January 26, 2023     cib    

How can local governments play a role in times of crisis and beyond?

The DeLoG Knowledge and Dialogue Days started on November 28, 2022, with a keynote speech by Cameroonian political leader and activits Kah Walla on the role of local governments and development cooperation. ‘It’s how well you learn from your failure and how quickly your recover from it that will build your success’ – with this quote from Kah Walla, the moderator of the session, VNGI Regional Manager and former Lawyer and Diplomat, dr. Neila Akrimi, kicked off the discussion.  

Kah Walla, who was the first woman to ever run for presidential elections in Cameroon, started the session with an example of the Sandaga Market Women, to show how the power of citizens can change the status quo in local governments. In 2007, when Kah Walla was elected as a municipal councilor, she started working with women of the Sandaga Market, the largest fruit and vegetable market in Central Africa. 80% of the Sandaga traders and buyers were women. However, the Market Trader’s Association had only one female representative. Additionally, the market women were affected by economic and physical violence.  

Kah Walla organised that the Sandaga Market Women joined municipal sessions and participate in the decision-making process about the market. The Women decided to found a Market Women’s Association, as well as to create a dialogue platform with the men on the market and with the City Mayor. Within two years the Sandaga Market Women fully utilised their power as citizens: they reduced physical and economic abuse by over 80%, carried out elections and formed a representation, becoming effective participants in local governance. The case of the Sandaga Market Women shows how local governments are key to building democracy.

The successful example of Sandaga is especially relevant to the volatile context many African states have to operate in. ‘We are only able to face these challenges with functional states’, explains Kah Walla, and there are no functional states without inclusive, equal and functional local governments.

For the full article, see: In Crisis and Beyond: Local Governments are Critical to Building Functional States - Keynote Speech of Kah Walla - DeLoG - Decentralisation & Local Governance