Congratulations on your election as the new Mayor of Borama. I’m extremely pleased with the election outcome, and I’m confident that you will serve us well. However, we, the residents of Borama city, want your council to outline the top priorities to focus next four years. The following points could be part of your top priorities.
Strategic Plan for the local government
My city (Borama) never had its strategic document, which states the city priorities in the next 5 or 10 years. Strategic plans often help local government to guide its development for the years to come. For some reason, your predecessors didn’t see this as an opportunity. Using the new talent in your council, I hope you will develop a strategic plan, which leads to the success of the municipal operation.
Revenue is the lifeblood for every local government to provide better service. With that being said, no council can deliver service without generating enough revenue. According to a study carried out by UN-Habitat on local governments of Somaliland, only six sources of revenue were reported active compare to a total of 19 revenue sources mandated to local governments to collect. The new council should look into those revenue sources that are not performing well and determine ways to enforce them.
Reforming the tax collection system and introducing new sources of tax or service fees are effective ways to increase revenue. Your council should rearrange and modernize the tax collection system to increase collection efficiency. On market revenue or daily collections, you should establish robust monitoring and supervisory mechanisms to check the revenue collectors. Another way to maximize revenue is to outsource the tax collection to a private company. Many countries in Africa outsourced their revenue collection to private companies and made significant improvements in their revenue collection. In my experience, your council had a challenge for property tax collection so, I would recommend outsourcing property tax to a private company.
Land dispute and Sustainable resolution
The land dispute is a widespread phenomenon and can occur at any time and place. Both need and greed can equally lead to conflict. The land dispute has a big challenge in every city of Somaliland, and Borama is one of them. I know from experience that the dispute sometimes disrupts your office operation and takes a lot of time to handle the issue.
There are many approaches to solve land disputes. One way is religiously-based land conflict resolution – make reference to religious understanding when it comes to conflict resolution. I think it also is a good idea to learn from neighboring countries, like Ethiopia and Kenya. And study how they solve the land disputes. Whatever approaches to adopt, awareness-raising programs are also inevitable to increase the public knowledge of land grabbing causes and consequences.
Waste Management and plastic bags control
Wastes or plastic wastes are not only ugly but has environmental and health issue to the public. As the city has already outsourced the waste collection to a private company, you only need to monitor their performance regularly. On the other hand, your council has to designate a day for cleanup once a month and organize a neighborhood cleanup program where each neighborhood has a separate day to clean up. This cleanup campaign or neighborhood program will help you make the city clean and ease the overload of waste collection.
Plastic bags are very useful in our day-to-day life, yet they significantly contribute to environmental pollution, livestock deaths, human health hazards, and other detrimental impacts. one of the ways to tackle the plastic issue is to implement policy measures by entirely banning the use and the sale of plastic bags. In 2017, Kenya banned the production, sale, and use of plastic bags. Many countries including, Rwanda, China, and Bangladesh, followed Kenya’s lead putting in place a total or partial ban. I don’t think your council can adopt this policy right now, but you can organize a plastic picker program and engage shoeshine boys to pick up the plastics from the streets.
Park areas and recreational centers
Seeraha Borama used to be the only city-owned outdoor space. Now, this park is gone for good. The new council has to create new parks and recreational centers for the youth. Each district of Borama council has to have one park area where people visit and enjoy their time. The beautiful and greenery parks not only look beautiful but also helps the community stay healthy – mentally and physically—especially in urban areas. Research from Minding our Bodies suggests that stress is reduced, while mental health is boosted when we are surrounded by natural settings. Similarly, local parks provide green spaces where people relax and enjoy the beauty of the natural environment, and encourage physical activities including walking, running, and cycling.
Local parks also create economic benefits to a business near the park and play a vital role in community safety. The most important benefit of local parks is to relieve mental health, which leads to a reduction of aggression. I know it is impossible to build outdoor space in each district in the first 100 days, but at least if your council undertakes one park, it can bring a positive vibe to the city.
