‘Local govt at the coalface’: message from Africities

Dec. 3, 2015 — The Africities Summit 2015 came to a close today in Johannesburg, South Africa, after four days of discussions.

At the summit’s closing ceremony, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union, who had just arrived from the COP21 climate conference in Paris, highlighted the need to prioritise local government to attain the goals of the AU’s development vision Agenda 2063.

“Local government is at the coalface of the improvement of people’s lives,” she said. “Everything Agenda 2063 addresses has to be part and parcel of what local government does.”

Dlamini-Zuma emphasized the need to focus on ways to improve the lives of women, especially in rural areas. “Men are breadwinners but today we are all breadwinners,” she said. “Improvement of lives has to be really geared towards women because when you gear the improvement of life towards women you improve everybody’s life.”

During the final proceedings, Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, United Cities and Local Governments of Africa secretary general, announced the summit’s declaration. Broadly worded, it states that: “all Africities participants will have a stake in the implementation of the 2063 Agenda.” The summit, it reads, is committed to the Agenda 2030 initiative and the “objective of sustainable development, which recognize the importance of district and local authorities, the role of urban and rural environments, of urban and rural dwellers and of the diversity of stakeholders, as essential partners in development.”

Mayor of Johannesburg, Parks Tau welcomed the Common African Position in the run-up to Habitat-III, the major United Nations (UN) gathering on housing and sustainable urban development taking place next year. “We believe we have a particular role to play,” he said. “In South Africa, we say that local government in reality is where the rubber hits the road.” Local government has responsibility for sustainability in cities, human settlements, urbanization, migration, and access to services, he said.

In his closing remarks, Pravin Gordhan, South Africa’s minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, noted that local government needed support from national governments to promote inclusive growth and development. In the African Union, local governments need to be given additional power through a defined legal framework, he said.

The next Africities conference will be held in Brazzaville, Congo, in 2018.

 

Brendon Bosworth is the editor of urbanafrica.net.

Photo: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union, addresses the Africities Summit in Johannesburg, Dec. 3, 2015. Brendon Bosworth.

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