Africities Diplomatic Corps

A Delegation of the UCLG Africa led by the UCLG Africa Secretary General participated in a meeting of the Diplomatic Corps accredited in the Republic of South Africa on 23 March 2015 at the Johannesburg City Hall.

The meeting was open with a welcoming address by Cllr Rosemary Thobejane-Ndogo, Chairperson, governance oversight committee, on behalf the Speaker of the City of Johannesburg, Ms. Connie Bapela.


Then followed the remarks by COGTA presented by Ms. Gigi Gosnell, Head of International Relations, on behalf of Mr. Vusi Masonsela, Director General, and Cooperative Governance. She confirmed the commitment of the South African Government to work hand in hand with the City of Johannesburg and SALGA for the hosting of the Africities Summit, which is rated as a national event for the country.

The 7th edition of the Africities Summit takes place at a moment when South Africa is celebrating the 15th anniversary of the establishment of a Local Government system in South Africa. The white paper  adopted in 1999 defined local government as a sphere of government that contributes to the wellbeing of communities by providing them with basic services, and where social accountability can be enhanced. Despite the progress registered in the implementation of the local government system in South Africa, there remain numerous constraints to be addressed. Namely, how to cope with rapid urbanization that is being translated in most cities in the difficulty to address moving and changing targets in the governance of our cities, the issue of safety and security; the issue of unemployment and the spread of poverty; the issue of inequalities and exclusion in the cities.

In order to curve these trends, the Department of COGTA has launched a Back to the Basics Approach (BBA) in order to improve service provision, implement more coherent developmental outcomes at local level and build more effective, efficient and accountable local authorities at the service of the communities. The motto behind the BBA is Putting People First, to build trust between public authorities and citizen. Africities offers a unique Platform that can be used to address the priority issues facing Africa and to define the way forward in the building of a developmental state in Africa.

On behalf of Cllr Thabo Manyoni, Mayor of Magaung, Chairperson of SALGA, Mr. Xolile George, CEO of SALGA expressed the support of the organization to the City of Johannesburg, and the sense that this was a collective endeavor for the South African Local Governments. He highlighted the fact that SALGA is holding its National Members Assembly on 24 to 26 March 2015 in Gallagher State and Convention Centre in Midrand, Gauteng Province, the last of its kind before Africities and the local elections next year. This will be also a good opportunity to mobilize SALGA members’ participation and raise SALGA concerns to feed into the Africities Summit Program.

Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General, UCLG Africa, first extended to the audience apologies from Hon Khalifa Ababacar Sall, Mayor of Dakar and President of UCLG Africa, who would have loved to be present but had to attend to urgent duties in his city. He then presented the rationale behind the UCLG Africa and the Africities Summit, which is mainly to participate in the building of the unity of Africa and to shaping its development from the grassroots. The vision adopted by the members at the founding congress of the organization in May 2005 in the City of Tshwane was for UCLG Africa to contribute to the emergence of an “Africa of the Peoples” beyond the “Africa of the National States”. The Africities Summit is the flagship event of UCLG Africa celebrating the contribution of African local governments to the development, democracy, integration and unity of Africa. Six editions have been organized so far, in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, in 1998; in Windhoek, Namibia, in 2000; in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in 2003; in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2006; in Marrakech, Morocco, in 2009; in Dakar, Senegal, in 2012. The organization of the 2015 Africities Summit is the result of a competitive bidding process won by the City of Johannesburg. The theme adopted by the Africities Political Commission for the upcoming Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 29 November to 3 December 2015, is “Shaping the future of Africa with the People”. It is the true translation of the aspirations of our organization to inspire and link the initiatives of the top leadership of the continent with the realities of the living conditions of the African people at the grassroots level. The 2015 Summit comes after the recent adoption by the Heads of State and Government meeting in June 2014 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, of the African Charter on Values and Principles of Decentralization, Local Governance and Local Development; and of the decision at the same meeting to create a High Council of Local Governments within the African Union. The UCLG-A calls on the African Diplomatic Corps to help promote the ratification of the Charter by national governments of Africa, and to sensitize them on the process of designation of their representatives on the High Council. The Africities 2015 in Johannesburg builds on the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, with a view to populate its provisions and to have them owned and nurtured by the African Stakeholders. An International Exhibition of cities and local governments of Africa will be organized in parallel of the Summit’s proceedings, at the SandtonConvention Center, from 29 November to 2 December 2015.

The Exhibition will bring together more than 150 exhibitors from public and private sectors and will offer the business community an excellent platform to interact with over 6000 delegates at the Summit among which, key decision makers on the continent, Ministers, Local Authorities, Mayors, Presidents and Heads of Local Governments, Representatives of regional and international institutions…

The Africities Summit will also host important events such as the general assembly of UCLG Africa where new office bearers will be elected, same for the network of women local elected officials (REFELA, its French acronym); the meeting of ministers in charge of public service, local governments, urban development and decentralization. Also a political dialogue meeting between ministers, local authorities, African Union institutions, development partners; a meeting of Honorary members of UCLG Africa, former African Countries Heads of State that have supported the development of UCLG Africa and the Africities Summit, are programmed.

