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Exchange program with South Africa focuses on solutions to common challenges

At the welcoming of the delegation from Kouga Region, South Africa, from left, are: James Hepburn, the County’s CAO; Edith Gingras, Manager, Building Inclusive Green Municipalities (BIGM) program, Federation of Canadian Municipalities; Basildon Perils, Project Co-ordinator, Kouga; Krishen Moodley, Director of Corporate Services, Kouga; Tebogo Matlou, BIGM Project Manager with South African Local Government Association (SALGA); Bryan Dhludhlu, Mayoral Committee Member, Local Economic Development, Kouga; Gord Fox, PEC councillor; Horatio Hendricks, Councillor and Speaker for Kouga; Robert Quaiff, Mayor, PEC; Treat Hull, PEC Councillor and Neil Carbone, PEC’s Director of Community Development.

Prince Edward County is more than 13,400 kilometres (8,300 miles) and a 17-hour flight away from the Kouga region in South Africa, but there will be similarities, and differences, noted in discussions this week, as the County hosts a delegation of six from the Eastern Cape.

The County is one of six municipalites from across Canada to participate in the exchange program aimed at finding solutions to common challenges such as economic development, youth empowerment, service delivery and climate change mitigation.

Mayor Robert Quaiff, welcomed participants to Shire Hall Monday morning, noting it is rewarding to be involved in the partnership.

“Here in Prince Edward County we have achieved great deal of success in establishing best practices, unique models and approaches to addressing challenges,” said Mayor Robert Quaiff. “We believe it is important to pass that information along to others – regionally, nationally and internationally. We are are citizens of Prince Edward County and also citizens of the world.”

In addition to workshops, the delegation will meet with County councillors, staff and community members, attend community events, and observe a Committee of the Whole meeting.

“It’s going to be an enriching and rewarding experience for everybody participating,” said Neil Carbone, the County’s Director of Community Development “And not just for the municipality, but a number of organizations participating such as PELA CFDC, the Chamber of Commerce, the Learning Foundation, ROC, Small Business Centre, Women’s Institute and others. It’s about an entire community coming together.”

James Hepburn, the County’s CAO, recognized the value the partnership presents for both municipalities and all those participating.

“We will build lasting professional relationships through the program, honing project management, communication and problem-solving skills while learning new approaches and ideas that will enable us all to better address our unique challenges both in Kouga and Prince Edward County.”

Bryan Dhludhla

Bryan Dhludhla, a Kouga mayoral committee member Local Economic Development, said Monday the two communities are quite similar.

“We have about nine towns, (as well as various smaller settlements and agricultural nodes) some coastal where we have a strong tourism base and a very strong surfing complement and a fishing industry and more inland, a very strong citrus complement,” he said.

The Building Inclusive Green Municipalities (BIGM) program aims to contribute to South Africa’s priorities for reducing poverty, supporting economic growth and responding to climate change by transitioning to a low-carbon economy – including generating renewable energy from waste.

Where the two communities differ, perhaps, is in their opinion of wind energy. While the County is an official “unwilling host” of industrial wind turbines, the Kouga area has been positioning itself as one of the energy hubs of South Africa. Two wind farms are already in operation at Jeffreys Bay and Oyster Bay, and more are in the wings. Kouga is also home to Thyspunt, one of the preferred sites for a new nuclear power station to serve South Africa’s growing energy requirements.

But as of Monday, the Kouga delegation, which is staying at the Holiday Inn in Belleville, is impressed.

Horatio Hendricks

Horatio Hendricks, Kouga’s Speaker, brought greetings on behalf of Kouga’s mayor and said that since they arrived Saturday, “When we left South Africa, somebody told us we were going to a very rural municipality, but somebody lied to us because what we have found is simply amazing. Your municipality is immaculate and pristine… We appreciate that you have hosted us and welcomed us in such a warm way. When you come back to South Africa we’ve got quite a few nice surprises for you. We’ve got ocean sharks,” he said, to laughter in the hall. “We are looking forward to the next five days.”

The Building Inclusive Green Municipalities (BIGM) program is delivered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, in partnership with the South African Local Government Association and with support from Global Affairs Canada.

The County has previously participated in international partnerships, most recently in 2012 when the municipality joined the Caribbean Local Economic Development Program.

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  1. SAB says:

    wait until staff and counsellors decide they need to journey to south Africa on the tax payers dollar

  2. Emily says:

    Well yes of course, besides that as we are paying staff anyways.

  3. dave says:

    yes. of course it does. Through staff time.

  4. Emily says:

    Does this cost the taxpayer a cent?

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