UCLG Africa brings its expertise to the Forum on the Revitalization of Decentralization and Local Development in the Republic of Congo
At the invitation of H.E. Mr. Juste Dénis MONDELE, Congolese Delegated Minister of Decentralization and Local Development, United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) was invited to take part in the Forum on “The revival of Decentralization and Local Development in the Republic of Congo”, which was held in Brazzaville from March 1 to March 04, 2023. This Forum was organized on the initiative of the Congolese government to give substance to the vision of the President of the Republic of Congo in terms of decentralization and local development. It follows the Preparatory Workshop also held in Brazzaville from February 8 to February 10, 2023.
The Forum included the participation of national and territorial personalities representing Congo and representatives of international institutions based in the Congolese capital, including the French Development Agency, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the European Union, delegations from Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Gabon, The Gambia, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal and Morocco, as well as a delegation from UCLG Africa, represented by its Secretary General, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, and the Special Climate Advisor of UCLG Africa, Mr. Mohamed Nbou.
The official opening of the Forum, on March 01, 2023, was made by His Excellency Mr. Anatole Collinet Makosso, Prime Minister, Head of Government. The opening was punctuated by several speeches, including those of the Mayor of Brazzaville, Mr. Dieudonné BANTSIMBA, the Ambassador of the European Union in the Republic of Congo, Mr. Giacomo Durazzo, and the Delegated Minister of Decentralization and Local Development in the Congolese Ministry of Interior, Mr. Juste Désiré MONDÉLÉ.
During the first day, a round table of donors was organized and moderated by Mr. Mohamed Nbou. The participants examined the contributions of technical and financial partners to the decentralization process in Congo, in particular the experience of the European Union, the French Development Agency and France Volontaires-Congo. The day of March 2nd was marked by the moderation of 5 panels. The first panel, jointly moderated by the Minister of State, Minister of Public Service, Labor and Social Security of Congo, H.E. Mr. Firmin AYESSA, and by the Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, addressed the status of local government staff. The participants proposed to quickly take the implementing legislation to speed up the establishment of the territorial Public Service, whose creation legislation was established in 2005.
The second panel was moderated by the Congolese Minister for International Cooperation and the Promotion of Public-Private Partnership, H.E. Mr. Denis Christel SASSOU-NGUESSO, and by the Chief Administrator of the African Support Fund for Decentralized International Cooperation (FACDI) of Morocco, Mr. Mostafa AMEUR. This panel showed that resorting to public-private partnership has become inevitable in the face of the scarcity of public resources both at the level of the national Government and the local authorities. It was also reported that local authorities in Congo are not well involved in cooperation agreements with their counterparts from other African countries. The local authorities of Congo wished to take advantage of the holding of the Forum to relaunch a new dynamic of South-South decentralized cooperation in their country, by taking advantage of the opportunity offered by the African Support Fund for International Decentralized Cooperation (FACDI) from Morocco.
The third panel was focused on the impact of the reform of the national Government on territorial governance and was moderated by the Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister in charge of the Reform of the National Government, Mr. Joseph Luc OKIO. This panel showed that decentralization is a long-term process that needs strong and persistent political will for its effective implementation. In the case of Congo, this political will is expressed concretely by the Societal Project submitted to the Congolese people by the President of the Republic and in the general policy speech presented by the Prime Minister to Parliament.
The fourth panel on National Government funding and taxation of local authorities, which was chaired by the Minister of Budget, Public Accounts, and National Government Portfolio, H.E. Mr. Ludovic NGATSE, indicated that arrangements are made so that the resources are allocated to local authorities on a regular basis, and it is up to the two umbrella associations of local authorities in the Congo to ensure the effective implementation of these provisions.
However, the participants noted that the trend observed throughout the world is towards the decentralization of powers and of adequate resources to local authorities. This should lead local authorities to expand their capacity to generate their own resources, to become more innovative, creative and attractive.
The fifth panel was dedicated to the issue of the training of local authorities and was jointly moderated by the Director of the National School of Administration and Magistracy (ENAM) of the Marien Ngouabi University, Mr. Ruffin MANTSIE, and by the Mayor of Houdan (France), Mr. Jean-Marie TETART. This panel showed that the training of elected officials should be an absolute priority in a world where technical and technological developments are rapidly changing. The participants underlined that in Congo the elected officials and staff of local authorities do not benefit from a recognized and approved training system. The participants expressed the wish for ENAM to offer training dedicated to local authorities, and that appropriate mechanisms be put in place to finance the training of elected officials and staff of local authorities independently from the national Government’s budget and/or from the budgets of local authorities.
