Eighteen Nigerian professionals gathered in the ICMA offices in early November for an intensive five-day workshop on local economic development (LED). The participants—elected council members, appointed local government administrators, ministry of local government affairs officials, and a private-sector housing specialist—all wanted to learn from the experience of officials outside their country.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and one of the fastest-growing. Economic development can serve as a cornerstone of sustainability as the country grapples with challenges posed by growth, poverty, unemployment—and corruption. Localities have few sources of internally generated revenue, and the local role in economic development is still relatively new in many areas.
The purpose of the workshop was to help local officials engage with their partners in the private and community sectors to address these challenges and establish a constituency for LED in their respective cities. It was delivered by Sandra Tripp-Jones and Michael Kunz, both senior governance advisors with ICMA International, and Steven Glueck, Community and Economic Development Director, Golden, Colorado.
The workshop covered the basics of local economic development, together with practical exercises tailored to the Nigerian context. A field trip to nearby Union Station showcased urban redevelopment, and a half day in Arlington County, Virginia, permitted the visitors to see an exemplary local government economic development program. Terry Holzheimer, director of Arlington Economic Development, explained how the program is organized, how it operates, and how the county engages stakeholders.
During the final day, participants developed a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) of LED in Nigeria and hammered out the framework for action plans to initiate upon their return home. They assessed their capacity for LED and identified potential leaders in their communities.
Reflecting on the week, participants expressed wide-ranging interests: strategic planning, work planning, establishing LED offices, priority setting, the role of elected councils, and the importance of LED for job creation, revenue, and quality of life.
A theme that emerged was the importance of team building between elected and appointed officials, skill building, and finding ways to build continuity for economic development given the rapid turnover that results from short terms of office. Suggested strategies included increased citizen consultation and more active engagement of community stakeholders.
According to Kajiyama Mohammad Dapchi, chairman of the Local Government Service Commission in Damaturu, Yobe State, “Training local government staff is a priority. Local economic development is a new thing. I report to the governor, and I will have to ‘sell’ it to him. I will tell him what I learned here. I came both as a participant and as a potential trainer.”
Hogla Penticost Agiso, head of local government administration in the city of Song in Adamawa State, said, “When I return, I want to put in place ways for talking with stakeholders and make sure things are put in place that the community needs.” She said the Arlington County visit gave her a lot of good ideas.
Chukwuemeka Isaac Nweke, owner of a housing and property management company, was the sole representative from the private sector. He said, “I want to explore business opportunities for projects that will enhance community development.”
Participants were highly interested in the Knowledge Network (KN), and several created profiles while they were here. A new KN group will be set up to provide a forum for them to exchange information and resources.
The trip was facilitated by Integral Development Konsult, a consulting firm that organizes training and educational programs for Nigerian public officials.
To learn more, visit the ICMA International website, the “International Development” topic area in the Knowledge Network, and the International Dispatches and Notes from CityLinks blogs, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.