A delegation from Canada is in Kouga this week as part of a programme designed to boost local economic development.The group includes members from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Canadian municipality Prince Edward County. The South African Local Government Association (Salga) was also present to welcome the visitors.The visit forms part of the Building Inclusive Green Municipalities (BIGM) programme, an initiative between Salga and FCM aimed at identifying mutually-beneficial development opportunities between South African and Canadian local communities.Kouga is one of six South African municipalities participating in the programme. The others are are Mbizana, Port St Johns, King Sabata Dalindyebo, Ngqushwa and Ndlambe Municipalities.Odette Gauthier from the FCM says the original concept was to focus on asset management, climate change and capacity building but that after thorough discussions, the parties agreed that Local Economic Development should be central to the partnership between Kouga and Prince Edward County.“We will be able to share the successes and good experiences we derive from this partnership with other municipalities, both here in South Africa and in Canada, so this is a very important exercise,” she says.The FCM represent 90% of Canadian municipalities and they are funded directly by their national government to conduct developmental programmes.Salga Eastern Cape Chairperson, Mxolisi Koyo, says it is important that the collaboration will be a success, as it will serve as a benchmark for other similar projects.“We must not be inward-looking but understand that Kouga in this instance actually represents 257 municipalities nationally and 39 in the province. The failure or success of the programme will have a direct impact on how we move forward,” he says.Councillor Steve Ferguson, representing his Mayor Robert Quaiff, says Prince Edward County is also dependent on agriculture as an economic driver and also has a modest population during the year which increases drastically during the summer holiday seasons as people flock to the coast.“There are those in our community who wonder about what we could possibly have in common and learn from each other, as people from different continents. We hope to learn about your community as you learn about ours,” he says.Kouga Mayor Elza van Lingen says Kouga looks forward to sharing local experience with the Canadians and learning from them in return.“We hope to establish a long-term and sustainable relationship between the two municipalities and that our communities will derive great benefit from this partnership,” she says.During the visit the parties will discuss strategies which will be compiled into action plans that will inform the bilateral relationship, set to last at least four years.