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Seminar on local governance during Africa Water Week great success

Published on: 05/06/2014

The fifth edition of the Africa Water Week, which took place from the 26-30 May 2014 in Dakar, Senegal, was a great success. One of the sessions that stood out was the discussion on the role of local government in sustainable service delivery, organised by IRC and partners.

The interactive session on local government organised by IRC and partners attracted over 100 participants from over 30 countries in Africa and beyond, including national and local government representatives, development partners, civil society, research and academia, and the media. The theme responded to the increased recognition of the role of local governments in water service provision and the challenges faced.  

All around the world local governments have a crucial role to play in the provision of rural and small town water services. They generally are the owners of water supply assets, and are responsible for their development and for major repairs and replacement. However, the reality on the ground is that they often struggle to take up these tasks. Against this background IRC and partners organised this meeting to provide a platform to share and learn from the different experiences.

Reflecting on the session, Vida Duti, IRC Country Director of Ghana, stated: “It is beginning to be evident that we cannot achieve sustainable water service delivery without looking at the central role of local government. Local Government plays central role in the delivery of water services and if the centre doesn’t hold whatever we do will not succeed. I was therefore happy that IRC could focus and begin to draw sector attention to this.

Jane Nabunnya - Country Director, IRC Uganda started the session by re-echoing the central role of local government to sustainable service delivery, and that if local capacities are enhanced they will be able to improve service delivery. Oftentimes, local governments lack the information, equipment, capacity and funding, and struggle with coordinating different  (NGO and donor) efforts, or guidance from national government and partners. The session shared cases from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Malawi, Kenya and Uganda with experiences on strengthening local governments’ capacity. At the heart of the discussions was how local governments can best be supported to acquire the capacities and resources to be able to implement the post MDG agenda.

The next steps identified included the need to strengthen local private sector; plan the reinforcement of competences at the local level; strengthen systems and structures for monitoring and financial reporting at the local level; provide more funding and improve information flow for proper decision making at the local level; and to expand and continue the discussion on local wash governance at the country level. 

Juste Nansi, Country Director of IRC Burkina Faso, stated afterwards: "The local government session we organised this morning was the one that really placed local authorities at the front of the discussion, looking at how they have performed and how they are fulfilling their mandate (...). It was the first session where I can really say I got some new answers, new things we can work on."

Participants actively participated in the discussion, and take-away messages for supporting local governments, linking them to the overarching theme (post-2015 development goals), included:

  • Full devolution, well capacitated and fully funded local government  is critical to achieving  sustainability and effective service delivery that last;
  • Effective monitoring and assessment of decentralized WASH service delivery is critical for providing sustainable services; and that
  • NGOs and external support services have a role in strengthening local government for WASH service delivery.

The Africa Water Week is held biennially for raising awareness about water and sanitation issues in Africa. 

IRC was represented by a strong delegation consisting of the directors Vida Duti (Country Director IRC Ghana); Jane Nabunnya Mulumba (Country Director IRC Uganda); Juste Nansi (Country Director IRC Burkina Faso), Abubakari Wumbei senior communications officer of the IRC Ghana Office; Alana Potter, manager of the IRC regional programme in Africa and Erma Uytewaal, senior programme officer, member of the IRC management team.