RSS

Tag Archives: Decentralisation

Cameroon’s decentralisation process needs a push, by Chofor Che, February 2016


On 21 December 2015 President Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon promulgated Law No. 2015/ 019 of 21 December 2015, Finance Act relating to the Republic of Cameroon for the year 2016. The budget stood at 4 234 billion Francs CFA against, 3 746.6 billion Francs CFA in 2015, an increase of 488.1 billion Francs CFA in absolute terms and 13.02% in relative value. There is no gainsaying that local councils contributed a huge amount of this revenue for the year 2016 especially as these councils house a greater part of economic activities in the country such as raw material exploitation. It remains a paradox that despite the role played by local councils in revenue collection in Cameroon, these councils remain poor and underdeveloped. One would have thought that with the inception of the decentralisation process in the 1996 Constitution of Cameroon a majority of councils in the country should have been developed by now. It was in 2010 that the state began the first transfers of competencies and resources to local councils. Councils cannot booast of road infrastructure like farm to market roads, water and electricity. In 2010 the state transfered 10 percent of taxes (TVA, IS) to local councils. The percentage has increased to 25 percent in 2015 but this remains insignificant. Is there a problem with the collection and redistribution of the taxes. Do the central services cooperate adequately with the local councils in tax collection and distribution ? Is there adequate good governance and transparency in the management of taxes collected so as to target local development ? These are some concerns this contribution seeks to address.

In 2010 just 9 ministries transfered funds to councils to the sum of 23 072 363 000 f cfa. In 2012 the number increased to 17 Ministries after a lot of pressure from government. These 17 ministries transfered 23 071 163 000 cfa, which was not significant despite the increase in the number of ministries. This was done under the banner of the ongoing decentralisation process.

In Cameroon, there is inefficiency with respect to the collection and redistribution of centralised state and local taxes. Taxes especially collected at the local level are centralised for subsequent redistribution. The blind centralisation of taxes affects the proper management of public funds as there is no transparency and no accountability. The end result of this is that even local communities with great economic potential like Mbanga and Penja in the Littoral region of the country remain underdeveloped. Likewise local councils like the Santa Council in the North West region of the country with enormous economic potential remain underdeveloped.

Another very disturbing issue is that in Cameroon, local communities do not have the freedom to set their tax rates. This leaves them no room to partake in tax competition that will allow them to fight against the draining of financial resources by the central government.

The management and use of funds generated from local councils in Cameroon remains an issue of concern. Bad governance and lack of transparency in the allocation of budgets remain a serious ill plaguing the underdevelopment of local councils in Cameroon.

Local councils in Cameroon cannot yet boast of well trained personnel capable of designing and executing large projects for the needs of thier local communities. This is the case of local councils in the economic capital of Cameroon, Douala as well as local councils in remote parts of the country like Nkambe. Not many personnel are well trained nor understand the dynamics of council development projects. According to a study commissioned by the state in 2008, 39% of agents do not have adequate training or have a diploma related to thier duties, but posses only drivers licences. 64% of them have qualifications inferior to the BEPC and only 20% of them attain the Bac level ( BAC + 3, + 4, ou + 5). This creates a scenario where even in rich councils like the Douala V Council we still find abandonned projects, poor roads and lack of other social amenities like waste disposal services.

The average allocation to capital investment to municipalities in Cameroon is very low. In 2007 it stood at 14% and in 2008 it dropped to 11% . On the other hand, recurrent expenditure for the same period was average. In 2009, it stood at 40% and 50% in 2010. Thus, a large proportion of expenditure was invested on general public services (administration) and salaries rather than on capital investment, reason why municipal councils in Cameroon suffer from lack of well trained personnel, poor roads, lack of water and electricity.

The territoriality of taxation needs to be respected in Cameroon. This means that a local council should be able to determine how taxes collected therein is to be channelled for development of that council. Value Added Tax for instance collected at local councils need not be transferred in its totality to the central government. There is need for local councils to be able to make sure that the taxes collected are used to finance its operations, and transfers should be made to the central administration if there is a surplus.

