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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

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Africa Development

 

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