“Levels of decentralisation on the continent is very disparate. A country like Nigeria is completely federal, there are other countries that are completely unitary, they don’t even have a system of local government," All African Ministerial Conference on Decentralisation and Local Development (AMCOD) executive permanent secretary Reneva Fourie told CNBC Africa.
For now, we’re looking at sharing best practice and we’re working towards a charter of local government that can at least have the minimum criteria for decentralisation on the continent.”
The Africa day of decentralisation and local development was commemorated for the first time on 10 August last year in all member states of the African Union (AU), who in turn are all members of AMCOD.
AMCOD was initiated in 2000 but was only formalised from 2008. In 2007, it was adopted as a formal specialised technical committee of the AU commission, and the secretariat was only launched in 2011 in August.
“All sectorial ministers in the conference are organised around a common programme and to share best practices within their specific field or sphere. AMCOD is a body of ministers that is specifically responsible for decentralisation or local government in their particular countries,” Fourie explained.
AMCOD advocates that development will only be sustainable if driven at a local level, with the aim of encouraging national governments in the continent to give more power and finances to local governments to deliver on promised services.
While an increase in financial responsibility could improve service delivery on a local level, it would not improve the level of confidence citizens have in local and national government.
“Central government must put mechanisms in place to provide necessary capacity, then there needs to be an increase in the amount of money that is transferred from national government to a local level. Then capacity must be built at a local level to assist with the management of those finances,” said Fourie.
Continentally, the most skilled, capable and senior politicians tend to be employed at a national level and the less senior and experienced at a local level. Fourie believes this system should be turned on its head to better improve local systems.
“We’re saying that development on the continent will never happen unless it is driven by the citizens and the sphere of government that is closest to the citizens is local government. In order for local government to play an enabling role in economic development of the continent, it is important for local government to be empowered,” she said.