Governance in Africa has to focus on both national and local levels to successfully implement and achieve the continent’s development agendas.
The demands on local governance structures to deliver essential services, mostly during the COVID-19 pandemic, exposed the fragilities in national systems and local communities’ resilience in dealing with crises in the region. It also reveals the need for countries to rethink how to invest more in sub-national systems and strengthen responsive, accountable, and inclusive core governance functions to advance growth.
To realise the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and African Union 2063 development aspirations, African leaders also need to address the challenges on the legitimacy of authority, peace, and stability to advance economic increase and foster national and social cohesion, including building dialogue between government and the public.
If local communities across the region are well organised and cohesive, they too can play an important role in strengthening social cohesion and sustaining peace in fragile situations because most of the ethnic and land dispute conflicts tend to occur at the local level.
Public trust in institutions continues to decline in Africa, particularly at the national level, as the public now looks to local governments to deliver basic services. Therefore, building trustworthy, accountable, and inclusive institutions to tackle concerns over the fraying social contract, peace building, and associated challenges are very essential.
Broadening the spotlight on governance from the political elite to a people-centred approach ensues that governments pay much more attention to the economic and local governance, as well as the delivery of public services that speak to the needs of the majority.
Local governance in border and cross-border areas also presents critical regional dimensions. The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) work through the Africa Borderlands Centre and its stabilisation in the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin, and Liptako-Gourma regions show the limits of development approaches that focus exclusively on national development and overlook the unique obstacles of borderlands.
As a result, it is pivotal to close this gap by supporting and facilitating the development of borderlands programming in local governance, service delivery and social cohesion with a view on whole-society and systems approaches.
This is a basic prerequisite for good governance and functionality for the state government to increase social capital, ensure service delivery and build peace. Strengthening states’ core governance functions is a critical investment in public administration and service delivery and in enhancing resilience, social contract, and building peaceful and resilient societies.
To accelerate the implementation of Africa’s growth targets and ensure their accomplishment in the continent, according to Dr. Roselyn Akombe, Regional Coordinator, Governance and Peace Building with UNDP, “development plans should focus on both the national and local levels.”
Speaking on the theme of the 9th Africities summit, “The Role of Intermediary Cities of Africa in the Implementation of Agenda 2030 of the United Nations and the African Union Agenda 2063,” held in Kisumu, Kenya, she said it is a fundamental duty of the government to build social capital and ensure effective service delivery to the citizens.
The integration of local authorities into the implementation of these two development plans, for Jean Pierre Mbassi, the Secretary-General of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) of Africa, is pivotal in ensuring a paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways.
Cities produce between 71% and 75% of total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). In this regard, despite increasing levels of attention and action on climate change at the city scales, much of this activity is dominantly decoupled from the national policy framework.
“The battle against climate change will be lost or won in cities and territories,” Mbassi said.
So, he recommended a bottom-up approach to the territorialisation of the National Determined Contributions (NDCs), beginning from Locally Determined Contributions (LDCs) to bridge the existing development gaps between national and local governments in Africa.
By Etta Michael Bisong, Abuja