Parks Tau, Mayor of Johannesburg: “Africa is ready to assume leadership of UCLG “

The Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Cllr Mpho Parks Tau shares with us his ambition in direction of the 5th Congress of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), scheduled next October in Bogota (Colombia from 12 to 15 October 2016), where he will be the candidate of Africa to the Presidency of World body of UCLG.

Mr. Parks Tau was taking part in the 14th meeting of UCLG Africa Executive Committee held on 10 May 2016 in Rabat (Morocco).


Mr. Parks Tau, How do you appreciate this meeting of the Executive Committee of UCLG Africa? 

I thinks it was an important meeting of the Executive Committee, to as about taking forward the resolutions of the congress in South Africa at the Africities7 (29 November-02 December 2015, Johannesburg) and ensuring that we’re able to consolidate the process of unity and cohesion in the organization. It is also an important preparatory session for the UCLG conference in October this year, but also Habitat III. So, it is a very important project for us as local authorities. But, most importantly for us as local authorities on the African continent, considering ultimately Habitat III is about the urban agenda, it is about ensuring that; as our cities continue to attract people and have high levels of migration, are able to find collective solutions to these problems and ensure we can harness the potential of urbanization and migration in our cities.

You will be the candidate of Africa to the Presidency of World body of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), what is your message? 

Firstly, for me, my candidacy was always the candidacy of Africa. It’s a resolution of the Africities Summit that it is now time for Africa to assume leadership of the organization and take forward the issues that wethink are important and in many ways this candidacy it’s not the candidacy of Johannesburg, it’s the candidacy of Africa. And, that is the way in which are I would approach the work that I am supposed to do at UCLG understanding that my mandate is coming from the region (Africa, NDLR). They are the people that first said we want you to become the president of UCLG. Therefore,  understanding that they have placed confidence on us to ensure that we’re able to take forward the agenda of the global South and Africa particularly.

We can say it is time for Africa … 

We are ready. I think that we have demonstrated to our own cohesion that we are ready. It is not somebody doing us a favor. It is because we are active members of the organization and the topical issues that confront local authorities right now are the issues about the global south, about African cities and who else is best placed to go to the forefront of the implementation of these programs except ourselves? So, I think we are ready to assume the leadership and responsibility. But also understand there is a responsibility to the whole world, it is the responsibility to all local authorities of the world that everybody is represented through this presidency.

The Smart Cities concept is now in progress in Africa. The City of Johannesburg is engaged on this way. What advice can you share with mayors of small cities in Africa who want to follow your example? 

My view about the Smart Cities concept is that it is a smart city to meet your own objectives and that we shouldn’t replicate the work that has been done in European or American cities. They need to be smart for our own objective.

They need to deal with our own issues. It is about adapting technology to help us meet our own needs and that’s how we have to approach Smart Cities. So, I don’t anticipate as African cities, we should preset cities and try to replicate what our peer and colleagues are doing in other parts. Of course, there are important lessons to learn from them.

However, Smart Cities are about smart governance in your own environment, it is about totalizing technology to optimize governance to involve your people to insure inclusively of cities and to ensure they are able to improve the quality of services to the people and enable us to bridge the digital divide. The availability and widespread use of technology enables Africa to leapfrog into the next level because it simply reduces the barriers that present themselves immediately and then you remove the barriers using technology.

But, we can use it to advance our education, to advance our service delivery. We possibly need more e-health facilities than any other part of the world because remotely you could be able to provide services to underprivileged parts of our countries. So, even rural part of our countries can use platforms of smart technologies because we might not have the personnel to be able to deal with them but we can set up the network on the bases of smart technology to improve the service delivery.



Your last word… 

I think UCLG Africa has come a long way in consolidating itself as the voice of the Local Government on the African continent. As the champion of the people that we represent in our respective cities and build capacity to implement the critical programs that we should implement. That does not mean that there is not a lot of work ahead, but we work on the basis of celebrating the progress we are making and building all the progress that are we are making on that to take us to the next level.