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

Updated : October 9, 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.

These partners have been supporting the IUDF: