“Strengthening networks to exchange knowledge and best practices is key to building resilient cities during and after global crises.”
This was the common message from the speakers at the launch event of our webinar “Lessons from past and present crises”, that featured mayors and city experts from Uganda, Liberia and Senegal and attracted more than 100 attendees from all corners of the continent and beyond.
See the webinar session here
The Lord Mayor of Kampala, Mr Erias Lukwago’s succinct message encouraging African cities to stand in solidarity was one of the key insights of the first webinar. Alongside Lord Mayor of Monrovia, Mr Jefferson T. Koijee, and Mr Mouhamed Diop, Director at CIFAL-Dakar, he emphasised the value of networks that connect city leaders across the continent to empower each other by sharing knowledge and best practices.
According to Mayor Lukwago, access to information is pivotal in building resilience, which is why it so important to strengthen our knowledge-sharing platforms: “The Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa is important to us; we need to understand what is happening in Kigali, Bamako, Pretoria; we need a common front to see where we are falling short.”
For Mayor Koijee (Monrovia), connecting communities and city leaders through dialogue is an important form of exchange. A staunch advocate for social justice and youth empowerment, Mayor Koijee’s approach is people-focused and highlights community engagement as being central to building resilience. “People are our greatest assets,” he said, explaining that community leaders play an instrumental role in devising innovative solutions that speak directly to a community’s challenges.
“Engage with the communities directly. We sit in our offices and we form solutions. When you engage the people you realise the solutions you are looking for could be with them.” — Lord Mayor of Monrovia, Jefferson T. Koijee.
The value of direct dialogue and engagement with communities extends to the value of larger knowledge sharing networks. Mayor Koijee noted that city networks are platforms “for mutual support, an avenue for knowledge and change.”
He raised the issue of social distancing measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus which has been particularly challenging in his community. These challenges are shared by municipalities across the continent: representing Senegal in this live discussion, Mr Mouhamed Diop, Director of CIFAL-Dakar, pointed to the manner in which the City of Dakar managed to contain their infection rate, which he cited as a direct outcome from the learnings from other cities’ response to present and past crises: “This network is a way to benchmark and learn from one another. If Dakar is able to contain this pandemic, it is because we tapped into what other countries have done from other pandemics, including Ebola.”
Mr Diop heads a knowledge hub for sustainable African cities to exchange best practices in Senegal, and francophone West-Africa more broadly.
He pointed to a world that is no longer the same as it was yesterday; a world that requires new solutions, such as digital means, to respond to clear objectives effectively: “We are sitting in a webinar today,” he said, referring to the live discussion as a direct example of how individuals and city leaders from across Africa can connect and exchange knowledge. “This network is perfectly relevant in this pandemic to share our experience and our practices. We have seen incredible results. We are part of this network to learn and show solidarity. We need to mitigate risks through sharing. This is the goal of these networks. What matters is for local governments everywhere to work hand in hand.”
The role that local government plays in responding to unprecedented crises is clear: Mayor Koijee of Monrovia pointed to city officials being first-responders, and that building resilience at the local level is crucial in countries’ response to pandemics.
While our challenges are diverse, Mayor Lukwago of Kampala reflected on our collective vulnerability: “This pandemic has equalised all of us; we are one people, regardless of our colour, creed, religion and all those things divide us and we deal with challenges from that perspective. When we have good practices, we share them. We need to build that synergy and connections to build resilience together. The resilience of your city depends on the resilience of your neighbour.”
The three speakers shared their lessons and messages of solidarity with more than 100 attendees from across the continent and the world, who turned the live chat into an interactive exchange of messages of solidarity, questions, comments, and ideas. This webinar demonstrated that networks and borderless platforms for sharing best practices and knowledge, contribute to African city leaders’ willingness to drive action in a responsive and sustainable manner. By standing in solidarity and learning from each other, a local government network becomes a community that can build common resilience in the face of pandemics and other global shocks.
CoM SSA will present at least two more webinars in partnership with ICLEI Africa in its webinar series of Building sustainable African cities during and after a pandemic. Click here to register for the next webinar on adaptation finance on the 30th of June.
Compilation of additional resources in English, French, and Portuguese aligned with this webinar:
Collective responses to global health emergencies – A page for local governments to share initiatives designed as a reaction to COVID-19 and/or to face other health emergencies such as sanitary crisis or epidemics – English and French
Coronavirus en Afrique : une carte pour suivre au jour le jour l’avancée de l’épidémie – Comment les pays résistent-ils à la pandémie ? Notre carte interactive réactualisée plusieurs fois par jour indique le nombre de cas répertoriés, de décès et de guérisons – French
Six propositions pour une réponse africaine créative au Covid-19 – L’Afrique, de par sa pyramide des âges et son économie encore peu financiarisée, fait face à une urgence sensiblement différente de celle rencontrée en Occident, et doit élaborer sa voie propre pour surmonter le défi pandémique – French
Le Maroc, exemplaire dans la lutte contre le Covid-19 – Comptant 150 fois moins de morts que l’Espagne, le royaume a su réagir efficacement en se montrant innovant. Son plan de soutien économique et social est sans équivalent en Afrique – French
Coronavirus : quand l’Afrique invente ses propres solutions – La crise du Covid-19 constitue un test grandeur nature pour les Africains, qui doivent plus que jamais trouver par eux-mêmes les solutions collectives adaptées à leurs problèmes – French
Learning from the past: UN draws lessons from Ebola, other crises to fight COVID-19 – English
Lessons from Kerala on how to deal with COVID – English
Resilience of local governments: A multi-sectoral approach to integrate public health and disaster risk management – English
Como combater a Covid-19 sem acesso a água limpa – Portuguese
Enfrentar a desigualdade nas cidades é essencial para combater a Covid-19 – Portuguese
Planejamento urbano e epidemias: os efeitos da Covid-19 na gestão urbana – Portuguese