UCLG, partner in the World Forum on Local Economic Development, Brazil

In the context of the II World Forum of Local Economic Development, the UCLG World Secretariat, with the collaboration of the International Labor Organization ILO, organized a roundtable of cities on 31st October, on the topic: “Subnational Governments as Key Actors for promoting LED. A post 2015 perspective. Articulation of actors at sub national level".

The event, organized by the Andalusian Fund of Municipalities for International Solidarity (FAMSI), included the collaboration of UCLG with its section for regional governments led by ORU FOGAR, as well as other partners that coordinated the Forum such as UNDP, the Brazilian micro and small business support service SEBRAE and the  ITAIPU Binacional – ITAIPU Technological Park enterprises.

The economic development potential of markets was chosen as the topic for this event as it is significant in most cities across the world. Public markets and the relation with vendors, both the formal and "spontaneous or informal”, are crucial topics for local and regional leaders and authorities as it relates to urban development, particularly concerning redevelopment strategies of city centers. The open discussions moderated by Sara Hoeflich from the UCLG World Secretariat indicated that cooperation on markets is a way to learn and work together given that many of the issues are related to the system and not the people.

According to data provided during the session by Roberto di Meglio, an ILO representative, in 2011 Southern countries such as Brazil, still counted on around 50% of employment related to the informal economy, while in African countries, particularly Mozambique, the percentage is much higher. As expressed during the session: “informality is synonymous for un-decent work”.    

For intermediary cities, markets are an essential service and one of their prominent features as they provide a linking point to the rural economy, as pointed out during the session by Mohamed Sefiani, Mayor of Chefchaouen, Morroco. Chefchaouen identified a number of enabling measures linked to markets, such as: local market and product promotion linked to parking, public space management and traditional food as a component of local identity.

The session counted on the groundbreaking African experience reported by Thulani Oswaldo Nzamu, the  head of the business unit of eThekwinin/ Durban,  the first African metro in recognizing the Informal economy as a fact and a large share and economic contribution. 30% of Durbans economy is generated through informal sector. With unemployment rates estimated up to 40 % for citizens under 35, this sectorr has become an alternative way of making annincome for many families. The policies and support to professionalize vendors, has an immediate impact on poverty reduction. The challenges are complex, as illegal business is happening on many levels, including Mafia structures to organize street vending. Durban has invested half billion rand (50 mio  USDOllars) to change the situation of microenterprises of all sectors, and  counts today on a large system of microenterprises that are  organizing themselves in community councils.

According to Arnaldo Monteiro, the director of market of Maputo city council, in Africa the phenomena of the informal economy is new, as former systems did not even recognize these activities. Even today, the regulation systems in countries like Mozambique are “forbidding” informal selling in streets. However, the situation of poverty is alarming. Policies and support to professionalize vendors have an immediate impact on poverty reduction. For that reason, Maputo is partnering with the city of eThekwini/Durban and Barcelona, supported by UCLG, theILO and the Cooperation Agency of the City Council of Barcelonato apply lessons and improve the current situation.

The councilor of Barcelona, Raimond Blasi, offered his insight into the difficulties of Barcelona City Council to maintain markets during the years of economic global boom that persuaded people to change their consumption patterns. The policies to foster and renew markets as attractive public spaces and neighborhood centers, as well as the decision to support the promotion of fresh food has paid off: today, 70% the market entrepreneurs are willing to continue for 15 years more, hereby providing job opportunities. In Barcelona today, markets provide around 5000 job opportunities in the city, more than half of them are for women.

The challenges and responses of Brazilian actors discussed during the session offered an insight into intergovernmental cooperation between microenterprises and markets. As highlighted by Former Mayor Carlito Merss of FNP mayors association and Andre Spinola from the Brazilian micro business support programme of SEBRAE, several policies interact to improve the situation and many of the challenges faced are common. Law on waste management improved the sanitary situation in Brazilian cities, while a national programme implemented by SEBRAE addressed 11 million of Brazilians acting in the informal economy. The massive investment and political priority given to this approach, particular through federal government, transformed the country, and 3.5 million formerly informal vendors are today registered microenterprises that count on rights to work, sanitation, pension and contribute through minimal payment to the public system.  

Finally, the session underlined it is important to overcome merely administrative roles and to increase competences and capacities of local governments on local economic development and highlighted its relation to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Click here to find out more details about the Plenary session.

Check out what media said about the Forum here.