affairs. 

The iLembe District, situated just north of the eThekwini metropolitan area and south of the fast growing area of uMhlathuze (previously Richards Bay/Empangeni), is marked by stark contrasts.  KwaDukuza is one of the fastest growing municipalities in the country and is home to some of the most popular and affluent vacation communities on the coast.  It also boosts a very favourable location close to the King Shaka International Airport and its Dube Trade Port. However, unemployment remains very high, especially amongst youth, and the district’s population is mostly very poor and largely unable to pay the full cost of municipal services.  It is estimated that 60% of the local population earns no income, and of the employed, 90% live below the government’s poverty line. 

The Vuthela iLembe LED Programme, which means “ignite the fire” – a call to productive action, aims to contribute to the improvement of the economic future of the iLembe District and the quality of life of its inhabitants, through sustainable growth of the local economy, and the creation of more inclusive employment.  SECO will be providing financial and technical support in the form of a comprehensive and holistic programme that focuses on five pillars: good public financial management, sustainable municipal infrastructure, a vibrant private sector and business investment climate, export orientated and resource efficient value chain development and the building of fruitful partnerships.  The programme will run until 2021. 

Speaking at the launch, Swiss Ambassador Helene Budliger Artieda said that what caught her attention immediately upon visiting the District was the fact that the area offers so many opportunities: opportunities for growing the green economy, opportunities for developing the urban areas in a more integrated matter, opportunities for job creation, export promotion and small business development, and opportunities for partnerships and learning.  She emphasised the fact that the programme should be built upon what is already available and established – going local in every sense – by focusing on these local opportunities and local partnerships. She further said: “The programme is part of Switzerland’s efforts to ease its partner countries’ integration into the world economy and promote economic growth that is socially and environmentally friendly.” 

The MEC for Economic Development in the Province, Mr Sihle Zikalala, said that the programme confirms a collective vision that resonates with the Government’s aim to strengthen local government. He described the initiative as a timely intervention that would go a long way towards strengthening socio-economic advancement efforts in the region. “We are grateful to the Swiss government for supporting a programme which speaks directly to our radical economic transformation efforts. This is an initiative that will guarantee the building of essential infrastructure that is crucial for industrialisation and new business opportunities.” He continued stating that the programme must become a vehicle to stimulate inclusive economic development and the stabilisation of local government administrations. This could be done by building skills, creating markets, activate manufacturing and export promotion and by addressing the challenges of the dual economy.  He noted that the good lessons of the knowledge economy evident in Switzerland should guide this growth path.  Councillor S. Gumede, Mayor of the iLembe District Municipality, added that it would be critical to create an environment that will promote, enable and support business investment and growth. In addition, Councillor R. Mthembu, Mayor of KwaDukuza Local Municipality, emphasised that this could only be achieved through strong partnership between Government, business and other social partners. 

The launch was attended by representatives of the partnering municipalities, provincial and national government and agencies, the Local House of Traditional Leaders, Enterprise iLembe and the iLembe Chamber of Commerce.   

For more information on the activities of SECO, please visit https://www.seco-cooperation.admin.ch/secocoop/en/home.html