Mogadishu, 28 February 2017-- Benadir Regional Administration recently conducted an informal learning exchange with the eThekwini (Durban) Municipality’s Municipal Institute of Learning and the city of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Through the support of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, the learning exchange took place in late January 2017. Participants examined the linkages between urban planning and urban design, considered a consultative approach, and discussed the importance of building strong governance mechanisms for by-laws and regulations. The delegates also analysed the importance of community engagement and inclusive stakeholder participation in developing legal frameworks that support and regulate local markets.

Reflecting on this issue, Ms. Batulo Mohamed, the Deputy Director of Markets in the Benadir Regional Administration, emphasized the importance of building a platform that enables vendors to organize and raise their concerns: “Stronger vendor associations help to promote local markets and develop stronger economies. Providing sector-specific training as well as financial management training is an important practical step that will support the development of local economies.”

Observing first-hand how the cities of Durban and Johannesburg create service delivery that is mutually beneficial for both the vendors and the municipality was a key learning outcome for the delegation. First Deputy Mayor of Mogadishu Ismail Moallim Abdi Gure said this: “The need for services within Mogadishu often outweighs the capacity of the municipality to deliver. It was important to learn how [the South African cities we visited] have confronted these challenges in order to provide an economic service model that not only contributes to the success of local markets but also has a pro-poor focus, enabling the vulnerable urban poor to engage in the local economy and earn a livelihood through markets.”

Mohamed Ga’al, Director of the Office of Mayor of Mogadishu and Head of Projects for the Benadir Regional Administration, underscored the need to redefine markets by focusing on urbanization: “Mogadishu is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. This level of growth is an indication of its deepening stability and of the opportunity for growth and economic development. If we start by focusing on markets, promoting a collective vision that emphasizes their role in the development of the local economy, it will provide a platform for the economic revitalization of the city.”

The visit was done with the understanding that an integrated strategic approach to city planning, an understanding of the role of various stakeholders in the development of formal and informal markets, and a multifaceted approach to designing and managing public spaces are all integral components of urban planning.

It was aimed at building on the UN-Habitat Somalia Programme’s ongoing efforts in this sphere, and with the aim of further enabling Mogadishu authorities to revive and efficiently manage markets under their purview.

Local markets can be dynamic, vibrant hubs of social interaction that sustain and develop an economy. Markets in Mogadishu once played this vital role, but the prolonged civil conflict in Somalia greatly reduced their capacity to generate local revenue. In addition, their hallmark characteristics – interaction and integration – were eroded.

But local markets in Mogadishu, particularly informal ones, still offer potential for economic and social development. In addition, they have the ability to serve as a catalyst for encouraging the integration of disparate parts of Somali society.