he United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) Regional Strategic Meeting for Central Africa, was held at Le Méridien Re-Ndama Hotel in Libreville, Gabon, April 16-17, 2018.
The meeting was organized in partnership with the Libreville Municipality. Six of the eight countries in the Central African region participated in the meeting: Cameroon, Congo, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Chad. Delegates were Presidents from the national associations of local governments, leaders from the Network of Locally Elected Women of Africa (REFELA) and the permanent secretaries of the national associations.
The meeting was officially opened by Mrs. Judith Koumba Pemba Mombo, Secretary General representing the Minister of the Interior and Security in charge of Decentralization and Local Development, in the presence of: Mr. Diderot Moutsinga Kebila, Governor of the Estuaire Province; Mrs. Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda, Mayor of Libreville, Vice-President of UCLG for Africa; Mr. Christian Roger Okemba, Mayor of Brazzaville (Congo) and Vice President of UCLG Africa for the Central Africa Region; Mrs. Celestine Ketcha Courtès, President of REFELA; Mr. Mohamed Yassine Daoudi, Vice President of the Moroccan Association of Presidents of Municipal Councils (AMPCC); and Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa.
The proceedings were chaired by Mr. Christian Roger Okemba, Mayor of Brazzaville (Congo) and Vice-President of UCLG Africa for the Central Africa Region and moderated by Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa.
The first day was devoted to an exchange of information on the state of decentralization in the countries of the Central Africa region and the role of local and regional authorities in the implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063, and the international agendas adopted by the United Nations in 2015 and 2016. The session also provided an update on the signing and ratification of the African Charter on the Values and Principles of Decentralization, Local Governance and Local Development, as well as the creation of the High Council of Local Authorities as an advisory body of the African Union.
The participants from the Central Africa region are facing several similar realities in implementing the decentralization process in their country. Where the legislation governing decentralization exists, its implementation is slow to materialize. According to the UCLG Africa report on “Assessing the Institutional Environment of Local Governments in Africa,” the Central African region is the lowest ranked country in terms of a climate favorable to local authorities.
Members of UCLG Africa in the region were invited to contribute to the update of their country fact sheet within this report and also to advocate for their country’s ratification of the “African Charter on the Values and Principles of Decentralization, Local Governance and Local Development.” Since its adoption in Malabo in 2014, the charter has been signed by 13 countries and ratified by only 3 countries (Madagascar, Burundi and Namibia), with none from Central Africa. The Charter will become a legal instrument of the African Union when it is signed and ratified by 15 countries and filed with the African Union Commission. Concerning this point, a delegation was received by the Interior Minister of Gabon who pledged to raise the issue to ensure the ratification of the charter in his country by June-July 2018.
The national associations were also invited to write memoranda on the state of decentralization in their country and to mark the celebration of African Decentralization Day, a day to be celebrated annually on August 10th by the African Union.
Participants examined their involvement in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and were invited to invent their own urbanization. Only 12 countries on the African continent have a national urbanization policy. They were encouraged to make twinnings between cities and universities to produce quality data adapted to the realities of each African city (slums, household waste, etc).
Regarding the SDGs, they filled in the questionnaire of the UCLG World Organization on the localization of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. The results of the questionnaire will represent the voice of local Africa in a report that UCLG will produce for the commissions of the United Nations Regional Offices and for the United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July 2018.
During the second day, attention focused on UCLG Africa’s relations with the European Union. In 2013, the EU adopted a communication, which for the first time recognizes local authorities as full-fledged public authorities. Following this recognition, the European Union has entered into a framework partnership agreement with international and continental associations of local governments, including UCLG Africa. The participants were also informed of the fact that, in accordance with the provisions of the 2013 EU Communication on Local Authorities, national associations can be considered as being in a situation of monopoly in their respective countries and as such can access EU cooperation funds allocated to local authorities without going through a call for proposals, provided that they present and discuss with the EU delegation an implementation program agreed with the members of the said national association. The participants were also informed of the start of negotiations on the post-Cotonou Agreement that will govern the cooperation relationship between the African Union and the European Union for the next 20 years.
UCLG members from Central Africa were urged to advocate with their national governments for local and regional authorities to participate as key partners in the various stages of discussion of the agreement. It was also recommended that a delegation of political decision-makers from UCLG Africa should meet the President of the African Union Commission to request that the territorial authorities be involved alongside the African Union Commission from the beginning of the negotiations of the post-Cotonou agreement. In addition, UCLG Africa members from the Central Africa region were asked to meet with EU delegations in their respective countries to discuss the implementation of the provisions of the 2013 Communication. One of the problems raised was that of the weak capacity of national associations to prepare applications that are eligible for European funding. Members asked the secretariat to consider setting up a technical support unit for associations to prepare funding requests. This unit should also be deployed at the level of the regional offices.
Participants discussed the establishment of a local authorities transparency and integrity index. This concern is increasingly highlighted by citizens as well as by central governments and the financial community. As such, it is necessary to anticipate the demand for transparency, for which territorial authorities are being increasingly challenged to act. This was followed by discussion of Internet-based communication strategies and the Secretariat’s offer to members to assist them in setting up their websites.
Members were informed of the launch of the three main campaigns at the heart of the 2018-2020 three-year action plan of the Network of Locally Elected Women of Africa (REFELA): African Cities without Street Children; African Cities: Zero Tolerance to Violence Against Women; and African Cities Promoting Women’s Leadership and Economic Empowerment. The local governments of Central Africa subscribed to the “African Streets without Street Children” campaign, which will be officially launched at the Africities 8 summit in Marrakech, Morocco from November 20-24, 2018.
Members were invited to participate in large numbers in the summit and were also informed of the importance of their participation in the General Assembly of UCLG Africa and in the Assembly of the Network of Locally Elected Women of Africa (REFELA) to be held during the summit. They were also reminded of the rules and procedures of the Elective General Assembly to be held on November 23 at the Africities Summit.
The official launch of the 8th edition of the Africities Summit will take place in Rabat, Morocco on May 15, 2018. The theme of this edition is, “The transition to sustainable cities and territories: the role of local African governments.” The Africities Summit will also be the setting of the elective general assembly of UCLG Africa (November 23, 2018). In order to submit the candidacies of the Central Africa region to the various bodies of the organization, a caucus, bringing together the presidents of the various national associations, was held on April 17 and resulted in the nominations included in the final declaration of the regional meeting (https://goo.gl/qU8cSE).
The regional strategic meeting held in Libreville followed that was held in Nairobi, Kenya April 9-10, 2018 for the East Africa region. Further meetings scheduled include the Strategic Meeting of Southern Africa in Walvis Bay, Namibia, May 7-8, 2018; the Strategic Meeting of West Africa in Accra, Ghana, May 28-29, 2018; and the North Africa Strategic Meeting in Rabat, Morocco, June 18-19, 2018.