Johannesburg-Lilongwe Mentorship Programme

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Main actors

Regional Government, Private Sector, other

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2003/03

Lilongwe City Development Strategy has been developed through an innovative Mentorship Programme with the City of Johannesburg

Lilongwe’s City Development Strategy (CDS) represents an innovative partnership between the City of Johannesburg, Lilongwe City Council (LCC), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and Cities Alliance. Starting in 2008, the initiative has led to substantial improvement in LCC capacity to formulate and adopt strategies in economic management, shelter, land, and infrastructure. On the management front, LCC computerised much of its accounting and billing system, resulting in improvements in transparency, accountability, efficiency, and performance management system. The new accounting and billing led to increased revenues, which allowed LCC to improve staff salaries based on the performance management system. Regarding shelter and land components, external grants and government funding were mobilised to help:

  1. create close to 2000 residential and commercial plots for the urban poor;
  2. improve water and sanitation in low income settlements;
  3. strengthen the Community Savings and Loans Association, to improve dilapidated roads and put in place street lighting.

The City of Johannesburg was tasked to provide expert advice and technical assistance. They also co-financed the programme. Cities Alliance was the major funder of this programme, and provided general technical assistance to Malawi Ministry of Local Government, to ensure programme adherence to MDGs and buy-in / political support from the Malawian government.

Sustainable Development Goals

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Guangzhou Award

This project was awarded the 'Guangzhou Award' in 2012.

Lilongwe, Malawi

Size and population development
2011: 772,000; 1990: 124,000; 2025: 1,538,000; 2010-2015: 4.57%

Population composition
presence of diffrent ethnies

Main functions
admistrative center

Main industries / business
agriculture and tobacco industries

Malawi is a signatory to the Millennium Declaration, adopted by 189 nations and signed by 147 heads of state at the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000. After the summit, Malawi prepared a national growth and development strategy to guide the country’s development in addressing Millenium Development Goals (MDG). Unfortunately, this national strategy could not effectively address particular challenges found within Lilongwe e.g. high rate of urbanisation (one of the highest in Africa) at 5.22%, mushrooming slums where 76% of Lilongwe inhabitants live, urban poverty, laxity on the part of Lilongwe City Council (LCC) staff, lack of basic infrastructure developments in the city etc.

Traditional planning tools such as master plans and structure plans were not able to deal sufficiently with complex social and economic developmental challenges found in Lilongwe. These and global environmental challenges required development of long-term plans to ensure sustainability in Lilongwe. In 2007, Lilongwe, member in UCLG United Cities and Local Governments/Africa, participated at a city future workshop in Johannesburg where LCC submitted a proposal requesting to be mentored by a member city which had already developed a productive CDS. An approval was granted by a City of Johannesburg mayoral committee, UCLG, United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLGA) and South African Local Government Association (SALGA) in 2008. The innovation was borrowed from Johannesburg experience, a fellow African city with some urban problems similar to those of Lilongwe. Culturally, residents in these two cities have much in common.

Goals of this initiative: For the mentor city (Johannesburg) to provide expert advice and technical assistance to LCC in order for Lilongwe to develop the City Development Strategy (CDS), a document explaining key decisions in relation to what should or needs to be prioritised in order to accelerate growth, to reduce poverty, build sustainable settlements, and contribute towards MDG achievement.

The programme ran from 2008 to 2012, and Cities Alliance, Malawi government and other donors had to finance the programme. CDS is designed to be valid for the period from 2010 to 2015, within which Lilongwe status may change.

Parties and partners in the initiative, resources used for implementation:

  • Lilongwe City Council (LCC)
  • Malawi Government
  • Cities Alliance
  • City of Johannesburg
  • United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)
  • South African Local Government Association (SALGA)
  • Lilongwe business community representative
  • Academic personnel
  • International organisations (JICA, UN Habitat, subsequently GTZ)
  • Community Development Committees CDC and other local organisations in Lilongwe. 

