Job creation ecosystems in African secondary cities: A study of Uganda

Both international organisations and African governments increasingly acknowledge that secondary cities are pivotal in fostering the development of inclusive, productive and job-rich growth. However, despite the growing emphasis on balanced urbanisation processes and investment in secondary cities, national strategies around these issues are often devised with little attention to how localities will adapt and translate those policies to drive local economic transformation.

According to a large body of research, local economic development is generally driven by a strong coalition of coordinated local actors that cultivate a vibrant business climate. In this sense, policy implementation around economic development is not simply about the capacity of local government, but also about the strength of local networks that connect government with a supportive private sector and civil society to create an ecosystem for job creation.

In this context, it is important to consider not only what economic opportunities are available to secondary cities, but also, to study the current ways in which local public, private and civil society actors are attempting to spur local economic development; how they seek to translate and implement national job creation strategies in their local context; the extent of success/failure in doing so; and the degree to which these stakeholders are interfacing and coordinating with one another. This research project aims to help fill this gap by investigating the role of secondary cities in driving job creation and inclusive development in Uganda.

The area of study outlined above is aligned with the policy priorities of the Ugandan government. The research team will work closely with the local and central government in Uganda to inform the ongoing implementation of policy initiatives such as the National Urban Policy, specifically regarding:

  • strengthening the coordination between national and local stakeholders when it comes to formulating and implementing job creation policies for secondary cities; and
  • forging local, multi-stakeholder coalitions to support job creation in secondary cities.

The study will utilise a mixed-methods approach to understand the current policy landscape on issues related to economic development and job creation in secondary cities. The research team will pursue a qualitative case study analysis of Mbale, Uganda to examine the nature of involvement among local actors of government, the private sector and civil society in building an ecosystem for local economic development and job creation. The case study will also aim to understand the process by which national strategies for stimulating job creation translate at the local level. The analysis of secondary data, by examining the recent evolution of national and local urban economies and labour markets, will supplement and strengthen the case study.

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