Throughout Africa, municipal governments increasingly need to provide essential services that are no longer provided by the national government. Government at the municipal level provides opportunities for heightened economic growth and development, and as a result, African cities are fast becoming major players in the overall governing process.
At the same time, rapid urbanization has presented local governments with growing challenges to absorb and provide even basic services to growing urban populations, but they often lack resources and capacity to perform the required tasks. Thus, African municipal leaders have sought programs that will enhance municipal and financial management and citizen involvement, increase opportunities for economic growth, and ensure that all citizens have access to services.
Among those services, the provision of adequate water and sanitation is one of the most critical. Failure to provide basic water and sewer services creates a myriad of health risks and often prevents the poor from integrating with or contributing to the urban economy. In Africa, cities are losing this battle. While a few high-profile projects extend services to some long-established slums, hundreds of slum communities remain unserved, and new arrivals create new unserved slums every year.
ICMA has offered technical assistance to help municipal leaders meet these challenges. In Ethiopia, for example, ICMA has employed peer-to-peer exchanges and other forms of technical assistance to help four cities develop capacity in economic development, financial management/revenue generation, emergency management, transit planning, solid waste management, and other service areas.
In Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, ICMA and its members, in coordination with municipal leaders, have implemented programs that heighten municipal management, foster economic development, encourage greater citizen participation, and provide procedures and methodologies that expand and improve service delivery.
In Uganda, for example, as part of the Transforming the Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) – a World Bank initiative promoting sustainable multilateral urban development strategies – ICMA led the training component on participatory governance methodologies for staff members and organizations of five Ugandan municipalities, resulting in participatory strategic plans aimed at attracting investment for urban infrastructure.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the "Arab Spring" left in its wake a new political landscape in which local governments now operate. ICMA has experience working with a number of MENA countries to address diverse challenges. Lebanon, for example, has struggled to rebuild its economic infrastructure after several periods of internal and external conflict. With funds made available through the World Bank, ICMA helped five cities create and begin implementing plans for economic recovery and growth. In another project, ICMA produced five studies that resulted in recommendations to the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities for strengthening and modernizing the municipal finance system as the country decentralizes.
In Jordan, the primary challenge has been protecting the country’s precious supply of drinking water from contamination by pollution and improper waste disposal. An ICMA CityLinks program created U.S.-Jordan partnerships to share best practices in the management of industrial and medical waste.
Decentralization of power from the national to the local level in Iraq has brought new responsibilities for basic service delivery to municipalities, and ICMA has been involved in programs whose goals are to help restore these basic services and develop governance and management capacity in Iraqi cities so that improvements can be sustained.