Following the mentorship request, a Johannesburg team visited LCC several times to assist them to develop their own City Development Strategy (CDS), an implementation plan, and to ensure skill transfer and capacity building. At the time, Lilongwe governance was in disarray, most senior positions were being filled by staff in acting capacity only. This meant that decision making and implementation took place in a disorganised, ad hoc fashion. 

The City of Johannesburg volunteered to mentor LCC on the following:

  • advice and technical assistance in development efforts;
  • assistance in LCC developing a strategy document giving guidance in relation to what should or needs to be prioritised to accelerate growth, reduce poverty, and build sustainable settlements. 

The process of developing Lilongwe CDS in three phases

Phase one, the preparatory phase, focused on understanding Lilongwe and key challenges. This involved an institutional, stakeholder and donor project analysis. Access to quality data was a major issue, problems for residents ranged from poor sanitation and water provision, to crumbling infrastructure and poor health services.

Phase two was structured around five key areas of concern - governance; shelter and land; infrastructure and environment; community development; and economic development. A five-year implementation plan was developed.

Phase three was implementation of the plan, with a permanent CDS unit established. The unit was involved in creating the 2010/2011 business plans and budget estimates, as well as identifying funding sources and preparing departmental score cards.

During the mentorship, on-going face-to-face interaction took place between officials from both cities. The City of Johannesburg had the necessary experience, capacity, and expertise to fulfil this mentoring role. The next Metropolis Board of Directors meeting will also be held in Johannesburg in July 2013.

Most recent action at LCC level

LCC has managed to computerise the accounting and billing system. All collected revenue is monitored by more than one person, and defrauding LCC has therefore been halted; as a result revenue has been improving annually since 2010. LCC is increasing salaries for employees at least annually.

Performance management system has been formulated and is currently being enforced. This has enhanced staff retention.

LCC undertook an institutional capacity and skills audit. Many previously vacant positions have now been filled, ghost workers were identified in the process and those responsible have been prosecuted.

Most recent action at city level

From Lilongwe CDS thematic area of shelter and land, a proposed project entitled "SUSTAINABLE IMPROVEMENT OF LIVELIHOOD OF LILONGWE SLUM DWELLERS: AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO URBAN PLANNING", was approved in 2010. The project is currently under implementation in two informal settlements. Water and sanitation has improved, a livelihood programme helps to improve residents' socio-economic status through the Community Savings and Loans Association (CSLA) component and reflect adult circles. Many women have already ventured in income generating activities (IGAs) using the loans they borrow from CSLA. There is also linking to commercial banks from which poor people are obtaining adequate loans.

LCC also received a grant from UN Development Programme in order to implement a project entitled "WASTE FOR WEALTH PROJECT: PROMOTING A ZERO WASTE ENVIRONMENT" in two traditional housing areas. More people in these areas are currently preparing compost manure and selling it to obtain money for their own use. This is a popular business and has managed to improve many lives in the project impact areas.

Lilongwe has also attained improved health in the city and residents have developed proactive measures, preventive and disease control actions. In the financial year 2011/2012, for the first time in the city, there were no cases of cholera outbreak and this was due to a scaled-up cholera campaign.

The initiative has improved how services are delivered to inhabitants. Communication on services and projects has also improved, now that a Public Relations Officer has been recruited who is able to speak to inhabitants via the media at any time.

After the first contact session in April 2008, Lilongwe City Council submitted funding request to Cities Alliance of USD 72,000 for development of 1st CDS phase, which was approved in October 2008. Cities Alliance has also approved granting USD 249,000 for CDS implementation and this should be disbursed in 2012. These grants are disbursed upon request through a proposal from LCC. LCC staff, Malawi Ministry of Lands, UN Habitat, City of Johannesburg officials and Cities Alliance contributed greatly to the success of this programme.

The mentorship programme enabled Lilongwe City Council (LCC) to take back control of local government, to start building good governance practices, to change institutional behaviour and ability, to focus on public good and community needs, to prioritise, and to be accountable.

