In response to the challenges of poverty, fragility and weak governance, the Governments of Cameroon, Guinea and Senegal have been pursuing a decentralization strategy, which strengthens the social contract between state and citizens. The decentralization has been focused on improving the delivery of basic services and infrastructure, promoting local ownership, and generating a more efficient and equitable use of resources. In alignment with their respective Country Partnership Frameworks, each of these Governments has undertaken projects applying a community-driven development (CDD) approach to promote participatory local development processes. By involving local communities more actively and directly, the projects’ participatory approaches to local development support poverty-reducing investments, avoid elite capture, and promote accountability and social cohesion.
Although the Governments have been considerably successful in delivering services and promoting bottom-up and transparent governance at the project level, they have been struggling with how to: () institutionalize the bottom-up financial and administrative modalities; (ii) strengthen capacity building of the local authorities; and (iii) promote coordination and ownership of stakeholders at the various levels of government. Resolving these issues is imperative to achieve sustained impact and momentum for their country’s vision for decentralization. Achieving a successful devolution of competences to local governments and sound public financial management were also part of the challenge.
Towards a Solution
Due to language barriers, the Governments of Cameroon, Guinea and Senegal have had limited access to international best practices of decentralization. Since these countries share similar decentralization contexts and challenges, a knowledge exchange among them was deemed a good approach. The exchange was especially timely as the Governments were seeking to institutionalize their bottom-up financial and administrative models under ongoing World Bank-funded projects (albeit with different levels of maturity).
The initiative began with three videoconferences with the project teams from the three countries, World Bank technical specialists, and other partners such as the French Development Agency (AFD) and the Institute for State Effectiveness. These videoconferences covered the operational strategies of the projects and included in-depth technical discussions on citizen engagement and fiscal transfer and capacity requirements for CDD approaches/decentralization. These topics were selected based on the participants’ preferences from a previously conducted online survey. The three videoconferences allowed for dynamic exchanges on the effective implementation of citizen engagement mechanisms and alternatives for institutionalizing good practices.
The videoconferences were followed by study visits between Cameroon and Guinea, allowing the two countries to build more personal relational ties and have first-hand, deeper policy and technical discussions.
After the study visits, the Governments and the projects teams continued their technical discussions on performance-based financing to further support this effort, as well as on the projects’ database, which would be institutionalized beyond the project, and the newly expanded support to urban communes (since the previous project was only focusing on rural communes). An assessment of community engagement tools and mechanisms utilized under the target projects was prepared to further strengthen the practice based on francophone Africa’s experience in institutionalizing CDD models.
Learning from each other’s CDD experience allowed the participants to understand practical lessons and opportunities for institutionalizing bottom-up models, and the strategic advancement of a long-term decentralization vision. Moreover, participants became better equipped to introduce reforms for the social inclusion of vulnerable and disadvantaged population groups such as indigenous populations, returnees, refugees and women. Particularly, the exchange allowed Cameroon to learn from Guinea’s robust use of citizen engagement mechanisms; the Government of Cameroon is now keen to adapt them to improve their own participatory processes. Moreover, Cameroon recognized that Guinea’s use of participatory budgeting and community-developed annual investment programmes can be highly effective in promoting community ownership and accountability for the implementation of local development plans.
Similarly, Guinea has identified how to improve action to enhance participatory practices and institutionalization, including scaling up citizen engagement tools. Based on the experiences of the Community Development Program Support Project in Cameroon, Guinea was made aware of the importance of providing basic supporting infrastructure (e.g. computers, solar kits and motorcycles) to local governments for effective management of community micro-projects. Guinea was also highly inspired by Cameroon’s examples of how the community collectively developed indigenous solutions to address local challenges. For example, a lack of local government funding for a bridge was resolved by a community in Cameroon through the pooling of resources. Thus, in bolstering community ownership and fostering civic engagement, Guinea is keen to initiate assessment and implement new programmatic approaches to promote indigenous solutions in communities.
Key lessons learned:
- Citizen engagement tools such as participatory budgeting and participatory monitoring and evaluation can be highly effective in promoting community ownership and accountability for the sustainable implementation of local development plans.
- Budget planning at the local level should inform the preparation of the national public investment budget for a more optimal use of national resources.
- Monitoring of local budget expenditure and relevant socio-economic data are strategic functions to achieve better policy decision-making, greater cost-effectiveness and enhanced visibility to advance the decentralization agenda.
- The quality of local development investments is greatly enhanced by involving line ministries, state decentralized services, and relevant technical agencies in the participatory planning processes. This strengthens ownership, accountability and mobilization of resources.
- Promoting indigenous solutions to local development challenges can not only circumvent budgetary constraints, but can also foster civic engagement.
- Building local technical capacity, particularly of young persons in the community, is essential in sustaining efforts to institutionalize bottom-up local development and decentralization.
Building on this network, the Governments intend to continue sharing knowledge on participatory decentralization practices through regular videoconference meetings organized for CDD practitioners and project implementation teams.
Several concrete actions are already underway. For example, the Guinea team is securing specific budgets to provide the basic infrastructure to the local governments and is conducting an assessment on citizen engagement tools. The Cameroon team has organized a workshop on awareness raising among the stakeholders on the project’s participatory approaches and is exploring ways to improve involvement of local authorities, key line ministries and technical agencies in the participatory planning processes.
|Name: Mr Laurent Porte Title: Program Manager, South-South Facility Organization: World Bank|
|The World Bank Group|
|Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal|
|Governments of Cameroon, Guinea and Senegal, World Bank, French Development Agency (AFD)|
|2017 - 2018|
URL of the practice
|01 - No Poverty|
|16 - Peace and Justice Strong Institutions|
|Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal||16 - Peace and Justice Strong Institutions||Ongoing||View Details|
|Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal||01 - No Poverty 02 - Zero Hunger 03 - Good Health and Well-being 04 - Quality Education 05 - Gender Equality 08 - Decent Work and Economic Growth 09 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 10 - Reduced Inequalities 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production 16 - Peace and Justice Strong Institutions||Ongoing||View Details|
|Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal||17 - Partnerships for the Goals||Ongoing||View Details|
|Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal||10 - Reduced Inequalities||Ongoing||View Details|
|Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal||08 - Decent Work and Economic Growth 10 - Reduced Inequalities 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production||Completed||View Details|