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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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Rethinking participatory and decentralized rural development in Cameroon, By Chofor Che, 29 December 2013


On the 16th of December 2013, the Government of Cameroon and the African Development Bank (ADB) signed the second phase of the loan agreement termed the Grass field Participatory and Decentralized Rural Development Project (GP DERUDEP). According to the ADB, farmers of the North West region (NWR) of Cameroon are to adequately benefit from this loan. The total amount of the project is estimated at UA 25.600 million. The Government of Cameroon is expected to provide the remaining UA 8.80 million. As a continuation of phase one of the project from 2005 to 2011, it is expected that phase two will be carried out in areas of the NWR with strong production potential like Widikum, a sub division with a growing potential of palm oil production. Apparently phase two of the project is to affect 8 out of the 36 municipal council areas of the NWR. It is hoped that phase two of GP DERUDEP will improve on agricultural production especially the rehabilitation and construction of farm to market roads in the NWR.

The putting into place of phase two of GP DERUDEP has created mixed reactions in the state of Cameroon. Many are optimistic about the success of the project while a lot of Cameroonians home and abroad remain pessimistic about the project. During the weekly broadcast of Cameroon Calling, a prominent programme on political and economic developments in Cameroon on Cameroon’s Radio and Television Coporation (CRTV) on the 29th of December 2013, the coordinator of GP DERUDEP confessed that the State of Cameroon planned to also involve some isolated municipal council areas that were not involved during the first phase of this project; but the ADB imposed a road map for the realization of phase two of this project. All the same he added that concerned municipal councils will be involved as partners in the project especially as they will be called upon to also contribute some small amount of funding towards the effective realization of phase two of the project.

As a keen analyst especially on issues of decentralized development on the continent and in Cameroon in particular, in as much as the intentions of the ADB may be well founded, the impact of GP DERUDEP may not adequately address the concerns of the population of the NWR. First of all several inhabitants contend that several activities earmarked under phase one of this project were not well executed due to lack of technical expertise. Others claim that a lot of money apportioned under phase one of the grant has been siphoned by corrupt government officials.

Financial aid has never been a sustainable panacea for development in Africa. ADB loans and grants as well as financial assistance from other donor organizations have not adequately addressed poverty and development on the continent. Proof of this is that the United Nations (UN) is presently worried about the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on the continent by 2015 because financial assistance has proven to be inadequate for development of the continent. Rather than signing loan agreements, which will only enrich few corrupt officials, empowering municipal councils may be the way to go. Municipal councils definitely need to be given substantial administrative and financial autonomy so as to take charge of rural development. The country does not have an adequate financial equalization formula, which can curb the imbalance between rich and poor municipal council areas. A council like the Widikum Council in the NWR could benefit from training of appointed and elected staff on the conception and the management of rural projects especially in the production of palm oil. This municipal council as well as other municipal councils in the country could also reinforce the role of women in top management of their council areas. Job creation for youth and women should be a priority of such partnerships between international organizations, central governments and municipal councils. Cameroon is blessed with rich natural and human resources and does not have to rely so much on financial assistance from international donors. If only the state could take some of these suggestions into account rather than depend on foreign aid then the state would realize some improvement in participatory and decentralized rural development.

 

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A recap on the overall governance situation in the Central African region – Chofor Che – 27 December 2013


The Mo Ibrahim Foundation published its 2013 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) in October 2013. Although this was the seventh year the IIAG has been published, it charts governance performance since 2000. This publication is timely especially as the continent celebrates 50 years of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) now the African Union (AU). It is important for organisations like the Mo Foundation to make an assessment of the governance situation on the continent, especially as we have just two years away from for the target date of the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) slated for 2015. This contribution therefore reads into the IIAG and gives an analysis of the governance situation in countries in the Central African region. First of all it is vital for a general overview of the governance situation on the continent and indicators used in the IIAG.

The findings of the 2013 Ibrahim Index of African Governance show that there have been some improvements across the African continent. 94 percent of people residing in Africa reside in a country that has made some improvements in governance since 2000. Eight states out of the continent’s fifty-two states performed well in the 2003 report. Nonetheless there are still humongous challenges to thrash especially in the allocation of financial and natural resources. In as much as there have been some improvement in indicators used by the IIAG such as Human Development; Sustainable Economic Opportunity; Participation and Human Rights, there has been a serious decline in an important indicator such as Safety and the Rule of law.

It is thus important to give an assessment of the overall governance situation in the Central African region according to indicators outlined in the IIAG. While states such as Mauritius, Botswana and Cape Verde are ranked 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively, states in the Central African region ranked amongst the states on the continent with the poorest governance record. Gabon is ranked 24th, Cameroon is ranked 35th Congo Brazzaville is ranked 43rd, Equatorial Guinea is ranked 45th, Chad is ranked 48th, the Central African Republic is ranked 49th and the Democratic Republic of Congo is 51st. This is a clear indication that states in the Central African region continue to perform poorly with respect to Safety and the Rule of Law; Participation and human rights; Sustainable Economic Opportunity and Human Development.

