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SALGA and partners head towards the 3rd Karoo Small Town Regeneration Conference


Posted: 08 October 2018

The Small Town Regeneration (STR) Programme is one of SALGA’s key flagship programmes aimed at the regeneration, restoration and fulfilling the economic potential of underperforming small towns.  It looks for ways and means to strengthen small town economies; provide better quality of life; and build and leverage on the local assets of such towns.

The STR Programme was commissioned in 2013, and this was accompanied by a step-by-step methodology for its execution. At the time, the programme was demand driven and support was provided as and when requests were received from member municipalities.  Despite this fragmented and ad-hoc approach to the programme, considerable success was achieved in some areas.  However, SALGA still needed to come up with a coordinated approach to the programme, and it is against this backdrop that the regional approach was conceptualised, and subsequently incorporated into the SALGA 2017-2022 strategy.

The new regional approach to STR considers small towns as part of a larger hierarchy of economic centres that provide services to surrounding communities.  This approach resonates with the new vision of SALGA; which calls for integrated management of space, economies and people.  It further acknowledges that regional connectivity and economic value chains are the main conduits that enable economic development on a larger scale.  By approaching development with a regional outlook, it is possible to attain optimal economic benefits through inclusive and equitable development.  This new approach will culminate in a paradigm shift in the way economic regions are conceptualised - from administrative regions to economic and functional regions.  Understanding the economic regions within which the municipalities are located presents a real opportunity for cross boundary municipal collaboration, cooperative spatial governance and joint planning for achieving shared economic futures. It also assists municipalities to make the necessary adjustment and investments towards diversifying their economies and subsequently reducing the risk inherent in global downturns and economic shocks.

In 2015 then, SALGA successfully convened the inaugural national conference on small towns in Mangaung, Free State Province; where it was resolved that provinces must prioritise small town regeneration strategies and organise themselves into functional regional partnerships to exploit economic growth and revitalisation opportunities. SALGA facilitated this conference, which took place in 2016 in Beaufort West, Western Cape. The conference was aimed at placing greater spotlight on small towns through identifying common approaches that would place them on a new growth trajectory which transcends municipal and provincial boundaries. This conference mandated its stakeholders to arrange a follow-up conference within a year to consolidate and take forward the ideas and proposals deliberated on.

The resolutions and mandate of the 2016 conference gave birth to the Karoo STR Initiative - a regional conference of municipalities within the Nama ecological region from the Western Cape (9 municipalities), Northern Cape (17), Eastern Cape (5) and Free State (4). The Karoo STR Initiative is now one of the pilots of SALGA’s regional approach to economic development in non-metro municipalities. The Karoo STR Initiative remains part of the wider STR Programme and it is intended to be a strategic partnership between public, private, academic, non-governmental as well as community based organisations within the Karoo across the four participating provinces.

The 2016 conference was then followed by the 2nd Karoo STR Conference held in De Aar, Northern Cape in 2017. It was aimed at sharing progress since the 2016 gathering. It brought together Nama Karoo based municipalities from the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, and Free State provinces; as well as stakeholders from various institutions and provincial and national government departments. “We are now approaching the 3rd Karoo STR Conference which will be held by SALGA in partnership with the Dr Beyers Naude and Sarah Baartman municipalities under the theme Small Towns New Futures, on the 9th to 10th October 2018 in Graaff-Reinet”, said Khalil Mullagie, SALGA Karoo STR Champion.  At this gathering delegates will discuss large scale projects to be rolled out in the Karoo as well as the readiness of municipalities for these processes, progress on the implementation of the declaration of the 2017 STR conference, the commitments of stakeholders to support the Karoo initiative and lastly; the Regional Inter-Municipal Cooperation Protocol / Agreement.  “The declaration taken at this conference will inform the plan of action for the Karoo STR Initiative for the next year,” concluded Mullagie.
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