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Entrenching Decentralisation in Africa: A Review of the African Charter on the Values and Principles of Decentralisation, Local Governance and Local Development

Abstract

The African Union (AU) adopted the African Charter on the Values and Principles of Decentralisation, Local Governance and Local Development (African Charter on Decentralisation) in 2014. The Charter seeks to promote decentralisation as a vehicle for improving the livelihood of people on the African continent. It is the first to provide a decentralisation framework or model framework for local government for the African continent. Like most international instruments, member states of the AU will only be legally bound by the Charter once they have ratified it. Most Member States of the AU have not ratified the Charter due to varying reasons, including, the fact that the ratification process in many countries is often cumbersome. Non-ratification could also be due to the fact that there is not yet a clear understanding of the meaning and significance of the decentralisation framework which the Charter provides. Thus, the actual impact of the Charter on changing the poor state of local government on the African continent upon coming into operation is as yet unknown. This problem is inflated by the fact that there is present no scholarly commentary on the Charter, given that it is relatively new. This article provides a critical analysis of the Charter, looking at its strengths and weakness, against the background of the international literature on decentralisation and ‘best’ practices on local government.

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Notes

  1. Preamble, Yaounde Declaration of 29 October 2005.

  2. African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation, 1990.

  3. Article 34 African Charter on Democracy.

  4. See African Union (2018)

  5. The same argument can be raised with respect to Zimbabwe and Zambia, which have recognised local government and the requirement for devolution in their respective constitutions in 2013 and 2016, respectively.

  6. Bratton (2012), p. 516.

  7. Article 1 African Charter on Decentralisation.

  8. See De Visser (2005), p. 63; Hatchard et al. (2004), p. 9; Litvack and Seddon (1999), p. 6.

  9. Hatchard et al. (2004), p. 192.

  10. High category urban municipalities should be assigned more powers and functions since they are more likely to have the capacity to perform them more effectively. Conversely, municipalities in rural areas should be assigned fewer powers and functions given that they generally tend to have limited capacity to perform.

  11. See Chigwata (2015), p. 444.

  12. See Hatchard et al. (2004), p. 199.

  13. See Chigwata (2015), p. 444.

  14. Article 10(2) African Charter on Decentralisation.

  15. See Chigwata (2015), p. 440.

  16. See Article 27(9) and 35 African Charter on Democracy.

  17. Saunders (2005), p. 57.

  18. Article C1 (1) United Nations International Guidelines on Decentralisation.

  19. World Bank (1999), p. 110.

  20. See Chapter 12, Constitution of the Republic of Namibia; Chapter 14, Constitution of Zimbabwe; and Chapter 7, Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

  21. Saunders (2005), p. 58.

  22. See for example, S 4(a) Municipal Demarcation (South Africa) Act 27 of 1998; Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973; S 55 Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction (England) Act 2009; and Article 5 European Charter of Local Self-Government, 1985 (hereafter European Charter of Local Self-Government).

  23. See Municipal Demarcation Act 27 of 1998.

  24. Litvack and Seddon (1999), p. 97.

  25. World Bank (1999), p. 121.

  26. Article 13(2) African Charter on Decentralisation.

  27. Litvack and Seddon (1999), p. 15.

  28. Article A1(2) UN International Guidelines on Decentralisation.

  29. De Visser (2005), p. 36.

  30. Article 13(4) African Charter on Decentralisation.

  31. Article 11(b) African Charter on Decentralisation.

  32. World Bank (1999), p. 121.

  33. Litvack and Seddon (1999), p. 39.

  34. De Visser (2005), p. 37.

  35. Article B 1(1) UN International Guidelines on Decentralisation.

  36. Afonso and Fernandes (2008), p. 1948.

  37. De Visser (2005), p. 33.

  38. Litvack and Seddon (1999), p. 40.

  39. World Bank (1999), p. 121.

  40. Article D 1(2) UN International Guidelines on Decentralisation. See World Bank (1999), p. 120.

  41. Article 16(1)(b) African Charter on Decentralisation.

  42. Mushamba (2010), p. 109.

  43. Hatchard et al. (2004), p. 197.

  44. See for example, Constitution of Zambia, 2016; and Constitution of Kenya, 2010.

  45. De Visser (2005), p. 94.

  46. Article 4(5) European Charter of Local Self Government.

  47. See Mushamba (2010), p. 107–110, 117–119.

  48. Article D 2(7) UN International Guidelines on Decentralisation.

  49. World Bank (1999), p. 109.

  50. De Visser (2005), p. 39.

  51. Article 7(4) African Charter on Decentralisation.

  52. World Bank (1999), p. 117.

  53. Litvack and Seddon (1999), p. 31.

  54. See, s 214(1) and (2) Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.

  55. World Bank (1999), p. 110.

  56. S 214(1) Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. Article 193 (4) Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. S 301 Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20), 2013.

  57. Article 16(5)(e) African Charter Decentralisation.

  58. Litvack and Seddon (1999), p. 32.

  59. Article D 2(19) UN International Guidelines on Decentralisation.

  60. Article 16(5)(c) and Article 10(5) African Charter on Decentralisation.

  61. World Bank (1999), p. 108.

  62. Article 9(7) European Charter on Local Self-Governance.

  63. World Bank (1999), p. 117.

  64. De Visser (2005), p. 226.

  65. Litvack and Seddon (1999), p. 41.

  66. De Visser (2005), p. 228.

  67. De Visser (2005), p. 94.

  68. De la Harpe et al. (2008), p. 3.

  69. Harbich (2009), p. 63.

  70. Article 7(4) African Charter on Decentralisation.

  71. Article 14(2)(3)(6) African Charter on Decentralisation.

  72. World Bank (1999), pp. 117–120.

  73. Harbich (2009), p. 55.

  74. Article B 2(10) C 3(10) UN International Guidelines on Decentralisation.

  75. De Visser (2005), p. 111.

  76. De Visser (2005), p. 173.

  77. Fuglister (2012), pp. 317, 349.

  78. Fuglister (2012), p. 321.

  79. De Visser (2005), p. 175.

  80. Article 6(2), (3) and Article 11(d) African Charter on Decentralisation.

  81. Article 11(b) African Charter on Decentralisation.

  82. Preamble, African Charter on Decentralisation.

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Correspondence to Tinashe Calton Chigwata.

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Chigwata, T.C., Ziswa, M. Entrenching Decentralisation in Africa: A Review of the African Charter on the Values and Principles of Decentralisation, Local Governance and Local Development. Hague J Rule Law 10, 295–316 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40803-018-0070-9

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Keywords

  • African Union
  • African Charter on the Values, and Principles of Decentralisation, Local Governance and Local Development
  • Analysis
  • Local autonomy