Local economic development (LED) in a border town: the case of Ladybrand, Eastern Free State
Masiloane, Mary M.
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This study examines the economic advantages of Ladybrand’s being a border town. Development disparities exist between regions in the periphery and those in more centralised areas. These regional disparities are because development initiatives focus primarily on urban areas, to the detriment of outlying regions like border towns. The lack of attention to border areas results in high unemployment rates and the exodus of skilled labour to larger economic centres. Ladybrand has experienced deterioration and underdevelopment. Problems in the town include a lack of services, depreciating physical infrastructure, a high unemployment rate, and a lack of growth ideas. Mantsopa Local Municipality, under which Ladybrand falls, has introduced LED initiatives in the past, but they have not yielded any economic development in the town. Additionally, the proximity of Ladybrand to Lesotho as a possible economic advantage is not mentioned in the municipality’s Integrated Development Plan. Therefore, the study sought to determine the LED initiatives currently employed in Ladybrand and discover the economic benefits of the town’s proximity to the Lesotho border. The researcher employed a qualitative research approach to better understand the phenomena under investigation. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and purposive sampling used as the sampling design. The study found that the respondents regard Ladybrand’s proximity to Lesotho’s border as an advantage because Lesotho nationals contribute to the growth of businesses in Ladybrand. However, this support has decreased over the years, especially in the retail sector. This is mainly due to the building of malls in Maseru and the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also found that the local municipality has no current LED initiatives to tackle the high unemployment rate in Ladybrand. The study recommends cross-national collaboration between South Africa and Lesotho to boost LED in Ladybrand. The local municipality needs to focus on strengthening the tourism sector to attract visitors to the town. Service delivery and infrastructure in Ladybrand also need to improve to attract business investment to the town. Lastly, with the municipality’s help, the business fraternity needs to introduce marketing strategies to attract Lesotho nationals.