Interview: Khalifa Sall, Mayor of Dakar & President of UCLG Africa
1. For the first time, the African continent will host a UCLG World Congress in the city of Rabat, the capital of the Kingdom of Morocco. What are your thoughts on that?
I am very delighted with this choice that honors the Kingdom of Morocco, that has always distinguished itself in promoting local collectivities, by providing ongoing support to the development of the African and international municipal movements and to the establishment of their institutions.
I see the organization of the UCLG World Summit in Africa as an opportunity for local collectivities to rise to the challenges of a global crisis and further assert themselves as important actors in: global, sustainable and inclusive recovery of global economy, multilateral regulation and consolidation of a truly global community.
Most importantly, holding the summit on African soil is pertinent for Africa because following Europe, the Americas and Asia, it is time for Africa. Today, our continent offers to a world in the midst of a crisis, socially productive public and private investment margins that are also economically and financially profitable in the medium to long term, i.e. sustainable growth margins.
The African continent also offers an enormous agricultural potential with the greatest potential for arable land in the world to feed the entire world’s population that by 2050, will reach 9 billion people. Moreover, Africa holds the world's second largest rainforest: the Congo Basin forests, that is essential to the climate balance of the Earth. Furthermore, with nearly 2 billion people, our continent will become the world’s largest human home by 2050. With a significantly growing youth population, by 2050, the majority of the youth will be in Africa, in contrast to the population ageing that will characterize most other regions of the world.
However I would like to highlight another reason, a more emotional one, why Africa is qualified to host the 4th UCLG Congress. The motive is related to the history of the unification of the international municipal movement at a time when we celebrate its centenary. As you may already know, this unification stems from the desire of the world's two largest former organizations of local authorities: the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) and the World Federation of United Cities (FMCU-UTO), to create a global organisation that can speak with one voice on issues regarding local collectivities, and to meet all challenges the world faces today.
The unification process was long and arduous and took almost ten years to materialize. It took the conjunction of an African presidency in both organizations to overcome the obstacles. It is indeed under the leadership of Max N’Gandwe, from Zambia, then International President of IULA and Mousse Daby Diagne, from Senegal, then International President of FMCU, that discussions on the unificaton led to a positive outcome. Therefore, Africa played a key role in the unification of the International Municipal movement and it therefore only seems right that the World Congress of Local and Regional Authorities take place in Rabat, on Moroccan and African Soil.
2. What do you think of Morocco’s decentralization model?
In recent years, the Kingdom of Morocco has seen interesting developments in the implementation of the decentralization policy. We can duly be inspired by what Morocco continues to accomplish in the field of upgrading cities and local collectivities regarding infrastructure and urban equipment and in the field of local authorities finance and budgets. Morocco currently allocates nearly 30% of VAT revenue to local collectivities, which is remarkable compared to low levels of transfers of financial resources to local collectivties, practiced by most other African countries. More precisely,decentralization policies are closely linked to historical and institutional paths that are specific to each country. Each context is different, that is why the idea of a model or the ‘right way’ should be oversteped. This does not necessarily mean that we cannot learn from others' experiences.
As a unified organization of local collectivities, UCLG intends precisely to strengthen these exchanges of experiences and mutual learning processes with the ultimate goal of fostering wellbeing for populations.
3. You have just been elected President of UCLGA, what are your priorities for this
First, I would like to thank the African community of local authorities for the confidence placed in me demonstrated by my election as President of our continental organization. Secondly, I would 3 like to remind you that our organization owes its development and its influence in the service of African local communities, to all those who have worked and are still working tirelessly for its consolidation. In this regard, allow me to make special mention of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and the Kingdom of Morocco, whose capital the city of Rabat is home to the headquarters of our organization. Morocco signed a headquarters agreementwith with UCLG-Africa that grants our organization diplomatic status and a number of facilities that make the conduct of our mission easier. UCLG-Africa’s vision is to build African unity and to contribute to its development by adopting a bottom-up approach.
Therefore, during my three-year mandate, the contribution of local collectivities to the unity of the African continent will be one of my top priorities. To this end, under the leadership of the President of Senegal, H.E. Mr. Macky Sall, UCLGA is working towards the adoption of an African Charter on Local Governance and the establishment of a High Council of Local authorities within the African Union, by the end of my mandate. In this regard, UCLG Africa is collaborating with the Commission of the African Union and the Africa Ministerial Conference on Decentralization and Local Development (AMCOD) that brings together African Ministers responsible for local collectivities.
By the end of my current mandate, I would like UCLG Africa to concretely become the gateway to Local Africa; an uninhibited and competent local Africa that is in the service of an inclusive development, and that increasingly contributes to Africa’s sustainable development and to the consolidation of peace and stability on the continent. It is important that “Building Africa from its Territories”, the watchword of the last Africities Summit held in Dakar in December 2012, is beginning to materialize through a dynamic in favor of the emergence of an Africa of people, beyond the Africa of states. This is a strong belief that we need to ensure that local communities become the pillars upon which we build bridges between the peoples of Africa.
One of the priorities during my mandate is to give concrete substance to the contribution of local communities in the development of the continent, the creation of jobs for young people, the realization of basic socio-economic infrastructure, and the improvement of the quality of life of the populations. This implies a greater capability of local communities to intervene in local economic development. To this end, we must first improve the local government finance standard that mainly rely on local communities’s own resources, while making efforts to improve revenue mobilization and allocate more resources for investment. Subsequently, other funding sources for local development should be found, notably, by facilitating local collectivties’access to loans and financial market. In this regard, UCLG Africa has initiated discussions with the African Development Bank and development banks at the sub regional level with the goal of significantly improving access of local collectivities to loan and financial markets. During the next meetings of the African Development Bank in Marrakech, from 27th to 31st May 2013, UCLG Africa co-organizes with UCLG and the ADB a special session on the implementation of a specific instrument for local government finance.
The third major pivot that I give priority to, in this mandate, is the professionalization of local administraton with the purpose of incorporating good governance and efficiency into the heart of local public service. In this regard, I take a great interest in the establishment of the African Academy of Local Authorities, that should be able to begin its operations in 2014.
Finally, in an international system conceived more than sixty years ago for relations between sovereign nation states, which shows signs of weakening, it becomes increasingly necessary to place local communities at the heart of the cooperation project for a new world order. That is why, I think that throughout the duration of my mandate, we will have to engage in reflection processes with UCLG and other organizations that should lead to recommendations of a reform of the international system; in order to enhance local collectivities’ position and role and other non-state actors in international cooperation.
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