By Momodou Darboe
The Kanifing Municipal Council’s ambitious street naming initiative has been delayed a significant 30% Covid-19-induced revenue loss as well as lack of commitment on the part of the business community, The Standard has learnt.
The Kanifing Municipality is one of the most densely populated local government areas in the country but a good chunk of the municipality’s streets remains nameless.
Sometime last year, KMC set out on an ambitious mapping initiative designed not only to enhance the council’s revenue base but also its service delivery as well as security and safety in the streets of the municipality.
“It is a very critical instrument for the functionality of any society. So, we know as a council, that without proper mapping and addressing, it would be very difficult to provide services, difficult for the security and business sectors and it would be very difficult to generate taxes,” the Mayor of KMC, Talib Bensouda, told The Standard when contacted on the progress of the street naming project.
Street naming projects are capital intensive, requiring a multi-faceted approach and according to mayor Bensouda in recognition of these factors, KMC had reached out to stakeholders to chip in but that the response was not as expected.
He explains: “Given that it is capital intensive and it costs a lot of money, we wanted to get stakeholders involved and the private sector players, who are the major beneficiaries and whom we thought would be interested in joining the council in funding it. We called a stakeholders’ conference but the interest was not very high and most of them said they had to get to their board of directors. So, we realised that there was that commitment issue on the part of the private sector. So, we also started engaging the ministry of local government and lands but we faced the same challenge. What we see and the political will we have, we have not seen that mirrored in these sectors.”
Bensouda said despite the challenges though, the KMC has not relented.
“We had an expert in cadastral mapping and a drone imaging of the entire municipality,” he reported, lamenting that the expert at the head of the mapping had however passed away in an untimely manner consequently rolling back the plans.
The KMC mayor enthused though that the footages, which were disjointed, were stitched free of charge by KMC’s twin city of Madison in the US.
“In 2020, we had plans to start the second phase…evaluation of properties using our ward development committees to identify and then the problem of Covid-19 crept in. The council suffered 30% loss of revenue and then, it was almost impossible to work on this sort of project when we have priority areas such as waste collection and certain areas that are so basic services,” he lamented.
“Initially, we were expecting that the private sector would be excited and come on board but most of them, due to the governance structures within their companies, couldn’t take decisions. We couldn’t get that commitment due to the governance structures. They were interested but hindered by these governance structures within their companies,” Bensouda elucidated.
He concluded: “That’s why I said it’s always easy to get the central government. The government could pressure the private sector to engage in this project such as how they did with the Education Levy. So, the political will would make it easier for this type of project to be implemented. Loss of revenue and deflection of attention to fighting Covid-19 has set us back. ”