Mayors In Africa as Conference Launches Cities 2000 Initiative in Senegal, Ghana
By Kay Scrimger
The first U. S. Conference of Mayors' Mayoral Mission to Africa in its 67-year history visited Dakar, Senegal, and Accra, Ghana, May 10-20, 1999.
Led by Mayor Wellington E. Webb of Denver, the delegation included Mayors Charles Box of Rockford, Joseph P. Ganim of Bridgeport, James Garner of Hempstead, Patsy Jo Hilliard of East Point, Sharpe James of Newark, David Moore of Beaumont, Marilyn Murrell of Arcadia (OK), Jesse Norwood of Prichard (AL), Donald L. Plusquellic of Akron, and James H. Sills, Jr. of Wilmington (DE). Mayor Kurt Schmoke joined the delegation in Accra. J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director of the Conference of Mayors, accompanied the group.
The delegation's mission to Africa launched the U. S. Conference of Mayors CITIES/2000 Millennium Initiative, adopted by the Conference of Mayors' Executive Committee in January 1999.
CITIES/2000 will involve U.S. Mayors and mayors from major cities of the world in joint efforts aimed at democracy-building, stimulation of increased trade and investment, sharing best practices, and engagement in a variety of cooperative exchanges and new relationships.
The delegation first traveled to Dakar, Senegal, May 10-14. On May 11, U.S. mayors met with U. S. Ambassador to Senegal, Dean F. Smith and his staff to discuss overall U.S.-Senegal relations.
U.S. Mayoral Delegation Joins 40 Senegalese Mayors in Seminar on Municipal Leadership
The Embassy briefing was followed by a joint meeting between the U.S. delegation and mayors and 40 Senegalese mayors, jointly presided over by Mayor Webb and Dakar Mayor Mamadou Diop.
Key topics of the seminar's discussion included decentralization and devolution of power to local governments, establishment of a partnership between the Association of Senegalese Mayors and The U. S. Conference of Mayors, and ways to stimulate increased trade and investment.
Decentralization is an issue for local leaders of both nations. Senegal's long tradition of decentralized local government dates to the nineteenth century. Under colonial rule, the French established the four municipalities of Dakar, St. Louis, Rufisque, and Goree.
After independence in 1960, the Senegalese central government tightened control of local governments, blocking efforts to promote decentralization through the establishment of additional municipalities. The 1972 Reform Act placed certain municipalities, including Dakar, and newly-created rural councils under the tutelage of the central government.
In 1985, Dakar regained its autonomy. The 1996 Local Government Reform Act was a breakthrough in the transfer of control over the preparation and execution of municipal budgets to mayors and their city councils.
In his opening remarks, Mayor Webb emphasized to Mayor Diop and to the assembly of Senegalese and U.S. mayors: "We come from many cities across the United States. We are Democrats and Republicans, black as well as white.
"We come to your country to look for ways we can work together, to build working relationships and share experiences. All mayors here, whether U.S. or Senegalese, are expected to deliver services to our people. We in this mayoral delegation come to you without perfect answers.
"We can share with you what has worked for us and hope to learn what has worked from you. We expect to learn from you and to take that valuable information back home to our cities.
"We hope the Association of Senegalese Mayors and The U. S. Conference of Mayors can create a relationship where we can share and learn from each other.
"We are happy to be back home [in Western Africa] after 200 years," he emphasized.
Each member of the delegation from the U.S. had an opportunity to contribute to the dialogue and discussion with the Senegalese mayors. Mayor Sharpe James of Newark said, "I am a renewed person today because of this trip. We must continue to emphasize the ties between U.S. and Africa, and we must never forget our heritage."
He called for increased tourism by Americans to Africa, noting that Newark has the fifth largest airport in the world, which could provide an important link between the nations of Africa and the U.S.
The topic of effectively dealing with constituents brought lively discussion among the mayors, who discussed the difficulty of being available and accessible to citizens while trying to carry out all other duties of the office of mayor. Mayor Joseph P. Ganim of Bridgeport pointed out that being mayor is a "constant learning experience. We learn from each other." He expressed his hope that there could be exchanges in the future, with Senegalese mayors visiting his city.
Discussion of Partnership Between the Conference of Mayors and the Senegalese Association of Mayors
The U.S. and Senegalese mayors also expressed the hope that the U. S. Conference of Mayors and the Senegalese Association of Mayors would form a partnership for permanent cooperation between the two organizations, characterized by an exchange of information on urban economic development and other issues, exchanges of experience, and promotion of relationships based upon business and trade.
Executive Director Cochran met on Wednesday, May 12, with his counterpart in the Senegalese Association of Mayors and worked on a draft agreement, which will be presented to the mayors in New Orleans at the 67th Annual Conference.
The Conference of Mayors also invited a representative of the Senegalese Association of Mayors, its President, Dakar Mayor Diop, to attend the New Orleans meeting, where the partnership agreement could be discussed and, if passed by the mayors in New Orleans, ratified formally.
On Wednesday, May 12, the Mayoral Mission visited Gore Island, a moving experience which gave all members of the delegation an opportunity to see the place that was the point of departure from Africa for slaves bound for the Caribbean and the United States.
U.S. Delegation and 35 Ghanaian Mayors Participate in Mayors Leadership Institute in Accra
On May 14, the Mayoral Mission to Africa traveled to Accra, Ghana, to participate in the Fifth African-African American Summit, created by the Reverend Dr. Leon Sullivan. The two major areas of participation by the U.S. Conference of Mayors' mayoral mission were: a Mayors Leadership Seminar on Municipal Leadership on Tuesday, May 18, and a major policy address by Mayor Webb on Thursday, May 20.
