Commonwealth Local Government Forum

Bringing East African local government together

20 February 2024

Excitement is mounting ahead of the 8th East African Local Government Forum (EALGF) taking place in Tanzania from 27 to 29 February.

 

The title for this regional event is: Local Economic Development and Cross-Border Trade in the EAC (East African Community) - Leveraging the role of Local and County Governments to fast-track achievement of the EAC integration agenda. It will look at local economic development in cross-border communities and how this can reinforce implementation of EAC treaty commitments.

Role of the forum

The Forum represents a great opportunity to exchange on how best to position local government to effectively contribute to and drive forward, the EAC integration and development agenda; identify strategic solutions to common issues facing local government and subnational institutions in supporting economic development at a local level; make progress on setting joint priorities with the EAC; as well as recommend key priorities for implementation, and build consensus to supporting more effective decentralisation by devolution in East Africa.

Network of key players

The EALGF is not an institution, but rather a network of key players and stakeholders from both local and central government, involved in promoting effective decentralisation, empowering local government to deliver development at the local level, and engaging with the EAC and other formal regional structures. The East African Local Government Forum (EALGF) brings together the local and county government sector of the EAC. Constituted in 2012, the most recent meeting held in 2022 celebrated the 10 year anniversary of this productive forum sharing experience, providing mutual support and ensuring a strong voice for local government towards the East African Community.

 

The Forum is chaired by the ministers of local governments from the region on an annual, rotational basis and co-chaired by the Chairperson of the East African Local Government Association (EALGA). The EALGF works to address issues of devolution and decentralisation in the EAC and to support the integration process in the region and the role of local government in maximising the benefit of this process to citizens.  

 

For the East African Community (EAC) regional trade integration is a cornerstone of EAC Partner States’ trade policies. The Customs Union came into effect in 2005 with the objectives of furthering the liberalisation of intra-regional trade in goods; promoting production efficiency in the Community; enhancing domestic, cross-border and foreign investment; and promoting economic development and industrial diversification. This was followed by the Common Market Protocol (CMP) in 2010, which works to progressively transform the EAC into a single market that allows for free movement of goods, persons, services, labour and capital while guaranteeing rights to residence and establishment. 

Common Market Protocol

The Common Market Protocol has had far reaching implications on the region’s local governments (on regulatory frameworks, revenue generation, service provision and trade management). While it was developed without adequate consultation or feedback from the local government sector, and it produced significant negative impacts on local economies, there are clear examples from across the region of local governments harnessing the benefits of these policy changes to maximise the positive development outcomes for there citizens.

 

Local governments have the ability to provide leadership in identifying and leveraging natural, human and infrastructural resources in a district or region, and by so doing they become promoters and facilitators of commercial and investment trade. Local government prioritising local economic development through policy and practice is the grassroots which support a productive national and regional economic environment.  LED is also a useful entry point to address the multi-sectoral nature of the SDGs in a targeted but holistic manner and this is because LED by itself as a concept implies the maximisation of a locality’s economic comparative advantage in terms of exploiting the business potential of local comparative advantages, resources and value chains. However the LED mandate and resourcing of local and county governments across the region is uneven and the sector could benefit from increased clarity and promotion of this mandate in national legislation, including within the legal and regulatory frameworks of other relevant sectors (agriculture, industry, trade, or vocational education). In addition the local government sector must build its capacity to mainstream and institutionalise LED.

CLGF in East Africa 

CLGF has been active in East Africa since it was established in 1995, working with the ministries of local government, national local government associations and municipalities in member countries to implement decentralisation and the reforms that will empower local government and improve governance and service delivery. In partnership with its national membership in Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda CLGF has undertaken assessments of the local government system to assess progress in implementing the principles that are contained in the Aberdeen Agenda. The Commonwealth Local Government Conference (CLGC) was held in Kampala (Uganda) in 2013 and, more recently, in Kigali, Rwanda in November, 2023.

 

Working closely with the Secretary-General of the East African Local Government Association, Ms Gertrude Rose Gamwera, to deliver this event, CLGF's Head of Programmes, Ms Claire Frost said: "The 8th EALGF aims to promote a strong collaboration between the EAC, national and local government levels of the different EAC member States, and their partners, towards a successful regional LED agenda. A key element of the EAC integration process that calls for the reinventing the region as an economic power-house. Focusing on cross-border trade and local economic development, it will discuss key policies, strategies and implementation examples to build a community of practice and commitments towards further work and support at all levels of this key area.

 

Attending the event will be:

 

  • Ministries in charge of local government and/or decentralisation in EAC member states;
  • Ministries in charge of trade in the EAC;
  • Ministries in charge of East African affairs in EAC member states;
  • Presidents of associations of local governments from the EAC member states;
  • Secretary-generals of the association of local governments from the EAC member states;
  • The Chairperson, Secretary General and Staff of the East African Local Government Association (EALGA);
  • A cohort of border local governments from the EAC region;
  • A cohort of cross border civil society groups as well as regional representatives;
  • The Commonwealth Local Government Forum;
  • Development partners supporting decentralisation (including UNCDF, UNDP and the EU).

 

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