Africa: the failure of decentralisation?


Enough with corruption and abuse of power! Donor countries such as Germany, have a strategy: Africa’s governments to Power and money to municipalities or regions to submit. But the work is far from always.

Kenya’s new Constitution created a decentralized government structure

Enthusiastic crowds, military parades and a beaming President: On 27. August 2010 prevails, the party atmosphere in Kenya. “Today the most important day in the life of our Nation since independence”, calling the head of state, Mwai Kibaki, in front of hundreds of thousands of people in the capital, Nairobi. Shortly before, he has stretched a copy of the new Constitution as a victory trophy in the air. After 20 years of dispute and two referendums on the new Constitution, with his signature in the force.

And what a. The political System in Kenya changed from one day to the other. The separation of powers, human rights, federalism: The centralist unitary state with the almost Almighty President at the top is history. Now there are 47 districts with their own parliaments and heads of government. 15 percent of state revenue to you. No more Ministerial bureaucrats in distant Nairobi alone should decide where hospitals or roads to be built. “Let us take advantage of the opportunities offered to us by the district governments, so that every corner of our country is developed,” warns President Kibaki.

Frustration after nine years

This is still true today, nine years later. Kibaki successor Uhuru Kenyatta is thanks to the new Constitution is not the sole ruler anymore. But on the streets of Nairobi, not everyone is satisfied. “When I used to supplies the government, I had to wait a year to take my payment. If I can get today a district government, it is different,” says the entrepreneur Josuah Kituu to the DW. “Through the new Constitution we have got a lot of new Items, for example, the governors. There are more constituencies. I think, only because of the wage costs, we need to reduce that,” says Shadrack Misik.

The promulgation of the new Constitution was celebrated in Kenya large

Because the new districts cost a lot. 2018, the districts spent, according to the newspaper “The Standard” of around 120 billion Kenya shillings (approximately EUR 1.04 billion) for wages and salaries. What every citizen but is also bad: “We have no over-representation. If you want people to get to the base better access to public services, must be responsible for these people even better,” says Kennedy Kaunda.

The transparency remains, but sometimes on the track. Some governors have lost due to corrupt Deals their Items or stand in front of the court. In April, the Anti-Corruption Agency was investigating 14 governors.

Donors rely on decentralization

What has ruled Kenya, recommend to the Western donors, many other African States: in strong municipalities, districts or Federal States. Give your skills and also funds to you. “In authoritarian-ruled countries in Africa showed that often most of the money was managed at the top or in the ministries page. Due to the decentralisation of part of the money will be shifted to the local level and, hopefully, responsibly used,” says the Africa of the Federal Chancellor, Günter Nooke Commissioner, to DW.

Through the decentralisation, more money should be used on the local level, the Expansion of the infrastructure

About 580 million euros from the Ministry of development for projects in 17 African countries – training for officials of local authorities in Madagascar to new financial Software for municipalities in Ghana. This includes consultations for governments of centrally organised countries, Federal States. According to the Ministry, between 2010 and 2015 have already profited 77 million Africans of better public services.

But the Federal government also knows that not everything runs smoothly. “Decentralization must reach the people. It is not enough if we write papers, strategies to adopt and create new structures. If there is interest and efforts towards reform have come from the States themselves, we can cause there is also nothing Sensible,” said Nooke.

However, many a government does not want to give up their Power – but it does, in order to make the donors happy. According to low, the interest that the local administration works. Example, democratic Republic of the Congo: the provinces can collect their own taxes. The money you need to pay then, but for the first time to the Central government, and then painstakingly re – reclaim-which is not always possible.

Many local governments are under-funded and unlikely to be able to cope with their tasks

Sometimes it fails even on the local conditions. In remote poor regions, lack of enthusiasm often simply to have enough trained staff. “In Burkina Faso, half of the local politicians is not even able to read and write. The local governments are small, and their tasks completely overwhelmed,” says Malte Lierl, researcher at the GIGA Institute in Hamburg on local governments in Africa.

And: In impassable giant countries such as the Congo or the crisis in countries such as Mali, Central governments have been able to control many areas never really. “Where the Central state is too weak to collect taxes and to provide public services, not”, so Lierl creates a provincial or municipal government, which has been imposed from the outside , only right. His conclusion: The decentralisation was not a failure. “But the hopes placed in them, were not realistic.”

Staff: Thelma Mwadzaya (Nairobi)