At the Mayors' Leadership Seminar, Mayor Webb, along with the members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Mayoral Mission, participated in discussion and dialogue with 35 Ghanaian mayors. Mayor Webb moderated the session, joining with Mayor Samuel Victor Adokwei Addo, Mayor of Accra.
In opening the session, Mayor Webb discussed the Conference of Mayors as an organization for articulating local government needs to the U.S. Congress and President. He noted the historic "Summit on Africa," developed under his initiative for the January 1998 Winter Meeting of the Conference of Mayors and the organization's efforts to gain passage of The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.
Mayor Webb noted that, in coming to West Africa, "we mayors feel that we have all, in a very important sense, come home. Although we have been here only a short time, we are very impressed with the energy and vision of the people whom we have met."
Mr. Kwamena Ahwoi, Minister for Local Government and Rural Development in Ghana, delivered an address on "The Emerging Megacity of the Twenty-First Century in African, Latin America, and Asia: Prospects and Possibilities." Mr. Akwoi noted that the mega-city phenomenon has been accompanied by increasing pressures on demand for urban services and basic needs in both existing and new urban settlements.
"It is estimated, for example," he said, "that up to 33 percent of the global urban population lives in sub-standard housing; at least 250 million urban poor have limited access to potable water, while some 400 million urban poor are deprived of basic and safe sanitation facilities.
"The phenomenon has also engendered severe constraints on municipal financial resources and capacity to cope with urban development control, urban waste management, pollution control, traffic congestion, and energy deficiencies. There are also the very serious problems of crime, drugs, job insecurity, and environmental degradation...."
Compounding these problems are economic restructuring, globalization of financial markets and structural adjustments, which, it is believed, tend to further impoverish the urban poor."
Mr. Akwoi noted that in Ghana, local government reforms begun in earnest in 1988 have sought to achieve three things_participation, democratization, and decentralization. In order to adequately manage tomorrow's mega-city of the developing world, he noted, Central governments must decentralize city management to city authorities; and there is a need for
Complementing Minister Akwoi's talk was a thoughtful presentation by Mou Charles Harris, Regional Adviser in the Urban Management Program, Regional Office for Africa, United National/World Bank Global Initiative, based in Abidjan, Cte d'Ivoire.
Entitled "Making African Cities Work: The Millennium Challenge for Private Sector Growth," Mrs. Harris' presentation stressed the need to overcome current crises in African cities triggered by rapid urbanization, worsening poverty, week understanding of the relationship between city policy and the macro-economy, and weakening economic base.She noted that making cities work means
In Africa, Mrs. Harris pointed out, cities are poorly managed and financially insolvent; depend on central government funding; have sub-standard infrastructure provision and maintenance; and services are costly and inefficient. National budgets are constrained. She emphasized that the required policy change is for review of the meaning of urban management and development in the context of current macro-economic policies and programs.
She urged that in order to improve city management, African governments must consider providing urban financial autonomy, which means that cities would be responsible for funding a greater portion of their own infrastructure investments.
U.S. Mayors Conduct Three Panel Discussions: Economic Development, Financial Management, and Environmental Challenges and Solutions
Robert Mallett, Deputy Secretary of the U. S. Department of Commerce, also addressed the Mayors Leadership Institute, discussing the role of the U.S. in economic trade and investment relationships with Africa. His remarks were followed by three panel discussions, participated in by U.S. and African mayors.
Mayors Sharpe James, David Moore, and Marilyn Murrell focused on economic development and investment strategies. Mayors Donald Plusquellic, Kurt Schmoke, Patsy Jo Hilliard, and Jesse M. Norwood discussed principles of financial management in local government.
Mayors James H. Sills, Jr., Charles Box, and Joseph P. Ganim discussed major environmental challenges and indicated ways in which they in their own cities and best practices sharing within the Conference of Mayors have contributed to developing urban solutions to these environmental challenges.
Mayor James Garner, Mayor Addo of Accra, and Mayor Webb closed the session with summary remarks and the hope that the groundwork for cooperation forged during the seminar could continue in the future between U.S. and Ghanaian mayors.
Mayor Webb Delivers Keynote Address to African-African American Summit
Mayor Webb delivered a major policy address to the delegates attending the African-African American Summit on Thursday at the plenary luncheon.
Mayor Webb pointed out, that "History has put us in a time and a place to establish a new relationship between the United States, the world's strongest economy, and the nations of Sub-Saharan Africa.
"It is an opportunity that has been created by courageous leaders on the African continent_a continent that has seen, over the past several years, a renaissance of democracy and economic reform. . . ."
Together, we can build on strategies that will allow Africa to emerge as a full partner in the global economy."
Mayor Webb pointed out that the United States must "actively partake in the effort to assist Africa in assisting itself We must become energetically involved in supporting human rights in Africa, promoting a unified African economy, and explaining to our citizens the importance of a new and expanded relationship between the U.S. and Africa."
He urged passage of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act by the Congress.
Mayor Webb also emphasized that establishing a full and vibrant partnership with the 48 nations of Sub-Saharan Africa would constitute a powerful and important step forward in the national dialogue on race in the United States."
He concluded, "By expanding trade and investment in Africa, by contributing to the region's political stability, by playing a constructive role in Africa's ascendancy into the global economy, the United States can transform a relationship that has been marked by exploitation and extraction into one of partnership and mutual benefit."