The innovative mentorship resulted in changes both at institutional level and city level. LCC formulated an ambitious City Development Strategy (CDS) and started implementing in 2010. Current Lilongwe CDS implementation is expected to end in 2015 in order to be evaluated, amended and renewed for another phase.

Progress so far:

  • phases 1 and 2 completed, and CDS document launched in February 2010
  • implementation phase (project assistance) initiated and the following completed:
  1. developed scorecards for executive staff
  2. completed a mid-year progress assessment against scorecard commitments
  3. developed a by-law review process in partnership with Blantyre, Msuzu and Zomba urban areas
  4. finalised a 10-year capital programme and explored funding possibilities
  5. concluded credit-worthiness assessment
  6. developed a model to establish a city police force / enforcement agency
  7. developed a business case to operationalise the GIS unit

At the end of each financial year, all LCC departments develop a departmental score card with technical support from the Johannesburg Mentorship Unit. After a review, CDS unit compiles LCC score card which is aligned with LCC budget and is implemented. This scorecard has a column for evidence which acts as an indicator during monitoring when an activity completed. CDS unit works with a monitoring and evaluation officer to check progress of LCC projects / activities against commitments in the scorecards.

This programme faced resistance from Lilongwe City Council (LCC) staff. Some officers did not want to support it because they thought it would only burden them with a huge task while salaries were very low. To overcome this resistance, internal capacity-building workshops were conducted so as to give staff adequate information about the programme. In the workshops it was realised that the City Development Strategy, when fully functioning, would help council obtain more funding for projects and adequate revenue for its operations and salaries, and thus staff members' lives will certainly improve. Later, LCC raised staff salaries, and resistance was overcome.

General challenges:

  • state of public administration e.g. leadership, commitment, and capacity
  • political context e.g. actual level of decentralised decision making; political 'peers', etc.
  • lack of access to available information (local and national), determining status of information
  • no established communication platforms to share information, tasks, etc
  • lack of basic resources – mass photocopying, computer virus protection, transport, meeting venues, etc.
  • mentors are not to have any vested interests
  • capacity building is extensive –from most basic to more complex issues

Advantages of mentorship methodology:

  • obvious mistakes are avoided
  • those involved gain confidence in the process
  • while Lilongwe / Johannesburg mentorship was informal, it will probably lead to a more formal relationship
  • result focused
  • mentors have experience in city management and local decision making process
  • delivery is on time
  • technical support / advice available on demand

Lilongwe City Council is a member of UCLG and Cities Alliance City Future programme which supports exchange of experience and best practice in the region. Other Malawian cities which participated in the programme went back with lessons worth emulating. LCC offered support by linking Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu to other mentor cities so that these cities, too, were to develop their own City development Strategy (CDS). Currently, Mzuzu has already submitted a drafted CDS to Cities Alliance. This shows successful transfer of the mentorship process.

Lessons learned:

  • agree up front on joint programme - mutual understanding on scope of work and purpose
  • composition in mentor team – skills, experience, etc.
  • identifying key people / drivers in beneficiary team – build Relationship
  • ensure highest authority support at outset (all spheres of government)
  • not to underestimate value of embedded knowledge, non-formal sources not generally known
  • plan for implementation and support phase – 'after care'
  • cognisance of language, cultural aspects, capacity, distance, etc.
  • funding and momentum – depending on external funding should not be a major constraint; assistance required with funding application
  • programme flexibility
  • every process needs a champion
  • purpose-designed process
  • for every challenge, there is a joint solution
  • capacity building and knowledge:
  1. ensure internal / external consultation
  2. regularly assess ownership
  3. regularly verify understanding of issues / process
  4. maintain momentum, meet expectations – when a consultation session is promised, ensure that it takes place
  5. pitch input at audience level; this might vary from audience to audience
  6. build a 'local' brand

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Guangzhou Award
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Guangzhou Award

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