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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.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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A Quest For More Women In Top Management Roles In Local And Regional Governments In Africa, by Chofor Che, published at Africanliberty.org on 24 March 2014


The activities of local and regional governments influence the lives of both men and women in ways that are fundamental to satisfying basic needs and the quality of life. Men and women do not, however, enjoy equal access to nor have control over the basic services furnished by regional and local governments because women continue to be underrepresented in both political leadership and administration at the regional and local government levels. Yet local government most especially as the sphere of government nearest to the grassroots, is in the best position to include more women in top management positions in decisions made at regional and local government.

Although women make up over 50 per cent of the world’s population, they continue to be underrepresented as elected officials, voters and leaders at the regional and local government levels especially in Africa. The consequence of such a lacuna is that women do not have equal influence in policy making which affects their lives in one way or another. The involvement of women in top management and leadership positions at regional and local governments can have a significant influence on domestic policy especially issues which affect their families’ daily lives such as infrastructural development, sanitation, education and healthcare.

Elements that limit or facilitate the participation of women in political processes vary according to social or cultural conditions, economic situation, geography, and political context and systems. These elements commonly considered as barriers to the participation of women in top management positions in regional and local government affairs include outright discrimination and gender stereotypes. Other elements include, culturally prescribed domestic roles, lack of confidence, low voter education, lack of financial and socio-economic capital, ‘winner take all’ electoral systems, and political institutions that are not conducive in striking a balance between public life and family life.

Although internationally there exists a rights-based framework, which advocates for the equal participation ofmen and women in political decision-making, including at the local and regional government levels, progress has been uneven and slow. Despite various commitments like the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) made by the international community to empower women via increased women’s political participation, the world average proportion of women in top management positions at regional and local government levels in Africa remains low.

Despite the low participation of women in top management positions at local and regional government levels, according to the World Bank, several countries including Morocco, South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda and Mali have made some progress. For instance women municipal leaders in Ghana took advantage of new opportunities to work together and formally organize themselves via the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM)’s African Local Governance Program (ALGP). FCM and its African associates agreed to focus on gender equality and increase the participation of women in local government administration, in the context of working to achieve the MDGs related to women.

Rwanda is another African state which has taken long strides to ameliorate the situation of the participation of women at top management levels at regional and local governments. As part of the ALGP-supported workshops, participants from Rwanda tabled a report that found that women find it easier to approach women local and regional officials and women officials tend to attract more women to their community meetings.

Gender equality has been a priority of the Association des municipalities du Mali (AMM) since 2004, but until 2006 activities to promote women’s equality at the local government most especially were relatively unstructured. With financial support from FCM, 600 of the 720 women municipal officials from all regions of Mali came together to found AMM’s women’s caucus. The caucus created a structure which has focal points in each of the country’s eight regions and one at the capital, Bamako. A secretariat was also created to support its work. With a formal structure to guide its contribution to gender equality, AMM has been working with the central government on the municipal dimensions of gender equality matters, especially the fight against poverty and the right of women to own property. The existence of the AMM also allows women municipal representatives to learn from the experience of women in other parts of the world.

Men and women can best fulfill their personal, family and community responsibilities when they have equal access to regional and local government programs and services. It is thus germane for regional and local governments in Africa to be given an opportunity to comprehend gender roles and responsibilities, to recognize factors that affect gender relations, and to play a role in promoting gender equality via their policies and programs. Equitable access to programs and services at the regional and local government levels commence with measures to ensure equitable participation by men and women in consultative processes and local and regional government decision making at top management and leadership levels. Men and women need to beable to participate fully, allowing them to influence the outcome of decision-making processes and to play a substantive role in deciding on regional and local government concerns especially the allocation of public funds in order to reflect the needs and aspirations of both men and women.

– See more at: http://www.africanliberty.org/content/quest-more-women-top-management-roles-local-and-regional-governments-africa-chofor-che#sthash.6hiWQz0s.dpuf

 
 

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Vocational And Technical Skills In The Informal And Rural Sector In Africa – Chofor Che , posted at Africanliberty.org on 18 Feb 2014


The mismatch of skills in the informal and rural sector to the needs of the labour market in Africa has been identified as one of the reasons for serious youth unemployment and the continent’s underdevelopment. According to an African Economic Outlook (AEO) study, the most difficult areas for recruiters to have employees are those areas which demand technical qualifications, such as the oil and gas sector, the mining sector, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, the manufacturing industry, the agri-business sector and the logistics sector. Most of Africa’s tertiary educational establishments focus on public sector employment rather than on the private sector labour demands. How can the continent overturn this impediment especially as there is much talk of Africa’s renaissance?

Graduates in the fields on humanities and social sciences find it difficult to get employed than those who specialize in the information technology, agriculture and the engineering fields. A 2013 Mo Ibrahim study shows that the social sciences and the humanities have higher enrolment rates and graduates. Those in the engineering, manufacturing, construction and agricultural sectors tail the list in terms of higher educational enrolment and graduation. Just 2 per cent of youth in Africa are studying agriculture and the continent is in dire need of specialists in these fields to move the continent forward especially as agriculture contributes on average 25 per cent of Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Sub Saharan Africa has the lowest share of engineering graduates in the world. Natural resource sectors such as the mining, oil and gas industries employ less than 1 per cent of Africa’s workforce. Despite these disturbing statistics the continent suffers from serious brain drain because employment conditions in these sectors remain vulnerable.

An African Development Bank (ADB) study purports that in Sub Saharan Africa; non wage employment represents more than 80 per cent of total employment for women and more than 60 per cent for men. 9 to 10 rural and urban workers have informal jobs in Africa most of whom are women and youth. The largest employees in Africa are the retail, agriculture and hospitality industries which remain insecure. Almost 90 per cent of jobs furnished by the agricultural sector for instance are vulnerable.

There is therefore a need for joint efforts to make technical and vocational skills more appealing to African youth and women. African states in collaboration with universities and think tanks need to encourage enrolment especially at the university level for specializations like the engineering, manufacturing, construction, natural resource and agriculture sectors. Central governments in collaboration with regional and local governments need to make jobs for instance in the agricultural sector more secured. If these jobs continue to be vulnerable, African youth and women will not be interested in enrolling in areas like agriculture thus a lacuna in the private sector labour demands. As existing public and private employment capacity is too small, investing in the informal and rural sector can be seen as an opportunity if the challenges of wages and productivity alongside education and training are overcome as well. It is thus time for African states to rethink matching of skills in the informal and rural sector to meet the needs of the labour market in Africa.

– See more at: http://www.africanliberty.org/content/vocational-and-technical-skills-informal-and-rural-sector-africa-chofor-che#sthash.0mCUZZbA.dpuf

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Africa Development, Local government

 

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Translating words into action after the 4th World Congress of United Cities and Local Governments in Rabat – Chofor Che, published at Africanliberty.org 08 October 2013


The 4th World Congress of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) took place in Rabat, Morocco, from October 1 to 4, 2013 under the theme: “Imagine Society, Build Democracy.” Delegates from over 100 states around the world attended the Summit, which brought together leaders of local and regional governments, public and private sectors, international organisations, civil society and financial institutions. Was it worth the trouble bringing all these actors together?

This summit coincided with the one hundredth anniversary of the international municipal movement. It was a unique opportunity for sharing and exchange between Africa and the rest of the world. The World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders was a special event in that it was the first UCLG Summit to be held in Africa, with Rabat as the host city. It was indeed an opportunity to highlight the potential of the continent of Africa, to learn first-hand of the major democratic and local governance reforms that have been carried out in Morocco in recent years and to pay tribute to this international city with important cultural heritage and legacy.

The 2013 World Summit was structured around two main concepts: (1) The contribution of local and regional authorities to the well-being of communities and the role in the Post 2015 development agenda; (2) The identification of the new challenges and models needed to answer the demand of an increasingly urban population as we work towards Habitat III in 2016.

In other to elucidate on these two main concepts, several side events were organised. It was an honour to be invited to three of these side events organised by Dr. Najat Zarrouk, Governor and Director of Training of Administrative Cadres at the Ministry of Interior, who also happens to be the Chair of Experts on Public Administration at the United Nations. It was equally an opportunity for me to make a presentation during the side event on human capital development entitled “Professionalisation and human capital development of regional and local government in Africa: A promising paradigm for the continent’s renaissance.”