Many pessimists may question the indicators utilized in the IIAG report, but if the same trends keep on repeating in other reports especially like the African Economic Outlook and the Doing Business Reports then there is a serious problem which African leaders need to address. Addressing the issue of governance needs a holistic approach which should include fighting corruption, improving on infrastructure, creating employment conditions for women and children by adequately revamping the private sector and speeding up the continent’s industrialisation process. Serious importance has to also be given to the deteriorating situation of Safety and the Rule of Law especially in the Central African region. States like the Central African Republic are plunged into a serious armed conflict and apparently this conflict is spilling over into neighboring states like Cameroon. If the deteriorating situation in the Central African region is not turned around especially in the Central African Republic by the African Union, the United Nations and other regional and international organisations, then this could signal an era where we shall see an increase spilling over not only in the Central African region but in Africa.

– See more at: http://africanliberty.org/content/recap-overall-governance-situation-central-african-region-chofor-che#sthash.IAsclYV7.dpuf

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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Concerns about the 2014 Financial Law of the Republic of Cameroon – Chofor Che, published by AfricanLiberty.org, 18 Decembe 2013


The 2014 financial law for the Republic of Cameroon was adopted by the National Assembly on Sunday the 8 of December 2014. It was the first time that the Senate of Cameroon, mentioned in the 1996 Constitution as the Second Chamber, but installed in mid 2013, took part in the deliberation and adoption of this very important law of the State. This contribution thus attempts to give an analysis of this financial law.

The 2014 budget stands at 3312 billion Frs. CFA as against 3236 billion Frs. CFA in 2013. There has thus been an increase of 76 billion Frs. CFA. According to some fiscal analysts this increase is justifiable because the state needs to pay 25000 newly recruited youth into the civil service. These analysts add that the State equally has to remunerate newly elected and appointed Senators as well as traditional rulers. A journalist like Godlove Bainkong in an article in Cameroon Tribune dated the 12 of December 2013 is of the opinion that this budgetary rise is because the state has to increase energy production especially as the population still suffers from heavy power shortages. He further argues that it is thus vital for the State to finalise construction on gas plants, hydro electric dams, as well as hasten investment in rural electrification. The putting into place of these investment projects is expected to enable the State to electrify over 500 localities in the next three years.

Many Cameroonians are concerned about where the money to finance these projects is going to come from. According to Josiane Tchakonte in the same edition of Cameroon Tribune dated the 12 of December 2013, money is going to be gotten from revenue sourced from petroleum and non petroleum products. In 2014, the State expects the National Hydrocarbons Corporation to pump in 546 billion Frs. CFA. Revenue from non petroleum sources is projected at 1985 billion Frs. CFA. 1240 billion Frs. CFA is to be sourced from taxes, 658 billion Frs. CFA is to be gotten from customs duties. These internal sources of revenue are to make up 80 per cent of the State’s budget for 2014. Concerning other finances the State expects 609 billion Frs. CFA in 2014 as against 574 billion Frs. CFA in 2013. 55 billion Frs. CFA is expected as foreign aid.

A careful assessment of Cameroon’s financial law of 2014 shows that the State has decided to remain more of a consumer economy rather than a producer economy. There is no serious zeal by the State to revamp the private sector. Rather than allocating a lot of money in paying salaries for 25000 newly recruited youth into to the civil service, it is germane for the State to encourage the creation of small and medium size enterprises for the employment of youth and women. It is germane to hasten the State’s industrialisation process. It is not healthy for a State to rely heavily on revenue from petroleum products, taxes and custom duties, especially as a great chunk of this revue is siphoned by corrupt state officials. It is thus important for the State to rethink its economic planning strategy especially in the financing of investment projects. 2015 is around the corner and the State is still leap forging in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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Challenges in revamping Africa’s Small and Medium Size Enterprises, By Chofor Che, 5 August 2013


Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) happen to be companies whose personnel numbers fall below certain limits. The acronym ‘SME’ is utilised by African states, as well as international organisations like the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO). SMEs outnumber large companies by a wide margin and also employ many more people. SMEs are also said to be responsible for driving innovation and competition in many economic sectors. According to Wikipedia, The Central Bank of Nigeria defines SMEs according to asset base and number of staff employed. The criteria are an asset base between N5 million and N500 million, and a staff strength between 11 and 300 employees. In Kenya SMEs employ a maximum of 1000 people.