During the day of March 3rd, three panels were held. The first panel of the day focused on the territorial approach to local development. This panel was moderated by the Mayor of Nevers (France), Mr. Denis THURIOT, the Deputy Mayor of Villefranche-sur-Saône, and by the President of the Association of Regions and Districts of Côte d’Ivoire (ARDCI) and President of the Economic, Social, and Environmental Council of Côte d’Ivoire (CESEC), Dr. Eugène AKA AOUELE (by videoconference). This panel showed that the territorial approach to local development makes it possible to counterbalance the sectoral approach which has been favored so far in the cooperation relations between African countries and their external partners. This approach invites national Governments to territorialize public policies and to design mechanisms so that budgetary and sectoral aid can reach local authorities, in particular by using the mechanisms in place to allocate public resources from the national Government to local authorities from the national Government’s budget. The Ivorian experience presented by the President of ARDCI, meanwhile, focused on the problems facing local authorities in his country, which resonate with the problems faced by local authorities in Congo, pointing out the possibility of cooperating between umbrella associations of local authorities on the continent so that their voice is heard whenever problems affecting local populations are discussed.
The second panel focused on the international action of local authorities, tools, and methods for decentralized cooperation. This panel was moderated by the Deputy for Haut-Rhin (France), President of the Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie, Mr. Bruno FUCHS, and by the Mayor of Villepinte (France), Mrs. Martine Valleton. This panel showed that decentralized cooperation is an old practice of partnership but one which is more topical than ever at a time when inward-looking attitudes, isolationism, and the questioning of multilateralism seem to be the preferred attitude of most national Governments. Decentralized cooperation makes it possible to maintain and develop long-term international relations with a human face by including them in cooperation actions in touch with the realities in the field. Decentralized cooperation gives rise to a real diplomacy of local authorities, the development of which must be encouraged by the national Government. A new current of decentralized cooperation partnerships is emerging between African local authorities, the most significant example of which is the cooperation between Moroccan local authorities and local authorities in other African countries, with the financial support of the African Support Fund for Decentralized Cooperation International (FACDI). This decentralized cooperation is increasingly materializing in the form of projects providing basic services to populations, local economic development projects, as well as cultural and artistic exchange projects. This decentralized cooperation increasingly needs to be instrumentalized and professionalized, which again implies a need for capacity building at the level of local authorities.
The last panel of the day of March 3rd focused on the presentation of national development plans and their alignment at the level of local authorities. This panel was introduced by the Director of Planning of Congo who presented the 2022-2026 national development plan of Congo and its translation at the level of Congolese local authorities, and by the President of the Provincial Council of Larache (Morocco), Mr. Abdelhakim El Ahmadi. The two presentations described the two main approaches adopted for drawing up development plans: the top-down approach, the most used up to now, which starts from the definition of national development goals and their implementation at the level of the different territories, and the bottom-up approach which starts from territorial development plans to draw up a harmonized development plan at the national level. The bottom-up approach takes a long time to achieve, but it better anchors development actions in the field; the top-down approach takes less time to achieve, but it is sometimes out of step with the concrete aspirations of the various local authorities. One must strive, as much as possible, to combine the two approaches with, as a reading grid, the ability to implement the projects. Hence the recommendation to identify the projects that one has on one’s territory and to examine how these projects are aligned with the goals of the National Development Plan. This recommendation is correct, but also correct is that other remark made by the majority of participants, namely that the work of identifying projects and examining their alignment with the goals of the plan requires skills that do not exist most of the time at the level of local authorities in the Congo. Hence the recommendation that the Planning Department should provide support to local authorities so that they are able to localize the projects of the plan that are defined at the national level or to set up territorial projects likely to be taken into account during the elaboration of the National Development Plan.
The participants expressed the wish that a meeting of the partners interested in the implementation of decentralization in the Congo be organized within the next three months in order to define the methods of mobilizing funding for the implementation of the recommendations of the Forum.
At the end of the day on March 3rd, an official signing ceremony for partnership agreements in decentralized cooperation was organized between:
- The Association of Presidents of Prefectural and Provincial Councils of Morocco and the Association of Mayors of Congo.
- The Provincial Council of Larache (Morocco) and the Municipality of Oyo (Congo).
- The commune of Zagora (Morocco) and the Commune of Impfondo (Congo).
- The municipality of Taroudant (Morocco) and the Department of Madingou (Congo).
- The city of Charly (France) and the department of Bouanza (Urban Community of Mouyondzi in Congo).
- The city of Nevers (France) and the commune of Kinkele (Congo).
The official closing ceremony of the Forum took place on the morning of March 04, 2023.
At the end of the ceremony, a motion of thanks was presented to the President of the Republic of Congo, H.E. Mr. Denis Sassou-Nguesso, for his support for the organization of the Forum and his availability to support the implementation of the Forum’s recommendations.