Official Opening Ceremony of the 7th Africities Summit

Grassroots Africa examines the continent’s future.

The 7th Africities Summit started yesterday in the huge Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.  This Pan African event that is held every three years in one of the five regions of Africa, mobilizes communities and territorial governments in African countries, as well as financial institutions and international cooperation.  This summit of cities and territorial authorities in Africa is sponsored and supported by the official authorities of South Africa, including the South African Government, the City of Johannesburg (City Hall), and the South Africa Mayors Association.

Marked by several speeches, the opening ceremony began with that of the speed of the host of the day, M. Parks Tau, the Mayor of Johannesburg, who presented his city, and welcomed the participants from around the world. He expressed the hope that “this summit can help strengthen the role of UCLG in Africa.”

Following him, M. Thabo Manyoni, President of SALGA, the South African Local Government Association, emphasized that these governments “must be at the forefront of development” and advised everybody “not to be afraid of the growing population, but rather to see it as an advantage, if well managed “.

On behalf of Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris who had other commitments in France, her deputy M. Patrick Klugman expressed the compassion of the Parisians for African cities (Tunis, Bamako, and other cities) that were struck by shootings, hence the desire of the Paris municipality to “create healthier , safer and more inclusive cities”.   

On behalf of CGLU, its  president, the Mayor of Istanbul was represented by Mr. Josep Roig, Secretary General, who focused his presentation on the global challenges of empowerment, which requires from mayors to “be responsive, and not to be afraid of making mistakes”.

Representing Ms. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, President of the African Union Commission of the, Ms. Aicha Abdulai, Political Affairs Commissioner of the African Union, invited thinkers and all social players to transform into concrete plans all the ideas contained in Agenda 2063. Like previous speakers, she believes in the empowerment of populations and told the ministers in the room that the AU awaits concrete solutions from this summit, through firm political commitments.

“Think global to act local”, was the creed of Mr. Khalifa Ababacar Sall, Mayor of Dakar and President of CGLU-Africa. To do this, it is imperative that “UCLG-A be strong and united around the same development goals of local governance, since people are tired of divisions”. He said that the populations should design, lead and implement the actions, in order to be the masters of their destiny, and not “be begging all the time “.

The Planning Minister, Mr. Jeff Radebe, speaking in the place of Mr. Jacob Zuma, President of the South African Republic, invited all stakeholders – central governments, local elected officials, civil society, and populations – to a collective awareness-raising exercise about the challenges, between demography and the availability of infrastructure on the one hand, and an increasing social demand for services and opportunities on the other. The Planning Minister warned against the threats posed by water shortages, drought, and environmental change. Ultimately, having stated that “communities should be growth engines through proper planning”, the Minister solemnly declared open the 7th Africities Summit.

The theme of the summit is “Building Africa with its population, the contribution of local and regional authorities of Africa to Agenda 2063 of the African Union”. The architecture of the summit includes thematic sessions, stakeholder sessions, open sessions and policy sessions – meetings of mayors, local authorities and ministers – followed by a dialogue with development partners. An exhibition that enables all those interested in working with local authorities to offer their services, products and solutions, is held in the sidelines of the summit. The summit organizers expect more than 4,000 persons to attend.