Financed by the Government of Italy through the European Commission, the Berbera Technical and Institutional Assistance Project was launched in May 1999 and concluded in May 2003. Implemented in the main harbour town of Somaliland, this project was the first to follow an integrated approach, where several inter-linked urban development activities were implemented in parallel. These included strengthening municipal capacity at different levels and implementing capital investment projects.
Prior to the project, an analysis of the urban sector in the Somali region revealed glaring urban governance and management problems:
- Weak institutional structures and the limited capacity of municipal authorities were one of the main causes of poor service delivery and, by extension, prevented capital investment in community utilities.
- Civil apathy and insufficient local stakeholder participation in municipal management meant overall governance was poor.
- A weak tax base, poor revenue collection systems, and inadequate financial management capacity reduced the ability of local authorities to better serve the public.
- Unclear land tenure and non-existent town planning effectively blocked the possibility of attracting investment in Somali towns.
The Berbera Technical and Institutional Assistance Project focused on developing the management capacity of the municipal authority, with priority given to four areas linked to the above-mentioned weaknesses in the local urban sector:
- Organizational and technical components of municipal management
- Financial administration, revenue systems, and asset management
- Town planning and land management
- Sanitation awareness and solid waste management
In general, the project strongly increased the capacity and sustainability of the Berbera Municipal Authority and other partner organizations, and provided a solid framework for further capacity-building developments, both in Berbera and other Somali cities. As a foundational input in this regard, the project rehabilitated the dilapidated offices of the Berbera Municipal Authority, in part with financial contributions from the authority itself. In the process, municipal staff increased their capacity in project formulation, engineering design, contract management, and supervision.
The project’s institutional development and municipal management component adopted a planned and systematic approach to service delivery, revenue collection, and improved effectiveness and efficiency in municipal operations. The approach aimed to ensure that services delivered were sustainable and affordable for the residents of Berbera.
The municipal revenue and financial management component meanwhile improved revenue collection, financial oversight, and accountability procedures. The goal was to streamline operations of the municipal authority and ensure that sufficient surpluses were available for capital investment and improved operations. With this in mind, the financial component was linked to the implementation of income-generating capital investment projects. As an example, Berbera City Market was rehabilitated using a participatory design process. This led the municipality into an exercise of resolving land disputes, as different claims surfaced regarding the proposed site for the intended market expansion. Ultimately, a new, vastly improved market has emerged, with a ventilation system that protects both vendors and products from Berbera’s intense summer heat. The various vendor groups operating in the market area were also mobilized and empowered through an improved formal organizational structure.
Stated broadly, the town planning and land management component improved the skills and organizational set-up of the staff of the Berbera Municipal Authority. Urban planning and mapping activities provided for current and future land and infrastructure needs, allowing for possible further expansion of the town (being Somaliland’s main port), as well as the resettlement of vulnerable internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnee communities.
The sanitation and waste management component focused on improving community sanitation and health through the efficient collection and disposal of solid and liquid waste. A full refuse management system was set up, including a new landfill that could be used for solid waste disposal in the years ahead. A vast 2 km-by-3 km area east of the town, previously used for the haphazard dumping of all sorts of garbage (including numerous car wrecks, waste from the district hospital, and animal remains), was cleaned up and restored. Waste that had accumulated over a period of more than five years was collected, buried in two large pits, and covered with a layer of the original soil. Part of this cleaned-up area was surveyed and included in plans for the future expansion of the city.
The improved waste management system helps to reduce the risk of disease and sickness among Berbera residents.