COVID-19: African local and regional governments on the front line
Like the medical profession, local governments are on the front line in the fight against the spread of the Coronavirus. In the context of decentralization, it is the responsibility of local authorities to ensure that basic services in towns and cities are effective. On the African continent, local governments are stepping up awareness-raising activities amongst the population, in some cases taking measures to stop the spread as well as working together with central governments. On 21 April 2020, statistics published by the African Union showed that 55 countries were affected, with more than 23,000 cases and 1,000 deaths (Consult in real time here). The responses of cities, local authorities and national associations of local authorities in the fight against this global pandemic is varied according to their context.
In Gabon, the Libreville mayor’s office has joined the government in implementing measures to combat the spread of the virus. The country, which is one of the least affected countries with fewer than 100 infected cases, hopes to contain the spread of the disease in the capital Libreville and as such, the total containment of Libreville was decreed by the government on Friday, 10 April, 2020. The mayor of the capital M. Léandre Nzué and his staff have disinfected certain districts of Libreville and organized the sensitization of the population and the distribution of protection kits to the mayors of the districts of the municipality of Libreville .
In Cameroon, the newly elected mayors from the February 2020 municipal elections are hard at work. The mayors of Douala, the economic capital and the most populous city in the country, have decided that the city should join the screening campaign led by the Minister of Public Health in calling on the population to give a favorable welcome to the agents in charge; the installation of a central cubitainer in the city’s high-traffic areas; the manufacture of washable and reusable fabric protective masks that will be distributed free of charge in markets and to motorcycle taxis; the limitation, at the initiative of the borough mayors, of the number of visitors inside and outside the town hall buildings during wedding ceremonies; the prohibition of the sale of foodstuffs from the ground; and the imminent launch of a major fund-raising campaign to facilitate the implementation of this strategic plan and to provide substantial financial support to the municipalities.
In the Dschang commune in the west of the country, the municipal executive of Dschang introduced hand washing and disinfection devices and protocols, dug a borehole at the district hospital and donated an ambulance. Mayor Jacquis Gabriel Kemleu Tchabgou explained that a total of eight boreholes will be built for the population. “The other boreholes will then be drilled at the town hall, the administrative centre, markets A, B and Tsinfem and Tsinkop.” (More details available in the video).
In Congo, the mayor’s office of Pointe Noire will contribute 50 million FCFA to the crisis unit set up by the government. In addition, the municipal council of 1 April, chaired by Jean François Kando, mayor of Pointe Noire, decided that,“state-owned markets will be open in a regulated manner on Wednesdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. only for food pavilions sellingfish, meat, vegetables, condiments and other foodstuffs. The makeshift markets will be closed and sidewalk sales prohibited. Essential service structures (banks, petrol stations, hospitals et al) will remain open. Wedding ceremonies are postponed until further notice. Wakes are prohibited. Walks and sports activities on the beach are prohibited.”
In Central African Republic, the mayor of Bangui, Mr. Émile Gros Raymond Nakombo, has announced the suspension of wedding ceremonies at the town halluntil further notice.
In Senegal, the contribution from local authorities amounts to 1 billion 677 million FCFA. Each commune injected 5 million FCFA, not counting material contributions. The situation was reviewed by the President of the Association of Mayors of Senegal (AMS), Mr. Aliou Sall and the President of the Association of Presidents of Senegal Departments (APDS), Mr. Adama Diouf. The city of Dakar is one of the first municipalities to step up to the plate with a donation of 100 million FCFA to the national fund to fight against the coronavirus, “Force Covid-19”. Dakar’s mayor, Mrs. Soham El Wardini and her city council have also equipped the reference hospitals with more than 80 million FCFA, disinfected more than 80 public buildings including the 56 high schools and colleges of Dakar, rehabilitated a health centre to the tune of 20 million FCFA to be placed at the disposal of the Stateand placed all socio-cultural centres at the disposal of the State, in particular to accommodate street children.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the Autonomous District of Abidjan has released 719 million CFAF for the implementation of its action plan for the fight against Covid19. “We will need to work very finely (sic) for the distribution of food kits to the most deprived populations. There will be a donation distribution in 118 villages and the 13 communes, to the Abidjan prefecture, religious denominations and NGOs,” said Mr. Robert Beugré Mambé, Governor of the Abidjan district, a gesture welcomed by the President of the Union of Cities and Communes of Côte d’Ivoire (UVICOCI), Mr. Claude Paulin Danho. “It is a multi-sectoral response and we must be in solidarity. The mayors have started to play their part and today the district governor comes to add another layer, to awaken in us the responsibility so that civism is respected by all our citizens,” he said. The mayor of Grand Bassam, Mr. Jean Louis Moulot is also working to raise awareness (Video).
