“Last time that I saw you, you were bigger”, referring to my pregnancy from my youngest seven years ago. I do remember my happiness with the upgrade to business class I received the flight back to The Netherlands, but further…? Alfred is still at UAAU, the Urban Authorities Association of Uganda. For having a similar amount of years within my association, I feel very connected to him. It is however only now, looking back at my last week’s visit to Kampala, that I realise that I should have benefitted more from our time together. We share spare moments over a very long period being in the same local government sector. How does Alfred reflect on this, as he survived several political and executive changes, much more often than I did. There is probably much that I can learn from him.

It was the Local Government Capacity Programme (LGCP) that gave me the opportunity to travel to Uganda for the first time and meet Alfred- as the financial officer of UAAU, being the right- and only hand of Darlington, the Executive Secretary General. Together with my trusted expert Alfonso, we were about to assess the organisational capacity of UAAU. I remember that Alfonso and Alfred made a road trip visiting member urban councils. The trip informed us about the politics and economy of the association, and its members and set the agenda for many years of collaboration. We knew already then that Alfred was UAAUs strongest asset. The visit must have been by the end of 2012 or beginning 2013. Now when meeting him in 2022, he is wearing a white blouse with the LGCP logo on his shoulder. Nostalgy, but also a symbol of our history together, a sign of trust and shared objectives. The numbers now would give us a similar assessment of the association in comparison to ten years ago. Three staff members; Alfred being promoted to SG and a new lady financial officer. An association strong and legitimised by a number of regional, political, urban networks, which by virtue of meeting pay for the secretaries salary. No growth model behind it.

At the same time, the conversation we had with the new leadership is full of energy, aiming to give meaning to the added value UAAU can play, presenting a clear cut plan for growth, aspiring innovation, making sense of being a member based urban authorities association. There is a clear agenda on capacity development for conflict resolution, advocacy and revenue generation. It is understood that urban leaders feel connected through the WhatsApp group and regional meetings. The next Annual General Meeting (AGM) being the try-out for the newly elected chair of the association, who invited all urban leaders to come to West Nile, Northern Uganda. UAAUs new chair, being mayor of Koboko Municipality- a border town to South Sudan and DRC, receiving many refugees every day. The meeting will be combined with a field trip, so other Mayors can experience what his municipality is dealing with on daily basis. It is expected to be a massive event. Hopefully it will not only pay for the salaries of UAAU staff, but moreover, UAAU will proof its added value again. Just listening to the narrative of change, the plans make me happy and confident that we have a good partner again for LGCP 3.0, called SDLG: Sustainable Development through improved Local Governance.

I should buy Alfred a new shirt.

SDLG Uganda