There is equally need for local councils in Cameroon to have the freedom to set their tax rates, which will give them room to partake in tax competition that will allow them to fight against the draining of financial resources by the central government. This competition will also introduce fiscal discipline and encourage good public expenditure management. Such motivation will attract more households and businesses to willingly pay taxes to thier respective local councils as such a propelling factor for development at local councils in Cameroon.

This article was originally published in french as ‘Décentralisation malade au Cameroun‘ by LibreAfrique.org

Chofor Che is founding President of the Central African Centre for Libertarian Thought and Action, Cameroon (CACliTA). He is also analyst with LibreAfrique.org, African Liberty.org and Audace Institut Afrique.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , ,

Tackling the urbanisation quagmire in the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, by Chofor Che, published in French at LibreAfrique.org, 31 October 2014


The Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (or CEMAC from its name in French: Communauté Économique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale,) is an organization of states of Central Africa established by Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon to promote economic integration among countries that share a common currency, the CFA franc. CEMAC’s objectives are the promotion of trade, the institution of a genuine common market, and greater solidarity among peoples and towards under-privileged countries and regions

There is no gainsaying that CEMAC states face a growing urbanisation problem especially as the United Nations Habitat (UN Habitat) Chief recently predicted that in ten years to come, capital cities like Yaoundé in Cameroon would not be able to contain the growing population. Some states like Cameroon, in partnership with UN Habitat, have even held a national summit like the National Urbanisation Summit, which took place in October 2014 in a bid to redress the growing urbanisation challenges in the state. Does it suffice to keep on holding such summits? Is the affair of tackling growing challenges of urbanisation in the CEMAC region an affair solely for big governments?

Prior to independence most African states including states in the CEMAC region did not have adequate urbanisation plans especially for the capital cities. Most of the towns especially in the CEMAC zone were built without adequate urban planning. In addition to this lacuna most government leaders especially in CEMAC states like Cameroon, Gabon and Chad did not see the necessity to upgrade major cities not to talk about smaller towns. This predicament has started catching up on these states which has triggered the need for brain storming.

In addition to the poor urbanisation planning, the decentralisation process which states like Cameroon, Chad and Gabon embarked on remains timid. Mayors complain on a daily basis of difficulties for them to adequately engage in urbanisation efforts in their various municipalities because the transfer of human and financial resources from central governments remains timid. During the last National Decentralisation Council which took place in Cameroon in September 2014, the Prime Minister, Head of Government re-echoed the need for various government ministers to ensure that human and financial resources are expeditiously transferred to councils all over the country. This position was buttressed upon by the Minister of Urbanisation of Cameroon, Jean Claude Mbwentchou during a programme on the 20 October 2014 broadcast on Cameroon Radio Television Broadcasting Corporation, CRTV.

Indeed the challenges facing urbanisation in the CEMAC region are humongous as expounded above. A start off point in redressing this melee may be to ensure that cities in CEMAC states have an adequate urbanisation plan which will entail redesigning most states in the CEMAC region. Redesigning cities does not mean individual rights should be trampled upon. Most individuals have obtained land and built in conformity with state rules and regulations. It would thus be prudent for states to work hand in glove with concerned populations before destroying property of innocent citizens. States in the CEMAC zone can learn from durable measures in tacking urbanisation challenges like Rabat in Morocco and Durban in South Africa. In Rabat for instance the town has been restructured in such a way that in the next ten years the growing population would be easily accommodated. The state of Morocco in partnership with individuals and business persons has created nearby residential areas very close to Rabat, so as to cater for the growing accommodation dilemma facing Rabat. A tramp system which is eco friendly has also been created in the city to decongest traffic and make inhabitants have quick access to the city.
Accelerating the decentralisation process is also germane in redressing the urbanisation quagmire in the CEMAC zone. There is thus need for central governments in the CEMAC zone to accelerate the transfer of adequate human and financial resources to councils so as to enable the Mayors and their collaborators restructure their communities. For such an endeavour to be successful there is also need for professionalisation of actors engaged in the urbanisation process, be it at the central, regional or local levels. These officials must be trained on state of the art urbanisation processes as well as to manage finances without getting involved in corrupt practices. It may also be important to ensure that lead roles are accorded to women in urbanisation planning in the CEMAC zone.

