Positioning Liberia's Cities to Drive Economic Growth for All

How the Cities Alliance Liberia Country Programme is achieving results at the municipal level.
Petty Trader, Informal Trader, Monrovia, Liberia
Informal trader in Monrovia. Photo: Cities Alliance

This is the second of three articles highlighting Cities Alliance Country Programme results in Liberia, which will host the Cities Alliance Assembly from 25-27 April 2019. The first article covers results at the national level, and the third the community level.

Liberia’s cities are at the heart of its efforts to rebuild and achieve inclusive growth.  Supporting them is a core aspect of the Cities Alliance Country Programme, which focuses on integrated activities at the national, municipal and local levels to enhance the lives and opportunities of up to 400,000 slum dwellers.

The Country Programme activities primarily target the capital Monrovia, which is home to 40 per cent of the national population and Liberia’ primary commercial, international, trade and economic centre.

They provide support to essential institutions, build human and institutional capacity, and promote conditions for public and private investment through clear policies and a stable enabling environment. 

Three years into implementation, the Country Programme is having an impact at the municipal level. Cities and townships are building capacity and engaging with citizens on urban planning, and they are increasingly viewing petty traders as economic contributors instead of nuisances.


Agreements between the city and informal workers for better working conditions

Petty traders in Monrovia have long complained of police harassment and its impact on their ability to earn a living, and addressing this issue was an agreed priority to be addressed through the Country Programme. Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) has been working with the Federation of Petty Traders and Informal Workers Union of Liberia (FEPTIWUL) to negotiate improved working conditions with the city and national police, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and local government authorities. 

In 2018, Monrovia City Corporation and FEPTIWUL signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that stipulates a mapped area for traders to tend their stalls and trade without harassment. So far, 529 secure trading sites have been allocated for informal workers where they can operate without harassment. 

This agreement is a clear sign of a new and positive approach from the city authorities towards the petty traders, viewing them as contributors to the economy rather than nuisances to be managed and moved on. 

Through WIEGO, the Country Programme worked directly with street traders, local authorities and the national police to provide a platform where they could discuss their issues. As part of the negotiation process, WIEGO helped FEPTIWUL establish a solid waste unit to ensure that the trading sites are kept clean, which was a concern of the city. The unit works with traders to make sure they place their solid waste in skips, where it can be regularly collected.

Given the predominance of the informal economy in thousands of cities throughout Africa and the Global South, the pioneering work undertaken by WIEGO and FEPTIWUL in partnership within the Monrovia City Council has a much wider significance. As with other advances delivered through the partnership approach of the Country Programme, in 2019 the Cities Alliance will prioritise the dissemination of these lessons.  

The Country Programme also supported FEPTIWUL by developing a fact sheet with information about who they are, where they operate, and their leadership structure. The fact sheet helped the Federation establish itself as a known presence negotiating for informal traders in Liberia. 


A city development strategy for Greater Monrovia and a citywide forum

The Country Programme will ensure the production of a city development strategy (CDS) for Greater Monrovia, providing a long-term and strategic framework for the city and its citizens. It is an essential process and instrument that provides clarity and certainty to citizens and investors alike. Citizens are closely involved in the CDS through city forums, which serve as an important platform for all stakeholders – organised urban poor, local and national government, service providers and the private sector – to meet, exchange views, debate priorities and agree on common actions. For the urban poor, these forums are a vital opportunity to be involved in city investment strategies and settlement plans.

The first Greater Monrovia City Forum was convened in 2017, and it established a consensus on a city development strategy process for the metropolitan area. It is expected to be an annual event, with outcomes feeding into the National Urban Forum. 

 

Capacity building training on urban management and planning 

The Country Programme provides support to address the technical gaps in urban planning and other priorities within the Greater Monrovia administration. The approach is to work with public administration and education institutions in Liberia in partnership with good practices, specifically from Ghana and Mozambique where the Cities Alliance has been active for many years. 


Support for an association of local government for Liberia 

With support provided through the Country programme, the Association of Mayors and Local Government Authorities of Liberia (AMLOGAL) was officially established on February 6, 2017 and launched on 29 June 2017. AMLOGAL is an initiative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, with support from United Cities and Local Governments of Africa and the Cities Alliance to support the Liberian government’s decentralization programme. It provides training and capacity building to help prepare mayors and other local government officials to assume their new responsibilities under the draft Local Government Act.

 

About the Liberia Country Programme

The Cities Alliance Country Programme is designed to provide long-term, programmatic support to help Liberia realise its developmental objectives, in a way that benefits the urban poor. Programme activities aim to improve the lives and opportunities of up to 400,000 slum dwellers in Greater Monrovia, with interventions at the community, municipal and national levels.

Through the Country Programme, the Cities Alliance works with a diverse range of Liberian partners to support local authorities in Greater Monrovia with implementation, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Department of Urban Affairs, organised civil society groups in cities, and the private sector. 

International development partners include United Cities and Local Governments Africa (UCLGA), UN-Habitat, Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), Comic Relief, DFID, International Growth Centre, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), StreetNet International, Habitat for Humanity International, UNOPS, and the YMCA.