The EU and most of its member states have, for many years, provided financial assistance to those regions that have to cope with more adverse conditions or that are less competitive in the European Market. The moves towards economic and monetary union have given even greater urgency to the need to combat regional disparities. The overall aim is that people in all economic sectors and in every geographical area can share the benefits of a united Europe. More specific objectives are: to strengthen and reorganize the agricultural sector; to diversify the economic and social fabric of rural areas; to turn to account natural resources and to safeguard the environment. Typical projects supported are job creation, infrastructure development, services to small firms, facilitation of research and development and technology transfer, aid to investment and training in small and medium-sized companies (SMEs), improvement of vocational training, education and health. In this project it is asked to what extent the experiences with the more recent regional policy in the European Union (EU) could be relevant for South Africa. Particular emphasis is given to the LEADER programme through which global grants can be provided for the implementation of integrated operational programmes. The aim is to allow individual regions to submit applications for a global grant and can, on this basis, support grassroots-level projects. Support focuses on exemplary local development initiatives and operations that are innovative, suitable as a model and transferable. Support is also given to transregional (and transnational) co-operation projects developed by the local bodies in rural areas. The facilitation role of local government and agencies is stressed. Local government and agencies should support market-led developments through suitable services.
The specific objectives of this facilitation role are:
a) to encourage local people and entrepreneurs;
b) to promote networking and exchange; and
c) to achieve synergies through co-ordination and an enhancement of the partnership idea.
It is pointed out that the possibilities for a mutual stimulation between SME development, village renewal, marketing-oriented measures, further training etc. are very significant and that this is reflected in the fact that most projects and programmes are multi-dimensional.
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German Agency for Technical Co-operation (GTZ) GmbH, Eschborn
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