Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
It is truly an immense honour and pleasure to welcome to our shores the 10th Ordinary Executive Committee Meeting of the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa.
We thank all those who have travelled from near and far to be present for this meeting and I hope that you have an enjoyable stay with us.
We feel privileged to host for the very first time an Executive Committee meeting of UCLG-A-the umbrella organization of all local governments of Africa.
In the hands of the Mayor of Dakar, H.E. Mr. Khalifa Sall as current President of UCLG-A and the strong leadership of the Secretary General of UCLG-A, H.E. Mr. Jean-Pierre Elong-Mbassi, our organization has already done a fantastic job in broadening and deepening the networks of cities of Africa, and creating global awareness on the role of local authorities as partners in development.
In this year that we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the establishment of local administration in Seychelles, we are proud to add a new layer to the broad partnership that we are building with UCLG-A as we collectively reinvigorate efforts aimed at improving local governance and building sustainable cities in Africa.
Our unwavering support towards your work stems from our firm conviction that the local authorities of Africa have a pivotal role to play in propelling our continent to even higher levels of growth and prosperity.
The reason why Seychelles places such a high priority on the role of local authorities in the development of our Africa is quite simple.
In our globalized world, there is now little difference between what is local and what is global.
What happens in our cities have global repercussions. What happens in our districts, can resonate at a global level. And correspondingly, what happens at a global scale directly affects the lives of our citizens.
And we live in stormy times, facing strong headwinds in the global economy, in our environment and in our society.
But perhaps the biggest challenge nowadays is to give our societies the confidence that change is not the enemy and globalization is not the threat.
The only way that we can make globalisation an opportunity and not a threat is to empower our communities. Empower local government both in terms of its structures, and in terms of giving people the platforms to bring about change themselves.
If a society has a shared vision of its future, based on trust and cohesion, along with policies that create opportunity for all and fairness in outcomes, its people should have no fear of the future and should be more open to change.
Indeed a key element of the vision of the Seychelles Foreign Policy is to ensure that our country is able to harness the potential of globalization for our development.
A successful society is one where its regions are equipped to share in the opportunities and prosperity that globalization can bring.
This is why Seychelles places high importance on the role of local governments as key partners in advancing sustainable human development.
We strongly believe that the success of any development agenda depends on the ownership taken and leadership generated at both the national and the local levels.
This explains the call that we have made for the post-2015 development agenda to put stronger emphasis on the role of local governments and to address sustainable urban development.
Local governments with clear mandates, adequate financing and sufficient capacity help drive development. Empowering local governments means also facilitating discussions and exchanges in a meaningful way with civil society.
As actors of local government, you bring public, private and non-governmental stakeholders together in your cities, in your communities.
You are in direct contact with the population on a daily basis.
You have vital roles to play for key service delivery in a number of critical social sectors.
By building more sustainable cities, communities and regions, you will lead us to a more sustainable world as the prosperity which is generated from the smallest village to the largest city, is central to the overall country's success.
Around the world, cities are important centres of gravity in a country’s economy. Their comparative advantages, endowments and overall dynamism can be powerful sources of growth and prosperity.
It would be hard to imagine a strong Senegal without a thriving and innovative Dakar.
It would be hard to imagine a strong Democratic Republic of Congo without a successful Kinshasa.
While Seychelles, being a Small Island Developing State, may not have cities of the scale of these African agglomerations- we recognise that our own capital of Victoria is a crucial driver of our development- and a projection of what we are as a nation- a melting pot of culture that is proud to exist nonetheless as one nation.
We are also aware that our city of Victoria’s strengths are enhanced by all our communities and local government structures that give each of our districts its distinct identity, and its role in our national development.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Cities are the windows of a country and we need to make Africa’s cities successful and attractive.
Most of the world lives in urban areas – and seven of every ten urban residents live in developing countries.
Around 2030 it is estimated that Africa’s collective population will become 50% urban. Looking further ahead to 2040, approximately 1 billion people will be living in Africa’s cities this is almost equivalent to the population of the entire continent today.
Urbanization is a source of development if it is well planned, well governed, and supported with adequate finance, policies, and legislation. If it is not- it can also lead to strife and instability.
It is clear that building the capacity of our local governments is a development priority.
In Seychelles, we have paid a lot of attention to this issue, addressing not only the opportunities for our districts, but also looking at how our capital city and the districts can directly contribute to the development of our country and our region.
Over the last twenty years, local governance has evolved in Seychelles.
From the establishment of local administration and the district based programmes to enhancing the contribution of citizens in the decision making process of the district and decentralizing key government services, local governance is at the heart of our centered development policy.
One of the most pressing challenges that we continually face is the imperative to “do better with less”.
Through innovative financing like the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative, working across levels of government and making the most of the roles and prerogatives of all relevant stakeholders we achieve the goals we have set.
Whether it is a question of using more public transport, opting for renewable energy sources, cleaning our seas and river, and greening our buildings, your leadership and engagement will indeed be central to delivering results that defeat poverty, protect the natural environment and improve the wellbeing of millions living in the towns and cities.
But sustainable urbanization does not only concern the biggest but also the smallest members of the African family.
In addressing the urbanization phenomenon, a post 2015 development agenda should therefore focus on the challenges and opportunities that are shaping the twenty-first century cities – both big and small.
We therefore look forward to your support at the forthcoming SIDS Summit to be held later this year in Samoa as we collectively decide on a course of action that will enable the international community to not only address the vulnerability of islands but harness their true potential.
Islands can certainly provide the blueprint needed to design policies and practices for a true sustainable urbanization.
In a country such as Seychelles- urban development also requires marrying development both on land and on sea.
The call we have made for the international community to re-look at the relationship we share with our oceans-our blue economy-is vital for many African cities-irrespective of whether it is a coastal or landlocked country. Our vast oceanic space can provide the new source of wealth to develop Africa’s cities.
UCLG-A has consistently provided over the years a platform for sharing experiences and developing policy options.
It has helped its member cities weather many a headwind in the past – I am confident that it will equally help the islands of Africa confront many challenges and tap into new opportunities.
We are now proud to have one of our own, Mrs. Jacqueline Moustache-Belle, Mayor of Victoria, who was recently elected as one of the Co-Presidents of the UCLG-Word, playing a leadership role in this work.
You can count on our support at the forthcoming African Union Summit in Malabo for the adoption of an African Charter on values and principles of decentralization and local development.
On this note, I am proud to declare open the 10th Ordinary Executive Committee meeting of the United Cities and Local Governments – Africa.
Thank you for your attention.