A lot was said about the central government’s responsibility in ensuring that regional and local governments in Africa are autonomous. Several panelists including my humble self agreed that in ensuring adequate autonomy, the central governments of Africa in collaboration with universities, think tanks, international orgainisations like the UN and the World Bank, needed to continuously hone the skills of these regional and local government actors. A lot was also said about ensuring that adequate finances were allocated to these tiers of government to ensure that they play an effective role in Africa’s renaissance. Equally the role of women in regional and local government affairs was not left out.

Judging from the intentions of such an event, one would say UCLG is dedicated to ensuring that regional and local government especially in Africa take part as partners and not as second or third ranking actors in development as they have been considered in the past. In this regard, central governments in Africa need to give regional and local government actors the role they deserve in governance and development issues. It is equally vital for central governments to ensure that there is a high degree of professionalisation and human capital development especially with a gender focus, so as to ensure maximum output at local and regional government levels. If recommendations arrived at during this summit cannot be materialised especially in Africa, it was not worth the trouble bringing together leaders of local and regional governments, international organisations, public and private sectors, financial institutions and civil society. chofor-che-two.jpg

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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Making local government in Africa more autonomous for the continent’s renaissance, by Chofor Che, 16 May 2013


There has been much talk on Africa’s renaissance especially by the World Bank and the African Development Bank. This renaissance is occurring in Africa while countries especially in Europe are still grappling with the effects of the global economic crises.

In 2012, the IMF stepped down its forecast for global growth and improvement for 2013 from 4.1% to 3.9%. According to the IMF’s updated World Economic Outlook, which is published twice each year, ‘Downside risks continue to loom large, importantly reflecting risks of delayed or insufficient policy action’.

Local government in Africa has a great part to play in the continent’s renaissance, but is not yet autonomous administratively and financially. Decisions which could have been taken by authorities like mayors are still taken by central governments.

Local government in Africa has a significant influence on the quality of life of the grassroots; especially as they are responsible for the provision of essential services like sanitation, health and water. One of the main reasons why local governments in Africa have failed in service delivery in the wake of the global crisis is because even though they have the greatest potential for being effective, they are the furthest removed from the central authorities and the donor community. Most local governments in Africa like those of Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic and Chad are yet to be administratively and financially autonomous. There is also little or no intergovernmental relations between local government and other spheres of government in these countries. Financial transfers from the central government to local government usually delay.

Many central governments in Africa have even resorted to slashing material resources and fiscal transfers to local government. Slashing local government transfers in the case of a fiscal shortfall means cutting back on essential services such as health care and quality water supply. In Swaziland for instance, supplies of anti-retroviral drugs to local government, has been slashed by central government as a result of the global financial crunch, especially as donors have cut back on the assistance they used to give to this country towards fighting the HIV/ AIDS pandemic.
It is time to reflect seriously on local government’s role in Africa’s renaissance. One of such ways is the twinning of municipalities in Africa as well as other parts of the world, so as to boost the participation of local government in issues traditionally reserved for central government like international business and investment. This would definitely entail lessening the numerous trade barriers that exists among African nations.

It is also important for the powers including administrative and financial powers of local government in Africa, to be constitutionalised. In this way, local government will be able to make effective decisions affecting the local populace in essential service delivery areas such as health care and water supply.

Autonomy to local government does not mean that there should be no supervision of this sphere of government especially by regional government. Local government should be supervised without any usurpation of powers.
There is also need for municipal personnel especially municipal executives like the mayors and municipal managers to be well trained and educated. The central government, the regional governments as well as other partners such as universities, need to join efforts to train municipal officials and executives.

There is also need for intergovernmental relations between all spheres of government in African states. If spheres of government in African states cooperate among themselves, the continent’s renaissance can be rapidly achieved, especially as ideas on budgeting; service delivery, as well as trade can be shared across the board.

Corruption is another canker-worm eating into the economic fabric of local government in Africa. There exist numerous anti-corruption measures including lengthy legislation on the continent, but the problem of effective implementation remains the greatest dilemma.