If such measures are taken into consideration, rather than holding workshops and summits, then tackling the urbanisation quagmire in the CEMAC zone may be sustainably attainable. A lot of tax payers’ money would thus be used judiciously for a durable and sustainable cause.

This article is published in French at http://www.libreafrique.org/ as CEMAC : Sortir du bourbier de l’urbanisation anarchique

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 31, 2014 in Africa Development

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Embracing territorial coaching for effective decentralisation and local economic development in Africa, by Chofor Che, 1 November 2013


Decentralisation has progressively gained importance in Africa since the 1990s. Whether by own choice or as a result of external pressures especially from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a great majority of third world countries including the Republic of Cameroon are currently involved in some form of decentralisation, with varying degrees of commitment and success. Despite the commitment by states to the decentralisation process, several states have not yet embraced territorial coaching as part of the decentralisation drive. The much talked about principle of subsidiarity which warrants that a lower tier of government is allowed to carry out services at the grassroots autonomously, still remains an illusion in several African states. With a multitude of actors working to hasten the decentralisation process and improve local economic development like the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the African Union, United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa), the All Ministerial Conference on Decentralisation and Local Development, the decentralisation process remains slow in Africa. Central governments and international actors seem to be focusing more on signing conventions and creating institutions rather than ensuring that the decentralisation process attains effective realisation. All the same, some African states especially states like Morocco are now ensuring that rural and/or urban actors work together to improve the living conditions of populations and provide solutions through development projects supported by the central government, associations, cooperatives, municipalities, agencies and non governmental organisations (NGOs).

Ownership and empowerment of regional and local government actors in the realisation of development projects has an impact on the development and performance of any territory. To meet this challenge, an innovative approach to intervention at regional and local government is essential through a process called territorial coaching. Apart from countries like Morocco and South Africa that have embraced the territorial coaching approach to local economic development, there is still a concern if other states in Africa are ready for territorial coaching.

Territorial coaching is an intervention process for the identification, support and enhancement of human potential of local actors by giving them ownership of local economic projects and empowering them so that they play an important role in local economic development. UCLG Africa initiated a program of coaching and support to the local authorities and their associations in the implementation of the decentralisation process in Morocco. This initiative has created collaborative ties among local authorities, representatives of the central government, civil society organisations, and private sector actors. The regional and local government areas in Morocco involved in this initiative are the city of Salé, the Commune of Beni Meskine (Settat), the Municipality of Wazzan, the Region of Meknes -Tafilalet Oasis and the South East (Bouanane). The Ministry of Interior of Morocco works with UCLG and some local associations by giving assistance and support to these communities via training, capacity building, skills development and the promotion of networking.

Judging from other country experiences in Africa, territorial coaching has not yet gained grounds. The decentralisation process in states like Cameroon, Congo, Central African Republic and Chad is still very top down driven. Central government actors still impose decisions on regional and local government actors rather than embracing the territorial coaching approach. Local and regional government actors in these states are not sufficiently empowered and they do not have true ownership of their projects.

It is thus vital for the UCLG in partnership with other regional organisations like the World Bank and the African Union to ensure that territorial coaching is embraced by more states in Africa. Although much still has to be done, the experience in Morocco is producing some good local economic development results. Other African states need to emulate the example of Morocco by ensuring that they embrace territorial coaching as an option in accelerating the decentralisation process in Africa. Local and regional actors need to be empowered so that they have true ownership of their development priorities. It is thus suggested that territorial coaching should be incorporated in management modules in training institutions which focus on training both elected and appointed municipal staff. It is also important that regions create a pool of territorial coaches which should include experts in public and local governance. These experts should be able to reach out and train municipal staff in time of need. These territorial coaches as well as elected and appointed staff of municipalities should equally be trained especially by centres of excellence like the envisaged African Academy for Local Authorities in Rabat Morocco which should begin operating in 2014. Empowerment also means ensuring that municipalities and regions have adequate finances to carry out their development projects. In ensuring that the decentralisation process in Africa is hastened, bringing out the best managerial potentials in local actors via territorial coaching, is germane, than signing declarations and agreements.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Africa Development

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: