Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma

Speech by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma during the Opening Ceremony of the 2019 UCLG Congress

Address by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, MP,

Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, South Africa, to the Opening of United Cities and Local Government WORLD SUMMIT

13 November 2019, Durban, ICC

Programme Director;

My sister, Ms Graça Machel, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Accord

Honourable Parks Tau, President of the UCLG;

Honourable Mr Sipho Hlomuka, the Acting Premier of KZN

Excellency Fabrizio Hochschild Drummond, Under Secretary General of the UN;

Honourable Léandre Nzué President of UCLG Africa and the other Co-Presidents of the UCLG;

Your Worship Mr Mxolisi Kaunda, Mayor of our host city;

Your Worship Ms Thembi Nkadimeng the President of the South African Local Government Associations;

Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of the UCLG;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen.


Let me extend the warm regards and apologies of our President Cyril Ramaphosa, who would have loved to be with us, had it not been for pressing international engagements.

I have the privilege to welcome you on behalf of the people and government of South Africa to the home of the 2019 Rugby World Cup Champions. This is the home of great internationalists such as Mahatma Gandhi and Oliver Tambo and the birthplace of global leaders such as Mam Charlotte Maxeke and Nelson Mandela as well as Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Chief Albert Luthuli whom this convention centre is named after.

You convene this, landmark Congress one hundred years after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which not only ended World War I, but also provided for the Covenant of the League of Nations, thus establishing the principles of multilateralism and universal common good. This laid the foundation for the United Nations whose overall objectives include the harmonisation of actions of nations in the attainment of the common good. This objective mirrors the vision of the UCLG which seeks to “be the united voice and world advocate of democratic local self-government… through cooperation between local governments, and within the wider international community.”

One hundred years after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and 23 years since the UN Habitat II mooted the formation of the UCLG, the UNFPA informs us, through the World Population Report, that there is “unfinished business” in our pursuits.

Nothing brings to the fore this ‘unfinished business’ like the work of cities and local government. Being the closest sphere or level of governance to our people local governments and cities are charged with bringing tangible development opportunities, in a context of limited and ever shrinking policy choices and public resources.

These shrinking resources are despite the fact that there is enough wealth in the world to sustain families and households. The average wealth per adult is at about $63,100, which is almost ten times more than the per capita wealth of the poorest nation[1].

Indeed, if the world was equal and we were to equally share in its wealth, our business would be finished.

However, the same report informs us that the world’s richest 1%, own 45% of the world’s wealth and the top 10% own over 84% of global wealth. On the other hand, adults with less than $10,000 in wealth make up 64% of the world’s population but hold less than 2% of global wealth. Although we live in the most productive time, the benefits are skewed.

The World Bank’s Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report concludes that although “the number of people who live in extreme poverty has declined by 68 million since 2013, poverty is on the rise in several countries [particularly in Africa, where] the bottom 40 percent of the population is left behind”. Additionally, the Food and Agriculture Organisation informs us that there are 815 million people in the world who face extreme hunger, this is 38 million more people than in 2015. The world loses about 30% of its food due to wastages between farm and fork. Although in absolute numbers Asia has more citizens in hunger, Africa remains the most vulnerable with over 20% of her population facing hunger. This despite her having over 60% of the world’s unused arable land. Even in the most advanced and prosperous of economies hunger exists mainly because of rising greed, unemployment and inequality.

Ladies and gentlemen, Local government, being the closest sphere to our people, has an important role in facilitating development. We are pleased that the Assembly track adopts “Local Action for the People” as a lead theme.

This Congress therefore has the responsibility of reimagining our futures by exploring new and innovative ways to reverse the economic fortunes of the majority of our citizens. This can be achieved, by amongst others things, giving the voice back to our people. Local Economic Development can generate and sustain growth. It can also support the provision of basic, social and economic infrastructure as well human development. 

We must therefore think differently, and not subject the development of local economies to financial and infrastructure constraints. This will require collaboration in planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting between national, provincial and local authorities as well as all social partners including our people.

We are therefore looking forward to the outcomes of the co-creation tracks of this conference which already have a number of position papers from all parts of the world, except from Africa.

For Africa, the framework for such actions exists in our continental programme known as Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. Through our seven aspirations and the first ten year implementation plan we envision the type of regional, national and local action required to realise “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena”. That Agenda incorporates and advances Africa beyond the Sustainable Development Goals: 2030.

The Agenda also seeks to build on the comparative advantages Africa has, such as the abundance of sunshine; waterways, seas and oceans; natural resources, arable land, and her talented and youthful people, which is her greatest resource. By taking advantage of these, Africa currently has 6 of the fastest growing economies in the world, and most projections show that Africa will sustain that growth into the foreseeable future.

In order to take advantage of this potential windfall, we have paid focussed attention on 12 flagship projects including the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. The Agreement has 54 signatories and is ushering in the world’s largest continental free trade area since the launch of the WTO. The area covers more than 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion. The Agreement has the potential to boost intra Africa trade by 52.3% from the 2015 record of 12% and the current levels of 15%.

Indeed, our continent is alive with possibility.

Which possibility requires greater local action and global collaboration. The establishment of the Local 4 Action Hub by this forum is an important development which will assist with the further localisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and the objectives of Agenda 2063.

Ladies and gentlemen, you explore and seek innovative solutions in the context of a fast-changing world, in the context of the 4th Industrial Revolution. This presents us with the opportunity to leapfrog the stages of development, particularly in the developing world. We must therefore innovate and change the manner in which we govern at all levels of government, particularly at a local level.

The service, development and skills requirements as well as the potential income streams of our local governments and cities will drastically change in the foreseeable horizon. Knowledge in areas such as coding and the internet of things will be requirements as the world of work gradually transforms. In transforming that world of work and the communities we serve; we must ensure the inclusion of women and young people. Our transformation will not be complete until they too are active participants at all levels of planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Our pursuit of inclusive communities also occurs at a time of changing weather patterns which have seen average mean temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius since 1990[2]. It goes without saying that the effects of climate change affect the most vulnerable in the most adverse of ways. Climate change affects all of us, through changing ecosystems as well as water and natural resources.

Already, during this week alone this province has lost 3 lives as result of this. We wish to pause and extend our condolences to those families and friends who lost their loved ones.  Climate change also adversely affects our infrastructure, health, and agriculture. We therefore require lasting climate adaptation and mitigation strategies.

The Global Report titled Climate Emergency: Urban Opportunity, which UCLG launched ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit is a step in the right direction. Indeed, the transformation of our cities into smart and green zones is an important mitigation and adaptation stepping-stone.

Our cities also ought to be liveable and places of choice for work, leisure and development. With the growing urbanisation, this Summit must explore and equip delegates with the tools which can facilitate for the other side of the coin of urban renewal — that is rural development.

We therefore welcome the incorporation of the Global Fund for Cities Development into UCLG. This will provide much needed funding and expertise particularly as it relates to infrastructure development. However, we would suggest that the Fund also begins to lend its hand in addressing the other side of the coin, which is rural development. By doing so at least half of the challenges faced by cities will be addressed.

Programme Director, we look to this global network organisation of local and regional governments to provide concrete, realistic and time bound actions towards finishing the unfinished business of realising a just, fair, equal and sustainable world.

I wish you well in your deliberations and wish to thank the outgoing President and executive of the UCLG for having ably steered the ship from Bogota to eThekwini.

Ngiyabonga, Asante Sane, Merci Beaucoup, Obrigado, Shukran, I thank you

[1] Credit Suisse Research Institute’s Global Wealth Report, 2018

[2] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change