Africa’s renaissance definitely needs unified efforts from governments including local governments and a serious boost from free market engineers in Africa and Europe. Coordinated action with autonomous local governments in Africa having a legally defined role can speed up Africa’s renaissance.

 

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A bone of contention over World Bank Loans of U.S. $255 Million accorded to Local Authorities in Tanzania, By Chofor Che, 5 November 2012


The World Bank has recently accorded a credit of U.S. $255 Million to an average of 18 local authorities in Tanzania to assist them improve financial management and strengthen their ability to deliver urban services to over 2.6 million Tanzanians. Despite Tanzania’s stable macroeconomic performance, poverty and underdevelopment is still a problem.

The urban local governments in to benefit from this loan include municipal councils of Tabora, Morogoro, Shinyanga, Sumbawanga, Moshi, Musoma, Songea, Singida, Bukoba, Lindi and Iringa. The urban councils include Kibaha, Geita, Babati, Korogwe, Mpanda, Njombe and Bariadi. According to East African Business Week, roughly six per cent of the country’s total population of 42 million people live in these areas.

While urban areas in Tanzania have doubled the rate of growth in rural areas, investments in urban infrastructure have not met the expectations of the growing population, resulting to poor urban infrastructure and precarious service delivery.

According to the World Bank, the Urban Local Government Strengthening Program (ULGSP) will utilise these funds known as Program-for-Results (P for R) that directly links disbursement of funds to verified development results.

The program is supposed to be utilised for various urban infrastructural development services, including improvement in waste management, construction of small bridges, installation of street lights, among others, as availed by the World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Mr Philippe Dongier to  East African Business Week .

‘The capacity-building component will support urban planning, revenue mobilization, strengthening of procurement practices and improved management of human resources,’ added the World Bank top executive.

East African Business Week reveals that, Tanzania is growing rapidly and 25% of Tanzanians are already living in urban areas, a number that is expected to rise to over 40% of the country’s population by 2030.

‘Urban areas will play an increasingly important role in driving economic growth and meeting poverty reduction targets. Improving access to services in urban areas is critical for improving the quality of life of ordinary Tanzanian citizens and reducing poverty,’ availed World Bank Country Director for Tanzania.

Under the World Bank project, the concerned urban local government authorities will be assessed annually on progress made across a set of institutional and infrastructure implementation indicators. The World Bank executive purports that funds will only be disbursed once results are verified.

The task team Leader of the project, Barjor Mehta alluded that the program is supposed to decentralize responsibilities to the concerned cities including procurement and contract management.

“The Bank will support the implementation of the program to strengthen institutional systems and improve local governance’.  According to Mehta , ‘In this way, the projects seek to build capacity via ‘learning-by-doing’ for urban infrastructure development.’

The new program is intended to address these problems in the overall context of the National Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction (MKUKUTA II), Tanzania’s decentralization policy, and two of four key fundamentals of the Government’s Vision 2025, namely; the provision of infrastructure and strengthening and establishing well-functioning institutions and markets.

Such programs from the World Bank may look very promising and alluring, especially with the involvement of colossal amounts of funds, but how sustainable are they. For several years the World Bank has been disbursing funds to local governments in Africa, but local collectivities remain poor, especially as these funds have been siphoned and stashed in foreign bank accounts by both central government authorities and local authorities themselves.

In as much as the intentions of the World Bank are good, such intentions are ill placed because the tendency for such a project to improve on the lives of Tanzanians is minimal. Aid especially to municipal executives who are not well trained to manage such funds is a catastrophy to developmental intentions and instead fans corruption.

If the World Bank wants to improve the lives of Tanzanians in particular and African in general, then first of all the capacity of municipal executives, including elected officials like mayors, need to be improved. Most of these officials do not have minimal educational and professional perquisites to manage such funds. There is also a need to curb barriers stopping local collectivities to be involved in business opportunities across the boarders in the wake of globalisation. Twining of local municipalities across the globe, need to be encouraged. These are concrete and sustainable measures that can impact on the lives of local communities in Tanzania and Africa as a whole, rather than World Bank financial assistance.

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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