Policy debates around local economic development (LED) are mainly focussed on the role of sub-national levels of government. Limited attention is given to the appropriate role of central or national government. Nevertheless, an important set of functions can be assumed by national governments in support of LED programming, not least in furnishing a coherent framework and guidelines for local planning affecting business development. The aim of this article is to offer a critical synthesis of international experience, mainly from OECD countries, concerning the roles played by national government in support of organizing LED initiatives. From international experience, twelve different roles can be discerned. In Africa, the most fundamental in energizing LED processes are improving the national business environment, reviewing national regulatory processes that impede local development initiatives, appropriate support for small business development, enhancing coordination across different government departments, and strengthening the competiveness of cities.
Key words: Business development, national government, local economic development, sub-Saharan Africa.
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