Public street lighting
My city lagged behind the rest of Somaliland cities on street lighting due to that the past admin didn’t understand the benefits of street lighting. Public street lighting improves road traffic safety, decreases criminal activities, and helps increase business activities as well as improves public interactions during the night hours. The new council has to put in place a mechanism to install street lighting systems on main roads and neighborhood streets. This can be carried out either by partnering with electric suppliers or generating from the solar system. In neighborhood streets, the city and neighbors can co-financing the street lighting project. The new council has to set a target to achieve in the next 100 days.
Street Naming and Address Numbering
Borama council has its approach of street naming and address numbering, but this is not up to the standard. The new council has to figure out a way to standardize street naming and address numbering. The benefits of street naming and address numbering are not only finding a location for fire services and police services or giving direction to a taxi driver, or receiving a visit from someone outside of your city, but also it assists tax collection. With the help of university students, the new council can assign names to all streets and give a number to addresses. In the first 100 days, the new council can start a pilot project for street naming and address numbering in one district of the Borama council. Street naming and address numbering is not easy task, but the new council can set up the street naming and address number in a manual format at the beginning and later transfer to a computerized system. Conflict always rises from the names given to streets, but you can use numbers instead of names or country names like the case of Addis Ababa.
Accountability and transparency
The past city administration failed to open their meeting to the public. Why? Because they didn’t know that open public meetings facilitate accountability and transparency for the council services. If your new council invite the public to participate in decision-making sessions, it creates trust and encourages them to pay taxes and services fee. Trust me, you will end up with more revenue than in past years. This where you can excel by inviting the public to your meetings – when designing city projects or when creating a budget, both recurrent and capital. The city website is also an important hub where the public finds information about the city’s ongoing projects and activities and can simultaneously improve accountability and transparency. The new council is expected to build a website for the municipality seeking assistance from IT students. I believe University IT students can help create a stunning website for the city. All you need is to learn how to make use of student volunteers. In the new era of technology, volunteers are at the forefront of smart cities.
Road development and maintenance
The outgoing mayor has done excellent work in building new roads and streets; however, if roads or neighborhood streets are not regularly maintained, it vanishes. The new council has to reform road maintenance operations or outsource to a local private company. Outsourcing will ease the burden of admin and cut the cost in lean times.
Tourist Attraction Sites
While I’m not sure if this falls under your council’s mandate, it can be another way your council can generate revenue in the future. Borama and its surrounding areas have beautiful sites to pay a short visit to. Identifying those tourist sites is crucial and will be the first step to take. Tourist attraction sites could be places that have a cultural value or historical significance, like Daray-macane and old Amoud, or places of natural beauty like Sharlaga-naadi, Aloog, and SAW mountain or parks like Seeraha Borama. And others you will identify. If the council preserve the tourist sites and figure out ways to manage, they will make thousands of dollars from admission ticket only.
Borama has a lot of things to celebrate throughout the year. Organizing local festivals bring the culture back to life and make the city more attractive as well. Local businesses may also benefit from the gathering through selling their products. The council has to assign a day or week to celebrate our cultural heritage. The festival can be a cultural exhibition day in which all walks of life compete in dance, music, or other forms of art. You can call it “Zaylici Festival” or other names you like. The festival may attract visitors, which stimulates the growth of tourism and other business in the town. The diaspora will also appreciate this event and bring their kids back to learn their culture and language.
Borama is getting bigger, and the municipal compound can’t cover all. It is time to decentralize the authority and responsibility to sub-districts through opening offices. The decentralization will help the new council to ease the burden from the admin and improve tax collection. Councilors will be in charge of each office, and you, as the mayor, will only oversight their operation. I have heard that the Ministry of Finance has recently opened offices in 4 districts of Borama council and assigned new staff to manage tax collection. Likewise, the local government can have offices in each sub-district and recruit new staff.
My advice is the tip of the iceberg of the council mandate. You have more responsibilities to do, but the only takeaway of this advice is to draft a strategic plan first, while the rest is part of this strategy. If you get this right, you already took a tremendous step and achieved the goal on your journey of making Borama a better and beautiful city. Please be aware that you have our full support. I wish you all the best as you represent us. Peace!!!
By Kassem Kalineh
Former Local Government Advisor