Let’s talk about the African Capitals of Culture, Financial Decentralization and the location of SDG 5 and 11.

11-15 November 2019, Durban, South Africa, hosted the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders. More than 3000 participants took part in this event, organized every 3 years by United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).

During the five days, UCLG Africa made significant contributions through the organization of and participation in twenty sessions. African local and regional elected officials mobilized by UCLG Africa took part in the debates and shared their experiences on themes relating to local finance, urbanization, gender equality, migration, human capital, cultural policies, mobility, climate, territorial development financing and young local elected officials.

“Culture is at the beginning and end of all development.”, Ms. Soham El Wardini, Mayor of Dakar, Senegal

See a review of the highlights of the sessions for local Africa. (Part Two).

Presentation of the “African Capitals of Culture” program

On 12 November 2019, the session, “Public policies from culture”, jointly organized by UCLG and UCLG Africa at the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders, served as a framework for the presentation of the program “African Capitals of Culture (ACC)”. The creation of this program by UCLG Africa aims to structure, empower and network cultural actors on the African continent to develop a public/private ecosystem that will be culturally autonomous but economically healthy, sustainable and viable. The aim of the program is to affirm and promote the continent’s cultural identity and cultural re-appropriation by Africans.

The CACs were adopted at the last Africities 8 Summit in Marrakech (November 2018). “In all areas of transition, Africa is the key to the future. Celebrating African culture in the network of capitals means encouraging and organizing solutions based on the unique urban culture. Re-awaken Africa’s awareness of its creative power,” Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa.

African Capitals of Culture will be celebrated every 3 years and will highlight the particularities of African culture in the capitals of culture and in the sister cities. Simultaneous celebrations will take place in an African capital which will celebrate Africa whilst Africa celebrates the African capital. The program will be launched with “Marrakech 2020”. All African cities can then become partners every three years by supporting the artists and cultural actors of their territory. The program is based on the model of public-private partnerships with regard to the structure and financing of the initiative.

UCLG referred to the decision taken by cities to make culture the 4th pillar of the development of local authorities. It is in this context that UCLG Africa’s contribution is reflected, particularly in the community of practitioners of UCLG’s Agenda Culture 21 program.

“The African Capitals of Culture is a wonderful initiative that is an important component of our capacity building program. We will support this initiative.” Mr. Jordi Pascual, coordinator of the UCLG Committee on Culture.

Ms. Soham El Wardini, Mayor of Dakar, chaired the session, which included presentations on the importance of cultural rights in local development by Ms. Mariana Flores, representative of Mexico City; the presentation of the results of the Pilot Cities Program in Izmir City (Turkey), by Mr. Onur Eryüce; and the presentation of the World Culture and Youth Forum in Jeju, by Mr. Chae Jong Hyub, Director of Peace and International Affairs of Jeju City.

The role of African local authorities in financing

13 November 2019 was marked by the assembly track. Each UCLG section led a session relating to a priority theme. The assembly track led by UCLG Africa focused on decentralization and local finances. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Léandré Nzué, Mayor of Libreville and President of UCLG Africa.

Mr. Philippe Heinrigs, OECD economist, addressed the situation of urbanization in Africa. His presentation highlighted the need to meet the challenge of rapid urbanization on the continent and the necessity of focusing on more than the case of large cities. Indeed, by 2050 Africa will be the most populous continent and more than 2/3 of the population will live in cities. Meeting the challenge of urbanization requires taking into account the intermediate cities that constitute the future of the continent as well as rural the municipalities.

Ensuring people’s access to basic services and managing urbanization requires substantial funding. The city of Johannesburg shared its experience of bond borrowing to finance major construction projects. “Johannesburg is a large city in Africa that faces the challenge of migration. It is a cosmopolitan city with several African nationalities. Urban growth is therefore more widespread. It is the city with the largest slum in the country, Soweto. The issue of climate change has led us to go into the financial market. Our infrastructure needs were huge,” says Mr. Geoff Makhubo, Johannesburg City Councilor (New Mayor of Johannesburg since 4 December 2019).

In South Africa, the funding model is national. Most taxes are collected directly by the central government before being subsequently transferred to local authorities. To compensate for the lack of resources, the city of Johannesburg issued its first municipal bond in 2004, which made the city very attractive to investors. The first bond issue amounted to $10 million. “Over the years we have made about 9 to 10 bond issues. The first bond issue concerned green infrastructure and resilient infrastructure. There are risks to going into the financial market. One of the risks is if you do not generate enough income to guarantee the repayment of the loan,” explained Mr. Makhubo.

Beyond investing in infrastructure, he advocated putting people at the heart of the process and creating cities where people can live together. “We must no longer depend on the transfer of financial resources. Cities must be able to create the means to collect taxes. They must have the authority to do so and to properly manage these resources by being accountable to citizens. UCLG Africa must sensitize the Member States of the African Union on this issue.”

In Mauritania, Mrs. Fatimetou Abdel Malick, President of the Nouakchott Regional Council, experimented with a tax collection application in the municipality of Tevragh Zeina, where she was mayor for 17 years. The purpose of the application was to improve the tax base. The implementation required an upstream consensus and creating awareness in the population, especially traders.

The first step was to identify the different taxpayers, which took two months. The application has tripled the municipality’s revenue and led to the reduction of certain inequalities, in particular, in education and social services. “Citizens did not pay according to the size of their business activity. Through this application, we have been able to restore order,” said Ms. Fatimetou Abdel Malick.

To reduce fraud, the taxpayer file is codified. “Some were exchanging cards, but with the introduction of the barcode we solved this problem. There was also re-use of the stamps, but the codification of the stamps also solved this problem of dual use. As a result, we achieved an efficiency of 72.5% in the census and collection,” explained the president of the Nouakchott Regional Council.

This inspiring practice can be adapted by other local authorities to collect taxes more efficiently.

REFELA in action for the localization of SDG 5 and 11

The Network of Locally Elected Women in Africa (REFELA) organized a session on 14 November 2019 on the location of SDG 5, “gender equality” and SDG 11, “sustainable cities and communities”.

The session was chaired by Ms. Macoura Dao Coulibaly, President of REFELA. The panel was composed of Ms. Fatna el khiel, REFELA Vice President for the North African region, Ms. Maria Elena Langa, President of REFELA Mozambique, Mr. Armand Béouindé, Mayor of Ougadougou (Burkina), Mr. Émile Gros Raymond Nakombo, Mayor of Bangui (CAR), Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Mr. Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) and Mrs. Malika Ghefrane Giorgi, Special Advisor of REFELA who acted as moderator.

The exchanges highlighted the predominant role of women and women elected local officials, particularly in the localization of the SDGs. The approach advocated by REFELA for achieving the SDGs involves implementing the 3 campaigns carried out by the network in its 2019-2021 action plan.

· The Campaign for African Cities without Street Children (SDG 11),

· The Campaign for African Cities’ Zero Tolerance to Violence Against Women and Girls (SDG 5),

· The Campaign for African Cities for Women’s Economic Empowerment (SDG 5 & SDG 11).

The panelists highlighted the progress made by REFELA since its creation in 2011. Concerning the section on partnerships, Mr Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), welcomed the project currently being drafted and the redaction of the “Charter of Local Authorities for Gender Equality in Africa.” This project is part of the implementation of the “Europe-Africa Pact for Local Equality” drawn up by REFELA-UCLG Africa with CEMR-Platforma-Section Europe and the world organization UCLG, during the 8th edition of the Africities Summit in Marrakech, (20-24 November 2018).

The World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders was marked by the mobilization of REFELA women, who also held working sessions with their counterparts of Europe and Asia Pacific.

Last part here