Meetings between Local Authorities from Africa with their counterparts from Brazil, China, Europe, and Turkey; meeting of African traditional authorities; meeting  of the African Diaspora and Afro-descendants, He concluded his remarks by thanking once again the Diplomatic corps for their attendance and said that he looks forward to welcoming their delegations to the Johannesburg Africities Summit in November.

In his remarks to the audience, Cllr Kgosientso Ramokgopa, Executive Mayor of the City of Tshwane, expressed the view that Gauteng is seen by the leadership of the province and its three major cities as a single City Region which, explains why the Gauteng leadership stood firm in support to the candidature of the City of Johannesburg to bid for the Africities Summit. He lamented that Africa was not so far able to provide an alternative narrative on urban development and the way to manage cities in Africa. He said it was just time for Africa to do so, since African cities dynamics cannot compare with any others in the World. African cities leaders and citizen cannot learn much from urbanization in the global North. He said that in this part of the World the urban growth happened on a slower pace than in Africa where the rate of urban growth is around 5% to 6 % per annum, which doubles the population and size of African cities every 12 to 20 years.

In the global North urbanization was the response to the growing demand for workers in cities where industrial manufactures were being developed very rapidly. No such thing is happening in African cities where the rush of people to cities exceeds to a very large extent the capacity of cities to provide decent work and means to earn a living to everyone. Consequently, African cities are the room for growing poverty and inacceptable living conditions for a majority of city dwellers. In the global North, the city has been a place where the realization of citizen aspirations and rights was made possible because the public authorities had the means to attend to the demands of most of citizen.

This is far from being the case in Africa where the resources managed by local authorities are critically insufficient to address even the basic needs of the population. In the global North, the economic transformation stemmed from the intensive use of natural resources endowed in the countries and their colonies, in particular through access to fossil sources of energy. The African economic transformation is suffering from nowadays-greater international attention to the impact of climate change, calling for a restrictive use of fossil sources of energy, thus putting a limitation to the capacity of Africa to tap into her endowment in energy resources for the structural transformation of the continent’s economy.

This is why the position of Africa in the climate change negotiations has always been to take better account of the concept of shared but differentiated responsibility, so to guarantee that this continent is fairly treated pertaining to her access to the means of its economic structural transformation. For over ten years, Africa has been witnessing an economic growth rate close to the one experienced by the Asian emerging economies. But this economic growth is not translating in real change in the urbanization pattern of Africa and in the appearance of more integrated and inclusive cities. To the contrary, the growth of African cities is often materialized in the growth of informal settlements, contrary to what is observed in cities of the global North. So, time has really come for African leadership to define original proposals for the future of African cities, the momentum for this being provided by the African Union Agenda 2063. Africities will therefore be a key milestone for these important foresight reflections.

The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps accredited in South Africa, Ambassador Bene M’Poko from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said he was here to pledge the support of the Diplomatic Corps to the Africities Summit. People’s quality of life depends largely on the way local authorities fulfill their mandate, in particular in the delivery of basic services and in making sure every citizen lives in a peaceful and secured neighborhood, with the possibility to decently earn a living, educate and grow his/her children and participate in the democratic, social and cultural life of the City. He cited Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, as his ideal city, because there, the citizen needs are taken care of, there is room for everyone. This is the only way you can have a sustainable and inclusive city. If Africities can be a platform where to reflect on the way to define the ideal African City, it is more than welcome and timely. He expressed the wish that the Africities adopt a pragmatic approach leading to the translation of the Summit’s discussions and debates to implementable strategies and targets.  He confirmed that the 47 African diplomatic representations based in South Africa are committed to mobilize all cities of Africa to attend and wished that the Africities is successful.

In its closing remarks, Cllr Parks Tau, Mayor Johannesburg, stressed the importance of unity finding behind the African Union Vision 2063. Events like the Africities Summit are possible only because the cities of Africa are united within the UCLG-A. The 2015 Africities takes place on the eve of COP21 and the dates for hosting the Africities were readjusted to allow Africa to be present in COP21 in Paris. The Africities takes place also during the year of the adoption of the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, when the continent is faced with the effects of rapid urbanization that is appealing for a new Urban agenda for the continent. Despite the growth of African economies, the living conditions of the African city dwellers are not changing much.

Africities will offer an opportunity to learn from our successes and failures to stimulate social cohesion in African cities. This social cohesion will come to be only if government is connected with the people. The theme of the Summit means exactly that, since it is about “Shaping the future of Africa with the people”. There is urgent need to collect to People’s views and inputs in the Africities proceedings in order to contribute to the design of the successive 10-year action plans for the implementation of the Agenda 2063 of the African Union.

Only through such endeavor will the Agenda 2063 become a true living forces mobilization instrument on this continent. This is reflected in the Summit’s Architecture that manages a dedicated space to have the views of the different stakeholders whose contribution is key in shaping the future of Africa.

The Mayor expressed his conviction that with the support of the South Africa national government, the Gauteng provincial government, the collaboration of the Cities of Tshwane and Ekhuruleni, the backing of SALGA, and the engagement of the Diplomatic Corps as well as other actors, including the development partners, the Africities Summit in Johannesburg will be a great success. The Mayor of Johannesburg further presented the architecture of the Summit.

The proceedings ended with press briefing held with the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and the Mayor of the City of Johannesburg.