In Ghana, the National Association of Local Government Authorities of Ghana (NALAG) has called on all metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) to intensify their activities in the fight against the pandemic. Mr. Mohammed Adjei Sowah, the mayor of the capital, Accra, has multiplied awareness messages to the population and on 15 April 2020 launched the ‘Wear Your Mask’ campaign to promote the wearing of masks. “Accra is the epicentre of the pandemic in this country and we must do all we can to stop the spread of the virus, hence the need to standardize the wearing of face masks every time we leave the house. It’s simple, a cloth mask that covers the nose and mouth can reduce air droplets and increase protection against the virus,” he said. Accra City Hall has also distributed hand-washing equipment in markets and other public places in the city to ensure good hygiene practices among shopkeepers and customers as part of measures to curb the spread of the virus. A total of nearly 10,000 locally manufactured protective masks will be distributed to the people of Accra.
In Burkina Faso, the municipality of Ougadougou has also been active in the field with sensitization in the markets. The mayor,Mr. Armand Roland Pierre BEOUINDE organized and participated in food distribution sessions. (Video)
In Banjul,Gambia, Mrs Rohey Malick Lowe multiplied awareness messages by particularly addressing women in her capacity as mayor of the capital and president of the Network of Locally Elected Women (REFELA) Gambia chapter.
In South Africa, President of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA),Ms Thembi Nkadimeng, met with the President of the Republic, HE Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa in the framework of the Presidential Coordinating Council to discuss the role of local and regional governments during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. His Excellency Mr. Ramaphosa urged the country’s ministers and mayors to be on the alert and prepare to accelerate the delivery of services. He pointed out that the pandemic had taught the government not to work in isolation. SALGA has disseminated several awareness raising messages for the respect of barriers and for the containment decreed by the President of the Republic.
Video of the president of SALGA
In Botswana, the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) is also on the front line in assisting the population in this time of crisis. It has invited its members to assist the population and ensure the implementation of prevention measures. Women councilors from Lobatsedonated 55 cooking stoves and 50 litres of paraffin to be distributed to households in need during the lockdown period, the aim being to prevent women from going out to fetch firewood for cooking.
In Zambia, the Mayor of KITWE and President of the Zambia Local Government Association (ZILGA), Mr. Christopher Kang’ombe, visited the Kawama market to explain the importance of respecting social distancing in the fight against the COVID-19 virus.
In Kenya,the 47 county governments have identified additional buildings to serve as quarantine facilities in the counties. These are mainly secondary boarding schools. Most of the county governments have purchased water treatment chemicals for the water companies and have also assumed responsibility for providing clean water to communities in need. The county governments, in collaboration with KEBS, have asked their SMEs to start producing masks. Boda boda drivers received masks through the county governments to ensure their own safety and that of their passengers. The counties are in the process of relocating the affected population to the slums and providing food subsidies for distribution.
In Uganda, the government, through the Ministry of Local Government, released funds to the UgandaLocal Government Association (ULGA) for the fight against VIDOC at the local levelon April 17, 2020. ULGA called on its members, “to be very efficient in the use of these valuable resources and to be accountable for them.”
In Rwanda, the City of Kigali informed the general public that, “all concerts and other public gatherings that bring many peopletogether, such as entertainment concerts, exhibitions, festivals, open days, marching events, among others, are postponed from 8 March until further notice. All event permits issued by the City of Kigali prior to this notice are repealed.”
In Morocco, The MoroccanAssociation of Presidents of Communal Councils (AMPCC) has asked its members to devote part of their budget to the fund for the management of the fight against Covid-19.
In Mauritania, the Network of Locally Elected Women (REFELA) of Mauritania has initiated an awareness campaign in the various local languages (video). Mauritania is one of the least affected countries. The last patient with Covid-19 was declared as having recovered on 18 April 2020.
In Tunisia, in addition to raising awareness and providing food assistance to the population, the municipality of Tunis pledged on 10 April 2020, “to bury all the victims of Covid-19 if burials cannot be carried out in the regions where the deceased lived.”
Awareness raising video with Mrs. Souad Abderrahim, Mayor of Tunis.
In Egypt, Cairo’s Governor Khaled Abdel-Aal has called on shopkeepers to stop large public gatherings and organize their shopping to avoid crowds in Cairo’s downtown El-Mousky and Attaba districts, which host two of Cairo’s largest street markets.
In Algeria, a solidarity allowance amounting to ten thousand (10,000) dinars per family was granted to the needy and those affected by measures to prevent and combat the Coronavirus epidemic during the month of Ramadan. The village committees will be responsible for carrying out this operation in collaboration with the Communal People’s Assembly (CPA).