afrol News, 27 May - The Ivorian government has announced wide-ranging decentralisation reforms to be implemented by next year. Prime Minister Pascal Affi N'Guessan today announced new local entities would be created and the number of Ivorian region will be cut from today's 19 to 10.
According to the government's official newspaper, 'Fraternité Matin', Prime Minister N'Guessan announced the set up of a totally new type of local administration, called general councils. The general councils will have a co-operative function, in close contact with the local populace, N'Guessan said.
The reduction from 19 to 10 regions was also necessary to assure that the new general councils would have sufficient powers and be closer to the people. All in all, the reform is to bring the delivery of services closer to the beneficiaries. The geographic extension of the new general councils would be determined by the people, following preconditions set by the government.
The new entities will be more self-reliant in economic terms and therefore accountable to the local population. N'Guessan announced the general councils would have the responsibility of the "socio-cultural and economic well-being of their populations" and enjoy much wider autonomy.
He however guaranteed the state would not disengage from its rural responsibilities. Various sources of financing of regional development would become available parallel to the administrative reform, N'Guessan said.
The Ivorian decentralisation process is part of the wide-ranging governance reforms embraced as a result of the country's close cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government of Côte d'Ivoire earlier this year agreed to develop concepts of decentralisation in its communication with the IMF.
The decentralisation among other things aims at strengthening the capacities of elected officials and local personnel, developing local expertise and enhancing the participation of the private sector and civil society in local development. Similar decentralisation reforms have created positive results in several African countries, notably in Côte d'Ivoire's northern neighbour Mali.
Decentralisation is however not any new exercise in Côte d'Ivoire; maybe the francophone country having most tradition of granting local powers. The first decentralisation legislation was already implemented in 1977, granting local powers to the two urban communes Abidjan and Bouaké. By 1990, all communes had locally elected councillors or mayors and a varying degree of autonomous powers and control over their revenues and spending.
Ivorian communes already have a variety of administrative responsibilities, ranging from maintaining the civil registry, public security, maintaining educational infrastructure and urban roads. Their powers to create new services is however limited, as is their revenue basis, with funds exclusively coming from the state.
Sources: Based on Ivorian govt., IMF and afrol archives