UCLG Africa held its third institutional retreat during February 18-21, 2019, at the Al Akhawayn University Conference Center in Ifrane, Morocco. The 4 days retreat was attended by sixty participants including: staff from the UCLGA headquarters, three regional offices (West Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa), and partner organizations: UCLG, Metropolis, Cities Alliance, UNECA, World Resources Institute (WRI), CAFRAD; and UCLG Africa Special Advisers: Mr. Daby Ndiaye, Mr. Gustave Massiah, Mr. Alioune Badiane and Mrs. Claire Mandouze.
“The goal of this retreat is to take stock of the situation. For an organization, it is very important that we take a new impetus. The retreat is held to rebuild a momentum. The organization is the political part of the equation, the members, the Executive Committee, the Pan-African Council, the UCLG Africa presidency, the staff, and the citizens. We expect from this retreat more synergy, a remobilization of our members and our staff and new goals, so that we meet our members’ expectations,” said Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, who recalled the components of UCLG Africa that stood at the heart of the retreat.
Day 1 : Who are we ?
The first day was marked by the opening speech of the Secretary General who recalled the history of the organization and the creation of the municipal movement in Africa.
“Today, UCLG Africa consists of 47 national associations of local government. We are a unitary organization, not a confederation. We went through years of division whose unity (sic) was consolidated in 2012, in Dakar, during the 6th Africities Summit.’
He also discussed the fragility of this unity, which only subsisted through the commitment of its members and that of the staff of UCLG Africa.
“Our unity is always fragile and it is your duty to fight and keep the unity of this organization. We need to make members understand that the love of the continent is what will save them and save their children’s future. There is a different level of decentralization on the continent, which implies that specific approaches are needed. The role of regional offices is crucial at this level. The goal is to improve the service rendered to the populations by the implementation of decentralization. Multilateralism is losing ground. There is an inward-oriented identity movement that is extremely damaging for Africa. Tribalism is gaining ground and this is an additional difficulty for the continent. We must make room for youth in the political space and local level is the level of where this is possible. The hope for the continent rests on your shoulders,” he told the young participants at the meeting.
A “fishbowl” which is a round table with 2 or 3 main speakers. When other participants whant to ask questions or made a contribution they rejoin the box where are the speakers, but they are not allow to stay, only the main speakers are allow to stay in the bowl. This “fishbowl” was a platform of exchange of ideas on how to work in synergy with partner organizations for the implementation of the Global Agendas and of African Union’s Agenda 2063. The moderator was Mr. Sithole Mbanga. Afterfollowed by the construction of a “time line” of the organization, from 2005 to 2019, by UCLG Africa staff.
Exchanges took place in a relaxed atmosphere and staff engaged in a range of group activities, including‘Rock-around-the-Clock,’ which required them to partner with new colleagues to allow them to interact.
Synergy with UCLG and Metropolis
The Deputy Secretary General of UCLG Africa Mr. Sitholé Mbanga moderated a debate with keynote speakers, Mrs. Firdaous Oussidhoum, Special Adviser to the Secretary General of UCLG and Mr. Octavi De La Varga, Secretary General of Metropolis.
Speakers addressed how best to localize the Global Agendas, Agenda 2030 (SDG), the New Urban Agenda, the Paris Climate Agreement, The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Contributions called for synergy in order to localize these agendas on the continent through a territorial approach, a gender-based approach, an appreciation of human capital, a reinvention of local democracy and a revision of statistical systems in Africa.
The construction of the “UCLG Africa (2005- 2019) timeline” highlighted how far the organization had come since 2015, and the implementation of GADDEPA (Program of Governance, Advocacy and Decentralized Development for Africa), as part of UCLG Africa’s strategic vision until 2021.
Day 2 : Rebuilding together
Tuesday, February 19, was marked by the Market Place. An exercise where UCLG Africa present his service offerings. Representatives from the different departments and regional offices including members, programs, REFELA, ALGA, the Climate Task Force, Communications, WARO Regional Office, SARO Regional Office and EARO Regional Office, were invited to present their best service offerings and the two main difficulties encountered in the exercising of these functions. The purpose of the activity was to share the role and functions of the different departments and to do this is in a fun way. Participants agreed that this initiative allowed them to have a greater understanding of each other’s work, ‘fine-tune their pitch’, and get to know each other better.
A “fishbowl” debate and exchange of ideas also took place with the partners, Cities Alliance, UNECA and WRI, on the various ways they could collaborate better with UCLG Africa.
Ms. Abera Edlam Yemeru, Chief of the Urbanization Section of UNECA commented that, “There is a need to connect the Urban Agenda to other sectors and to build African cities around the importance of planning. Agenda 2063 is an opportunity for collaboration. We operate at the national level and with UCLG Africa we can reach the local level.“
Mr. Leo Horn Phathanothai, Director of International Cooperation at WRI, declared himself open to materializing a partnership in the research sector, particularly through the African Local Government Academy (ALGA).
“We need to ensure that local governments are credible career spaces. The current system of urbanization policies is not adequate in Africa. Youth unemployment is a major challenge for local governments in Africa. UCLG Africa should formalize the partnerships over a period of at least 5 years, said Julian Baskin, Cities Alliance Senior Urban Specialist.
The day ended with a group task on the construction of a new narrative for UCLG Africa and defining the objectives, strengths and weaknesses of the organization. The participants expressed their entire creativity to realise model building (Photos).
Day 3 : Rethinking our actions for the people
Wednesday, February 20, saw participants discuss strategies to determine how best way UCLG Africa could intervene at the global, continental, national, and regional levels and work with the associations of local governments, localities and citizens.
The main messages were:
- UCLG Africa’s core interest are Africa’s citizens
- The role of the organization is to help build local governments
- UCLG Africa’s Agenda should be updated in accordance with GADDEPA
- Priorities for the organization include empowering young people and regional offices, repositioning the organization and promoting a gender-based approach
- UCLG Africa must write its own history and proceed to Communication 2.0.
- Participants voted for 7 priorities on which the organization should be rebuilt.
- Human Resources Management, Training and Development
- Financial Viability and Sustainability
- Good Governance
- Vision and Strategic Orientation
- Clear Communication Strategy Plan
- Learning and Knowledge Sharing Organization
Day 4 : New Roadmap
The retreat closed with the design of a new roadmap for 2019 based on the various proposals presented over the 4 days and covering the following key stages:
- Activity Matrix
- Political Executive Committee Meeting in April 2019
- Meetings with Regions and Partners (May-July)
- Meeting with the financial partners (June or September)
- Mobilization meeting of national associations on the sidelines of the UCLG World congress, planned to take place in Durban, South Africa in November 2019
- UCLG World Congress
- Annual UCLG Africa Retreat (February 2020).
The Deputy Secretary General, Mr. Sithole Mbanga, expressed his commitment to closely monitor its implementation.
In his closing message, the Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, thanked the President of the Al Akhawayn University of Ifrane, for hosting the retreat.
“It is important to love what you do. I would like to thank our facilitators and the entire UCLG Africa team. We are part of a fantastic journey and we must be militants. The only fight that must be waged is that of the dignity of this continent. Dignity begins with knowing one’s strengths. Only Africans will develop Africa. It is time to rediscover the culture and history of our continent. Be proud of your continent, dear young people, you have the capacity to do it. Let’s be humble, we are a political organization. A 5-kilometer journey begins with a step in the right direction… During this retreat, we took the first step in the right direction (sic).”
Watch the videos of the retreat here.
Watch the interviews of the retreat here .