The Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs, in partnership with the Bureau of African Affairs and Sister Cities International, recently hosted a "Smart Partnership Dialogue: Global Engagement Series" entitled, "Leveraging Sister City Relationships as a Driver of Economic Development." U.S. and South African state and local officials discussed the economic advantages and benefits to building strong city-to-city relationships and how best to utilize these relationships for mutual benefit.
The program, which was held on Tuesday, March 13, 2012, began with welcoming remarks by Ambassador Stephen Nolan, Director, South African Affairs, Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State. Adam Kaplan, Sister Cities International, moderated a panel discussion which featured Wanda Felton, First President and Vice Chair, Export-Import Bank; Scott Eisner, Executive Director, International Division and Africa Business Initiative, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and Alicia Robinson-Morgan, Deputy Director for the Office Africa, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. We were grateful that U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Donald Gips and South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool addressed the local leaders, emphasizing the importance of transforming city-to-city partnerships into concrete revenue producing projects. In addition, Ebrajo Councillor Mpho Nawa, Deputy Chairperson, South African Local Government Association (SALGA), delivered remarks. SALGA is South Africa's national association for municipalities dedicated to transforming local governance.
This event highlighted the opportunities and resources offered through the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Export-Import Bank, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to facilitate business and trade relationships at the national, state/provincial, or city level. Speakers and panelists urged cities and states to make concrete plans for new business opportunities through city-to-city and state-to-state relationships. Cities and states that come to the table with proposals and ideas for strategic partnerships can then leverage the resources these organizations offer to determine who might be interested in partnering with them.
The Smart Partnership Dialogue event also recognized South African subnational officials who were visiting Washington, D.C. to attend the National League of Cities' (NLC) Congressional City Conference, March 10-14, and to participate in the NLC Leadership Training Institute. The NLC is a U.S. non-profit organization dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities, and advocating for more than 19,000 U.S. cities, town, and villages.
At the August 2011 SALGA National Conference in Durban, South Africa, SALGA and the NLC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to promote subnational collaboration. I attended the SALGA conference to witness and support the signing of this historic MOU which is geared around capacity building with a focus on governance, sustainability, social housing, municipal finance, and economic and community development.
Our office continues to work with the NLC and SALGA to identify additional partners and to arrange meetings as the MOU is implemented. We coordinated with the NLC to host this delegation of South African state and local leaders at the Congressional City Conference in order to promote best practice sharing and to discuss a number of policy topics of mutual concern in the areas of governance and sustainability.
There are numerous opportunities for subnational partnerships between the United States and South Africa. Cities, municipalities, and universities in the United States are interested in working with their counterparts in South Africa. In addition, many U.S. cities and states hope to develop and expand new and existing sister city and sister state relationships. Approximately 15 of these partnerships already exist between the United States and South Africa.
I was delighted to see the cooperation between SALGA and NLC representatives at the Global Engagement Series event and at the NLC International Council Meeting on March 12. Promoting collaboration between U.S. state and local leaders and their counterparts abroad is an important element of meeting our foreign policy objectives. The NLC-SALGA MOU and the ongoing collaboration is the true essence of our work -- the promotion of state-to-state, city-to-city, and association-to-association global relationships.