Partnering, learning and sharing at the Africities Summit

The Africities Summit 7 took place from the 29 November to 3 December 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa with active participation from UCLG on the theme of shaping the future of Africa with the people: the contribution of African local authorities to agenda 2063 of the African Union. The event, organized every three years by United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG-Africa), gathered over 5000 participants, including local and national authorities from across the African continent.

The opening ceremony featured high level speakers with Mayor Parks Tau, of the city of Johannesburg, encouraging unity towards the African 2063 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The development agenda needs fresh and innovative nurturing by our members…Our task for the SDGs and the 2063 agenda is ensuring that the objective is not a mere statement, implementation is key”

Khalifa Sall, president of UCLGA and Josep Roig, Secretary General of UCLG, urged African leaders to share and support each other. “Diversity and evolution are the key aspects for local governments. Empowerment means government capacity and resources. A pre-requisite for African mayors, that are fast learning, and not afraid of trial and error, mayors are doers and problems solvers, exploring solutions without being pragmatic, learning by sharing and finding similar solutions: learning from peers is key, nationally regionally and internationally.”

The African diaspora, now more important than ever to consider in a global agenda, was raised during many speeches. Vice Mayor of Paris, Patrick Krugman, building on these statements, talked of the close relationship with  European cities through the diaspora, affirming that Paris is the most important African city outside of the African continent.

The World Secretariat of UCLG co-organized six sessions with African elected officials and experts in partnership with institutions including the African Union, UNECA, UN Habitat, UNDP, UNISDR, ILO, MILE eThekinini, and the South African Cities Network presenting recommendations to address the urgency of issues like resilient cities, peer to peer learning, local economic development, the agenda for African metropolitan and intermediary cities for Habitat III and the localization of the SDGs. Some key messages were derived from the discussions.

Learning and sharing between African cities and towns was acknowledged as an important factor, but it was Action Driven Collaboration seen to be fundamental to localizing the post-2015 New Urban Agenda or Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  With this stipulation in mind UCLG and MILE South African Cities Network coordinated a session on city to city learning, where peer methodologies were debated in depth between regional members of UCLG who agreed that now is the time to foster partnerships around the African priorities specified by their local authorities.

Planning for resilience and preparation then came into focus as mayors and practitioners, supported by UNISDR, gathered to present their experiences and expectations regarding the challenges they face towards the planning and implementation of mitigation measures and the localization of Sendai Framework.  

UCLG, UNDP Art, International Labour organization (ILO) coordinated talks on promoting the strategic recommendations of the Local Economic Development (LED) forum and the opportunity to bring the 4th LED forum to Africa. LED challenges like demographic growth, urban growth and high unemployment rates are of critical importance but innovative solutions such as informal economies and settlements are in place. The LED forum was perceived by African and European participants as an opportunity to connect and learn from very practical experiences.

Metropolis, UCLGA and UCLG organized a session on “Reinvigorating African Metropolitan Networks: towards Habitat III”. During this session the position of African Metropolis for the New Urban Agenda was debated. Parks Tau, Mayor of Johannesburg, said: “We think there is a need to discuss how to consolidate the work that we do as metropolitan centres and cities, to share and promote economic activities within regions and cities.”

“Let’s create the credibility to attract funding for infrastructure in African cities”
Bernard Manyenyeni, Mayor of Harare

“The lack of planning generates a lot of dysfunction within the city”.
Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda, Mayor of Libreville

The African common position towards the urban agenda was the object of the session co-organized by the African Union, UN Economic Commission for Africa, UN Habitat, UCLGA and UCLG. The panelists insisted on the need to ensure effective decentralization and adequate resources for African cities. A special debate was dedicated to strengthening the role for intermediary cities in Africa, seen as the location of major urban growth in the coming decades.  

“You are the level of government closest to the people; you have a major role to play in providing inputs into the Common African Position. Africa needs to own its housing and sustainable development agenda”.
Friday Okai, Chair of Working Group for Common African Position

Finally, the development of a multidimensional toolkit for the localization of the sustainable development goals took the debate beyond SDG 11 as many SDGs are related to local competences and responsibilities. To succeed, local authorities will need financial, administrative and political decentralisation.

“The MDGs did not work, poverty rooted itself. The SDGs are essential; they must grant a legitimate place to Mayors, they who are at the first row, in the field, with their citizens. When infrastructures are decided at the central State-level, the offer and investments do not correspond to local needs.  It is crucial to associate local authorities to all decisions that concern local basic services” 
Célestine Courtès Ketcha, Mayor of Bangangté, Présidente du REFELA

Also as part of Africities 2015:

The book titled “Decentralized Cooperation to Democratize Cities” was launched.

The meeting of the UCLGA General Assembly took place on 2 December and saw Mr Khalifa Sall reelected as President of UCLGA.

“It is through an agreement with the national authorities that we can build effective local governance. Following the adoption by the African Union of the charter on decentralization and the establishment of the Higher Council for Local Governments, one should address the thinking and implementation aspects”.
Khalifa Sall, Mayor of Dakar and UCLGA President

The next Africities will take place in Brazaville, Congo in 2018.

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