The East African Local Governments Association Annual General Meeting and the East African Local Governments Forum Annual Assembly (EALGA) opened in Kigali with a call for leaders to collaborate towards regional integration and through the post COVID19 pandemic.
The meeting and assembly, bringing together local government officials from six East African Community (EAC) countries, was officially opened this October 6, 2021 by Jean-Marie Vianney Gatabazi, Rwanda’s Minister of Local Government and the current EALGA Chairman.
EALGA by constitution holds an Annual General Meeting as its top policy organ to inform and guide the activities of the New Year.
In a similar manner on the other hand, EALGF (established in Kampala, Uganda in 2013) every two years, holds its annual assembly to elect a new Chairperson and mobilize all actors and have consensus on the key required strategic interventions for the voice of Local Governments to be repositioned in the EAC integration process and the global agenda.
This EALGF Annual General Assembly meeting comes after a period of hardships brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted the way of living. As a matter of fact, this meeting has been postponed a couple of times due to COVID-19.
The meetings will focus on strategies related to COVID-19 recovery to propel trade and regional development for East Africa, domestication of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in East Africa, the impact of the decentralization and devolution system in East Africa as well as strengthening engagement with the East African Community as an economic block.
Minister Gatabazi said that all member countries are now required to join efforts in designing effective mechanism for recovery not only the Forum to attain its intended objectives but also our people’s restored lives and hope in our EAC region.
Gatabazi said that the forum discussions and deliberation on strategic actions should focus on investing in building the sustainability of the actions of EALGF in general.
This he said has to be through localizing sustainable Development Goals in East Africa; strengthening engagement with the EAC Secretariat; Local Economic Development (LED) as a Driver for the EAC Trade and Regional Trade; Impact of Decentralization and Devolution Systems in EAC and EALGF Future Priorities and Perspectives.
“We believe that these topics will serve the purpose of igniting fruitful discussion on how local and county government enhance collaboration in bringing tangible solutions to our communities especially in this period of economic recovery from Covid-19 pandemic,” Gatabazi said.
To achieve this, the meeting will endeavor to position EALGF as a driver of the Local Economic Agenda by addressing the different relationships and capacities of and between central government ministries and the respective Local and County Governments inclusive of the Cities and Urban entities.
This will be done with a prime focus on improving the effective implementation of decentralization and local economic development policies so as to achieve regional economic growth, trade and development as well as and meeting the SDGs in the region.
In addition to implementing EALGA and EALGF’s mandates and planned actions, anticipated outcomes of these meetings include improved mobilization of members and the Institutional co-ordination of EALGA and EALGF resulting in a stronger representative voice for local government in the EAC integration process.
Other objectives of the meeting include the elections of EALGA Executive Committee Office bearers and facilitate the handover by the incumbent, as well as streamlining and resolving the interactions of EALGA at regional and global levels.
Despite the political differences in regional countries, Kenya’s Deputy Minister in the ministry of Devolution, Abdul Bahari Ali Jillo said that the regional integration remains a priority and learning from each other will be vital to successfully move economies and communities out of the pandemic.
“We are confident in the process of regional integration despite our differences. We here to learn and share best practices from countries like Rwanda so that we can attain this objective,” said Jillo.
Former EALGA Chairman, Gulamhafeez Abubakar Mukadam also stated that country contribution and working with the EAC secretariat to invest in the forum activities will also be vital to push the agenda forward.
Depending on each year’s budget, each country is supposed contribute about $10,000.
“This contribution has been slow and we are glad that Rwanda has supported us in ensuring that we have the finances but it should be the same for other members,” Mukadam said.
At the closure of EALGA Forum, Rwanda will hand over to Tanzania as the next chair of the forum.
Since its launch in 2013, the East African Local Governments Forum (EALGF) continues to support institutional development with focus on building strong Local Governments across EAC member States.
This Forum also provides for a framework of advocacy for our Member States to create governance systems with constitutional and statutory devolution of powers, to sub-national units in respect of the principles of subsidiarity, effective empowerment, equitable sharing of responsibilities and resources and improved service delivery.