SMEs in Africa have long been plagued by poor management and funding challenges. Despite numerous programmes instituted by governments and international organisations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to revamp this sector, SMEs seem to be lost in the much talked about African renaissance.

In July 2013, the African Development Bank (ADB) promised to assist SMEs in supply chains across Africa with funding worth more than $125 million. This ADB four-year programme, which includes $125 million in direct funding and an additional $3.98 million in the form of a technical assistance package, is supposed to allow banks to furnish standardised lines of credit to SMEs, with a special attention to youth and female-owned businesses.

According to an article dated the 28 July 2013 by Adam Leach of Supply Management Daily, the amount of about $3.98 million will be furnished by the Fund for African Private Sector Assistance (FAPA) and will be utilised to build the capacity and capabilities of 25 lenders to support SMEs. The contribution marks the highest amount ever donated by FAPA and is intended to broaden support for businesses into more rural areas of Africa, where there are higher numbers of youth and women-owned businesses.

An official from the ADB adds that, “In response to these challenges the ADB, through this SME programme, will provide the necessary longer-term finance and a technical assistance package to address a number of the constraints faced by around 25 target financial institutions and their SME clients across Africa.”

The ADB initiative in a laudable initiative and would be instrumental in economic growth, development and the alleviation of poverty in Africa. The only concern is that similar initiatives in the past have not yielded any fruit. SMEs in Africa continue to be poorly financed and managed. Some of the past initiatives have either been crippled by corrupt government officials and the finances misappropriated or siphoned without any traces. Poor SMEs owners, especially women and the youth, who are supposed to benefit from such programmes have not benefitted much. Many SMEs owners are left disgruntled, while corrupt officials embezzle these finances destined for them.

It is imperative for the ADB to ensure that the SMEs initiative does not remain entirely under central government control. It is imperative to make sure that the private sector as well as other independent partners also has a say especially in the financial management of this initiative. Evidently the financing from the ADB is humongous and if care is not taken, this money will be siphoned as before by corrupt African government officials. If African governments are serious about revamping SMEs in Africa and achieving some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), if not all, by 2015, then it is important to allow for a holistic approach to development. The private sector should be brought on board not like a subordinate to government, but as an equal partner. Without such a modus operandi which is of utmost importance to economic growth and development in Africa, then the SMEs in will remain crippled.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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Less than a thousand days to respect the promises of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, by Chofor Che, 12 April 2013


Eight objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were defined in 2000 when a number of United Nations (UN) organisations came together at the UN Head Quarters in New York. These UN organisations vowed that by 2015, they would have reduced poverty and hunger in the world by half, fought against climatic change and illnesses, resolved the problem of lack of consumable water, and increased possibilities for the education of women and girls. This was not the first time that world leaders had made such lofty promises.

Many critics especially in Africa have been cynical that such promises were very ambitious and were going to be abandoned. All the same though a lot still has to be done, some optimists argue that these objectives have assisted in fine tuning policy objectives of states especially in the developing world. According to Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General, 600 million people have been taken out of poverty. Girls and women around the world have benefited from primary education. There has been a drop in infant mortality and juvenile delinquency. Investments injected in the fight against malaria, tuberculosis and HIV AIDS have helped to save lives.

Despite views propounded by UN Secretary General, it is clear that the MDGs were very ambitious. Such is the case especially in Cameroon where the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has already started partnering with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for a post-MDG agenda.

Many reasons account for the slow realisation of the MDGs. A major reason why these goals may not be realised in record time is because of uncoordinated financial aid especially to governments in Africa. A lot of financial aid, pumped into central governments via UN agencies, has been siphoned by corrupt officials. Some of this money has been starched in bank accounts especially in Switzerland. The UN is well aware of such malicious operations, but very little has been done to ensure that financial assistance destined for the world’s poor and destitute, are rightly utilised.

Another major reason why the MDGs may not be realised in record time is because most UN agencies prefer to operate with central governments rather than also bringing on board development partners like civil society groups and NGOs. It is true that civil society and NGOs are not so organised. Despite this fact, most of these civil society groups and NGOs are able to channel funds judiciously to affected communities. The UNDP in Cameroon seems to have realised that working solely with governments may not solve the MDG gig puzzle, reason why there is now a great involvement of civil society groups and NGOs all over the national territory.

In as much as concerns plague the development community about the attainment of the MDGs by 2015, it is vital for certain wrongs committed in the past by the UN system to be put right. If job creation and true privatisation without government coercion, rather than financial aid, is given priority by the UN system, then it may be possible to attain the MDGs in record time. Additionally, if civil society groups and NGOs especially in Africa are well structured and organised, then they could easily assist the UN system in the attainment of the MDGs by 2015. Financial aid alone cannot solve the trick, a holistic approach is very important for the attainment of the MDGs in record time.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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