Local economic development in Zambia: a case of Mpongwe town council.

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Kabanda, Thebinu
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The University of Zambia
Local Economic Development (LED) has been identified as a key strategy to alleviating poverty and promoting economic growth of urban areas through Local Government in Zambia. Formulation and implementation of strategies requires capacity of councils in terms of their technical, fiscal and human resource capacity. However, the capacity of town councils to implement this mandate has not been ascertained. Studies that previously assessed capacity of local authorities in Zambia did so in the absence of the LED guidelines and the revised decentralization policy. This study sought to evaluate the capacity of Mpongwe Town Council (MTC) to formulate and implement LED programmes in light of the Zambian LED guidelines. Specifically, the study aimed at assessing the human resource, technical and fiscal capacity of MTC and the willingness of stakeholders to partner with the local authority. A sample size of 50 purposively selected key informants - which included MTC officials, NGOs, Business Associations, Cooperative and Ministry of Local Government - was selected using the purposive sampling method. The study utilized questionnaires and semi-structured interviews using interview guides to collect quantitative and qualitative data respectively and the data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. Information from MTC financial reports and the Central Statistics Office was collected through documentary review and the data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and documentary analysis. The findings reveal that, in terms of human resource capacity, MTC has inadequate skilled human resource to implement LED. Key positions such as Commercial Manager and District Planning Officer are vacant, with a Works Department that is operating at 40%. The inadequate human resource has also impacted the revenue collection performance, with findings revealing that the Council’s main revenue source is Government grants, which constitutes 65% of total revenue, followed by levies and licenses (the latter are locally generated funds). Findings further show that the expenditure of the local authority exceeds revenue collection, and such expenditure is skewed towards personal emoluments. LED-related activities are allocated three percent of revenue, and the impact of this revenue has been further worsened by the lack of technical capacity. The findings relating to technical capacity have shown that MTC does not have adequate planning equipment nor the required tools to enable LED implementation. In terms of equipment needed for development planning, the findings reflect a deficit of 86% in addition to a 50% deficit of equipment needed for service provision. The findings show that stakeholders in Mpongwe are willing to partner with the Council on condition that information sharing and transparency are improved. Overall, the findings reveal that National level LED role-players who have been assigned targets which can help the LED process (such as the Ministry of Development Planning and the Local Government Service Commission) have made minimal progress in achieving these targets, while others are not aware of targets relating to their institutions, which presents a challenge in actualizing LED implementation. In conclusion, MTC does not have adequate capacity to implement LED in accordance with the LED guidelines. The Council is faced with challenges in revenue collection, inadequate planning equipment and tools, as well as insufficient human resource personnel. Despite this, local stakeholders are willing to partner with MTC in order to promote and implement LED in Mpongwe. The study recommended the adoption of LED agencies, formulation of the LED policy and implementation of full fiscal decentralization. Keywords: Capacity, Local Economic Development, Planning, Mpongwe
Degree of Master of Science in Spatial Planning
Local economic development--Alleviating poverty.