“Decentralization is a powerful tool to reduce poverty and improve governance in Africa”, this were sentiments expressed by delegates attending the inaugural commemoration of the African Decentralisation held in Pretoria today (10 August 2017). The event was held under a theme, “Harnessing demographic dividend by investing in youth”. The theme is supported by the following sub-themes:
- The effective participation of youth centered on gender equity of their representation in various organs of local governments, an issue for local governance in Africa.
- Promotion of ICT among youth and their socio-economic empowerment at local level: a lever for accelerating local economic development in Africa.
This theme and sub-themes are based on two AU executives’ instruments on the matter: “the African Charter on the values and principles of decentralization, local governance and local development and the Agenda 2063”.
The celebration of this day stems from Article 20 of the African Charter on the values and principles of Decentralization, Local Governance and Local Development adopted by Heads of States and Government in 2014, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. This Charter is an international legal and consensual instrument that enacts consensual values and principles that AU member states must respect to promote, protect, strengthen and consolidate decentralization, local governance and local development in the 2063 horizon.
The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), honourable Des van Rooyen delivered a keynote address and officially opened the African Decentralisation Day commemoration event. The Minister was joined at the opening of the commemoration by the Executive Mayor of Tshwane, Councilor Solly Msimanga, the President of SALGA Councilor Parks Tau, members of the diplomatic corps, thee media and representatives from various sectors.
Delegates agreed that decentralisation should not only be seen just as a devolution of functions to other spheres of government, but should also include citizens so that they can get more involved in government
The mayor of Tshwane, Executive Mayor Solly Msimanga welcomed delegates to Tshwane. The Mayor indicated that the city of Tshwane has the highest number of youth, hence the drive by the municipality to come up with programmes that will empower them to be entrepreneurs and participate in the economic development of the city. The theme of Africa 2063 is important for the city as it continues to strive fighting skills shortages Working with various institutions of learning. Tshwane will continue working with young people to reverse the negative impact of the triple challenges, “unemployment, inequality and poverty”, to build a better youth.
Delivering the message of support, the President of SALGA, Councilor Parks Tau emphasised that local government is pivotal platform that is strategically positioned to support youth and women in South Africa. “Whilst South Africa’s model of decentralization, and the recognition of local government as a distinct sphere of government is celebrated internationally, the ratification of this charter, not only by our government, but by the requisite number of governments remains an important milestone to achieve. This is necessary to ensure that this charter and its provisions becomes effective by the African Union”, said Tau.
Minister Des van Rooyen emphasized the importance of African Decentralisation Day as a significant milestone to improving service delivery and to promote people-driven development. In that context, the responsibility of all is to translate the message of this day is Day into a practical programme of action.
This day raised awareness on decentralization and local governance and mobilization of all sectors on local development for the realization of Agenda 2063. This agenda is both a forward thinking and planning tool advocating a people-driven development including women and youth. South Africa supports Agenda 2063 which through aspiration 6, intends to make Africa a continent where “development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth”. In other words, “an inclusive continent where no child, no woman and no man will be left behind or excluded, on the basis of gender, political affiliation, religious, ethnic affiliation, locality, age or other factors”.
Delivering a keynote address, Minister Des van Rooyen said that South Africa already has a highly decentralised system of government, with clear roles and responsibilities outlined for the national, provincial and local spheres of government. “The African Charter on the Values and Principles of Decentralisation, Local Government and Local Development defines decentralisation as ‘the transfer of power, responsibilities, capacities and resources from national to all sub-national levels of government with the aim of strengthening the ability of the latter to both foster peoples’ participation and delivery of quality services”, said Minister.’
The Minister supports the call of the African Charter for the integration of youth, gender and disability issues within the local government sphere. For more equity and justice and in the perspective of a transgenerational sustainable development, youth must also be at the frontline of the quest for a better Africa and the first beneficiaries of the local economic development (LED).
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