[7 December 2018] --Cities Alliance participated in the eighth Africities Summit from 20-24 November 2018 in Marrakesh, Morocco.
Africities is the flagship event of the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) held every three years in one of Africa’s five regions. The summit mobilises communities and local governments in African countries, as well as financial institutions, civil society groups and development partners at continental and international level.
The theme for 2018 was “The Transition to Sustainable Cities and Territories, The Role of Local and Sub-National Governments of Africa.” It aimed to: 1) Define appropriate shared strategies in order to improve the living conditions of people at the local level, and 2) Contribute to the integration, peace and unity of Africa starting from the grassroots.
A team from the Secretariat attended Africities to support members and partners. Our delegation included Clare Short, Chair of the Cities Alliance Management Board; Cities Alliance Director William Cobbett; Dr. Rene Hohmann, Head of Global Programmes; Sandrine Capelle Manuel, Senior Urban Development Specialist; Touhami Rhaiem, Country Programme/Regional Manager for the Middle East and North Africa; Fred Bruhn, Urban Programme Analyst; and Pieter Herroelen, Programme Assistant.
As in previous years, Africities was a good opportunity for Cities Alliance to facilitate discussions around inclusive cities that are central to our work programme, including city planning, equitable economic growth in cities and the role of public space, the need for local finance, the right to the city, and secondary cities.
We organised several sessions, introduced new knowledge resources, shared the experiences of our Tunisia Country Programme, and facilitated the participation of mayors to ensure that the perspectives of secondary cities would be heard. Mr. Cobbett also participated in a side event organised by the Economic Commission for Africa on Urbanisation and National Development Planning.
During the political segment, the Cities Alliance and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) jointly moderated the meeting of development partners. In addition, Cities Alliance and UCLG Africa were responsible for organising the concluding session of the political segment: a tripartite dialogue between African leaders of local and subnational governments, African ministers, and representatives of development partners that resulted in a shared statement highlighting the importance of partnerships in achieving the goals of the global agendas for cities.
Know Your City
The first Cities Alliance session was on “Know Your City: Hands on Data for City Planning” on 20 November. The event highlighted the Know Your City campaign and how citywide slum profiling data is being used in cities across Africa to track and demonstrate improved conditions in the lives of slum dwellers.
It featured the Know Your City toolkit as a useful grassroots tool that cities and communities can use to monitor and implement the New Urban Agenda. It also has the potential to track, respond to, and prevent evictions – demonstrating what is possible when slum dwellers have the tools required to proactively negotiate for eviction alternatives and respond constructively to evictions when they take place.
Managing land and public space for growth
Our Joint Work Programme for Equitable Economic Growth in Cities organised a session on “Land and Public Space Management to Foster Equitable Economic Growth” that also served as its annual global policy dialogue.
Three new toolkits on public space and informal livelihoods produced by Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) through the JWP were launched during the session:
The dialogue, which benefited greatly from high-quality input by United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and WIEGO, highlighted the many values and potential conflicts around public land, including the alarming trend of public land loss. It also provided an opportunity for city officials and informal workers to exchange ideas on managing informality, with a call for more and better consultations between organisations of informal workers and local governments to ensure regulated access to public space.
Strategic city planning
Cities Alliance also co-hosted a session with UN-Habitat on planning urban development and transformation that featured the experiences of local authorities from Ghana, Guinea, Kenya and Tunisia. Participants emphasised the need to put in place the right urban planning and programming policies and strategies to support and guide urbanisation. Cities Alliance offered an overview of strategic planning and development practices and tools used by local governments and partners in our Tunisia Country Programme, notably the Madinatouna initiative that is supporting nine cities in developing their own city development strategy (CDS) and funding follow-up projects. We invited Mayor Moncef ben Yemna of Medenine, Tunisia to discuss his city’s experience in working with Cities Alliance to develop a long-term vision.
This session on 22 November addressed the critical issue of local public finance and local taxation, and discussions focused on the constraints to local finance autonomy and the impediments to the delivery of infrastructure and basic services. Speakers, which included Ms. Capelle-Manuel of the Cities Alliance, raised the issue of fiscal decentralisation and the limited taxation power of local governments at a time when their responsibilities in delivering services are increasing and they are assuming more jurisdictions. The central government controls the tax power while local governments face increasing spending demands – a fiscal imbalance that is hindering local governments’ efforts to execute effective financial planning and budgeting.
Key overall messages on local finance included:
-- Fiscal decentralisation and local finance autonomy are subjects of interest for all African local communities. Local communities share concerns of limited taxation power and control over their own finances and resources. Spending needs are local and financial means are central.
-- African cities should share practices implemented by different communities in improving municipal finances and municipal taxation.
-- Local tax reform is an urgent issue that need more attention at the national level as well as at the local level. Reform may include new effective taxes, improving tax collection, effective tax administration, and trained local human resources.
City enabling Environment publication
Cities Alliance and UCLGA held a joint reception to launch the latest edition of our City Enabling Environment (CEE) Ratings publication for Africa. First published in 2012, the CEE assessment helps local governments identify and address gaps in policy, legal and institutional frameworks that are impacting their efficiency. The diagnostics highlight the progress, constraints and policy options for effective decentralisation – helping local governments improve their effectiveness in sustainable development and implement the global agendas. The publication is available in English and French.