Van Rooy, R (2007), Promotion of small-town development: The case of the Apollo Development Association in Victoria West, Mini-thesis, Masters in Development Studies, University of the Free State.
South African small towns are in desperate need of appropriate forms of Local Economic Development. In terms of their nature and scale, the projects embarked on in such towns tend to be of a much smaller magnitude than those adopted in the cities. This article examines a Non-Governmental Organisation’s initiative to promote local economic developmentin the small rural town of Victoria West. The initiative spans over a decade and includes various projects, which have attempted to improve the socio-economic conditions in Victoria West and, at the same time, to gain national and international recognition for the town. The study shows that despite many difficulties and shortcomings, the initiatives have succeeded, to some degree, in promoting development in a small town. Lessons learned include the importance of the role of “outside heroes,” with vast experience and access to resources, in the initiation of development programmes, as well as the importance of community participation and capacity, together with the collaboration of the local authority in development initiatives. Furthermore, the capacity of the local people to continue with initiatives after the withdrawal of the champions is also highlighted. At the same time, the case study also suggests that the quantitative tools used to determine small-town potential have certain limitations.