The first Motswana president of the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa, (UCLGA), Mpho Moruakgomo, has promised to use his three-year term to focus on decentralization in a bid to change Botswana’s central government system.┬á
The┬ádecentralization policy formulated in 2009 calls for government to devolve executive powers to Council Chairpersons and City Mayors to drive economic and social developments in their local┬á areas. ┬á
Botswana has been slow in advancing this policy meant to establish a decentralized government with city, town and district┬ácouncils operating┬ásectors of the economy, such as diamond mining.
Moruakgomo, who is also the president of the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA), said leading an international organization which advocates for decentralized governments in Africa is challenging him to push Botswana to┬álead by example.┬á “We should change the current central government system,” he said.
UCLGA represents 2,000 cities and is a voice of 350 million African citizens, giving Moruakgomo the opportunity to attend global forums and seek recipes used by countries which have successfully established decentralized governments.
BALA Deputy Executive Secretary, Ludo Metshameko said Moruakgomo’s appointment as president of UCLGA opens┬áa┬áwindow for Botswana to see how things are done in countries which┬áhave established decentralized government systems.┬á
She said local authorities in the country will also be recognized internationally, increasing the chance of sourcing funds from institutions such as the World Bank, African Development Bank and other cooperation agencies┬áinterested in local developments.
“It is generally agreed by development experts that the capacity to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is much┬ágreater in decentralized governments,” said Moruakgomo, further emphasizing┬áthe need for Botswana to change the current government system. “It is therefore likely to take Botswana and other countries with anemic local governments fifty more┬áyears to realize the social and economic goals.”
He said countries with centralized government systems cannot effectively represent the needs of people because economic┬ádevelopment decisions are not┬á taken by the local governing authorities closest to the community.┬á He challenged the government to change the current system by amending anti-decentralization government policies which hinder councils from owning and operating lucrative sources of money like diamond mines which are reserved for central government only.┬á