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Jozi helps Malawi renewal
25 February 2010

Joburg's executive mayor Amos Masondo witnessed the launch Lilongwe's City Development Strategy

A mentorship programme between Johannesburg and Lilongwe has resulted in the launch of a City Development Strategy for the Malawian capital.

EXECUTIVE Mayor Amos Masondo paid a visit to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, to witness the launch of the City Development Strategy (CDS) in that city.

The challenges facing Lilongwe are similar to those facing Joburg, like inner city regeneration
The challenges facing Lilongwe are similar to those facing Joburg, like inner city regeneration
The City of Johannesburg has been engaged in a mentorship programme with the Lilongwe, passing on valuable lessons learned through managing, restructuring and rejuvenating Joburg. Lilongwe has a population of approximately 870 000.

"Cities in developing countries are best placed to take on this challenge given that they often share similar challenges and environments," says Jan Erasmus, the deputy director of policy and strategy in the central strategy unit in the Office of the Mayor.

The mentorship programme came about in March 2008, when the Lilongwe City Assembly approached the City of Joburg for assistance in developing its CDS, which was launched in mid-February. The mentorship was supported by the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa, the United Cities and Local Governments, and the South African Local Government Association.

At the time, governance of Lilongwe was in disarray, with most of the senior positions filled by people in an acting capacity. This meant that decision-making and implementation took place in a disorganised, ad hoc fashion.

"The Lilongwe Assembly was plagued by corruption and low staff morale," adds Erasmus. "There was no strategic approach or programme to address the challenges facing the city."

Masondo spent barely a day in Lilongwe but fitted a lot into his trip - besides visiting the Banda memorial, informal settlements, markets, land invaded by the wealthy, and the new parliament buildings, he also addressed city officials, including the chief executive of the Lilongwe City Assembly, Kelvin Mmangisa.

"Government is essentially about the wellbeing of the people, service to the people, local democracy that seeks to, among others, empower ordinary citizens [the people]," he said.

Participatory democracy
He explained that Africa had embraced the idea that democracy was not simply about voting every five years, but that participatory democracy was about involving citizens in local government and development. This meant, he said, that public representatives should be concerned with the day-to-day delivery of services. Those representatives should "embrace a credible work ethic and put people first".

During the course of the consultations between the two cities, the Malawian government appointed Mmangisa to his position, greatly improving the management of Lilongwe.

Also key is the creation of jobs
Also key is the creation of jobs
Masondo indicated that the challenges facing Lilongwe were similar to those facing Joburg. These involved rapid urbanisation and urban migration; growing the economy and creating job opportunities; service delivery; HIV and Aids; globalisation; and urban renewal and inner city regeneration.

"Africa has a responsibility to build its own capacity and fight to overcome the problems of poverty, underdevelopment and instability," he said.

"Mentoring requires sharing of experience, transferring of knowledge and the creation of an enabling environment ... Those being mentored thus go on a journey of discovery and learning, as do the mentors."

Masondo said that Joburg had a number of relationships with other African cities. It shares information about health, housing and land use management with Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia; it pursues safety information and councillor training and development with Windhoek, in Namibia; and it has a co-operative arrangement between the Makola Market in Accra, Ghana, and the Joburg Market.

Developing partnerships include with Matola in Mozambique, Kinshasa in Democratic Republic of Congo, Bamako in Mali, Conakry in Guinea and Lusaka in Zambia. It also has relationships with Birmingham and London in England, and New York in the United States.

Developing a CDS
The process of developing a CDS for Lilongwe was divided into three phases.

Phase one, the preparatory phase, focused on understanding Lilongwe and its key challenges. This involved an institutional, stakeholder and donor project analysis. Access to quality data was a major issue, with problems for residents ranging from poor sanitation and water provision, to crumbling infrastructure and poor health services.

The second phase was structured around five key areas of concern - governance; shelter and land; infrastructure and environment; community development; and economic development. A five-year implementation plan was developed.

Phase three was the implementation of the plan, with a permanent CDS unit established. The unit will be involved in creating the 2010/2011 business plans and budget estimates, as well as the identification of funding sources and the preparation of departmental score cards.

"This will enable the assembly to immediately commence with implementation [after] the local government elections in May 2010 and ensures that the new political leadership can enter office with a strategic management plan in place," says Erasmus.

During the mentorship, ongoing face-to-face interaction took place between officials from the two cities. "The City of Johannesburg had the necessary experience, capacity and expertise to fulfil this mentoring role," concludes Erasmus.

"Through the sharing of experience, transferring of knowledge and an enabling environment, responsibility and accountability was gradually handed over to the Lilongwe team. The result was a credible, rigorous and universally acceptable Lilongwe CDS that is owned by the people of Lilongwe."

Masondo urged Lilongwe officials to mentor other cities in Malawi, like Blantyre, Msuzu and Zomba.

"The importance of knowledge sharing and mutual learning cannot be over emphasised," he concluded. "We should continue to identify best practice wherever it can be found.  We should not seek merely to copy what others do but to adapt good ideas to our own specific realities."

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Last Updated on 08 March 2010