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Local economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa

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It has often been argued that Africa in general, and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in particular, is ‘different’ and that it therefore requires ‘exceptional’ solutions to its development problems. In contrast, in this paper we argue that strong internal heterogeneity combined with general trends similar to those experienced elsewhere in the world make local economic development (LED) as likely to succeed in SSA as in other low- and middle-income countries. The likelihood of success depends mostly on place-specific conditions. Many of the most prosperous parts of the continent already have the basic enabling conditions for the design and implementation of LED strategies in place. Less favourable resource endowments, poor accessibility, and relatively weak civil societies can undermine the viability of LED outside the wealthier and most prosperous areas. In smaller urban areas and intermediate regions and city-regions, which lack only a few of the basic preconditions for LED, further capacity building may still enable the success of the approach. In contrast, LED may not be relevant for the poorest and most remote parts of SSA, where existing conditions do not provide a strong enough base on which to build LED strategies.

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