Democratic innovation in Africa must go through the territories
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Engaging citizens in democratic life, offering modern means of participation, strengthening confidence in politics and giving voice to territories, these are the issues we discussed at the [Innopolis Salon] (https://innopolis-expo.com/) with Najat Zarrouk, an inspiring woman wearing many hats, committed to African unity.
Interview with Najat Zarrouk
Director of the African Academy of Local Authorities in Africa, Member of the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration and President of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration.
Interview by Julie de Pimodan, Co-Founder of Fluicity & Co-Founder of ACTE
What is the vision of the African Local Government Academy (UCLGA)?
It is to maintain African unity, and to build sustainable development from the territories, communities and populations. This objective can only be achieved through the entities that are local governments, represented by citizens, communities, populations and member territories.
How is the organization of the UCLGA structured?
We are a network of fifty-four local government associations, covering the five African regions. We are financed by our members' dues, by the support of Morocco, which has offered us a headquarters agreement, and by financial assistance from the European Commission.
Can you summarize your missions?
Our main mission is to advocate for the anchoring of decentralization because it is through decentralization that we can give voice to the people, the citizens and the territories. This is really a very important point in our activity. Convincing, mobilizing resources, convincing the government to transfer powers, attributions and responsibilities to territorial entities. The second mission is training: capacity building in information, learning, and peer learning. This is what the African Academy of Local Governments does. The third mission is technical assistance: knowledge sharing, case studies, and mobilization of academic resources online and offline.
How are you working to modernize citizen engagement in Africa?
Training on civic engagement is one of our priority missions at UCLGA. Our role is to seek expertise to set up training and awareness programs on civic engagement. Trust in local elected officials is fundamental to maintaining African unity. We are currently digitizing a training program on citizen engagement and participatory budgeting. At the same time, I have created a network of 45 local elected women in Africa, present in the 5 African regions. Finally, I was recently elected to the presidency of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration, which works with member states to develop public administration solutions to current political challenges.
Is the African continent ready to transform its democratic practices?
The subject of democratic innovation is booming in Africa, with Morocco first of all having introduced citizen petition systems; the latest example was a petition signed by 15,000 people to develop the use of the English language in the country. In terms of participatory budgets, there are more than six hundred local governments in Africa that are being deployed with excellent results. Before the pandemic, all this was done in physical form, but increasingly there is room for digital processes. We are working on this with Bachir Kanouté and Patrick Enri Chabal, two leaders in participatory democracy in Africa. Our objective: to enable all administrative staff to understand how a participatory budget works in order to implement it within the territories.