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Transforming Local Economic Development (LED) partnerships in South Africa
Van Rooyen, D. and Atkinson, D.

Local economic development (LED) should go beyond merely compiling documentation. Councils and officials in municipalities need to engage with communities and with the private sector to design appropriate strategies that unlock local potential.

However, the South African literature on partnerships has taken the form of regulated formal public-private sector partnerships (PPPs). Nonetheless, the soft factors of co-operation – trust and social capital – are absent. Therefore, ‘partnership’ where social capital and trust are used in the development of a region, can be considered essential for effective collaboration between state and non-state actors.

Consequently, to realise the potential for successful LED partnerships, there is the imperative to nurture an improved level of mutual understanding and trust between the partners. Local government, business, and community leaders should understand and respect one another's goals. Often, it is local government which has difficulty in accepting the profit motive of private investors, and enterprises are often tempted to walk away from the administrative decision-making processes used in the public sector.

This is perhaps the missing link in terms of LED partnerships. The researcher suggests using social capital, network governance, public-private dialogue and civic culture as alternative techniques to develop and ensure operational partnerships.

Keywords: Local economic development (LED); partnership; civic culture; social capital; public-private dialogue; public-private sector partnerships (PPPs).