Case Examples

Spotlight: Africa


Regional Trends

Abstracted from:
The Future of African Cities: Challenges and Priorities for Urban Development. Farvacque-Vitkovic, Catherine, and Lucien Godin. The World Bank, Washington, D.C. 1998. Pp. 8-19.

This section was largely based on the Francophone African context, but many – if not all – of the issues apply throughout Africa.

Some Milestones
The 1970s - Serviced plots instead of dwellings; upgrade instead of raze; recover costs
The 1980s - Structural adjustment; loss of direction
The 1990s - Economic crisis; multiparty politics, decentralization; broader approaches

The Urban Projects Record
Projects evolved differently from country to country.
Projects were targeted at the larger cities and were centrally managed
There were successes, but local capacity building inadequate.
Financing is a continuing problem.

Recent Trends
A structural change: the urban population is now the majority.
The imbalance between the economic importance of cities and their available resources.
Rising urban poverty and the spread of squatter settlements.
Urban planning tools are inadequate

A Permanent Economic Crisis
Resource restrictions
The weakness of local taxation.
Low Value Added in the Urban Economy.

The Shifting Institutional Setting
The collapse of the welfare state.
The treat of government authority and the rise of the cooperative sector.
The arrival of new players.

Some Milestones

THE 1970s. These years saw the construction and consolidation of the African states that had achieved independence during the previous decade. Urban projects at this time were focused on housing maximum numbers of people and alleviating urban poverty (sites and services operations and slum upgrading). The message was clear and simple, and can be summarized as follows:

  • Public authorities do not have the means to provide dwellings for every household and ought to devote most of their resources to servicing plots for people to build their own homes.
  • Spontaneous squatter settlements and underserviced neighborhoods should not be razed, but improved and upgraded.
  • Costs should be recovered, so that operations can be repeated

THE 1980s. This was the decade of structural adjustment and institutional, economic, and financial reforms. Poverty received little attention in the 1980s. Urban projects lost their sense of direction somewhat, as they were broadened to include housing finance and municipal development. The Bank's message was blurred, and the step-by-step approach that had characterized its first projects, where lessons learned from one experiment could be applied to the next, lost prominence.

THE 1990s. This decade opened against the backdrop of the continuing economic crisis. The CFA franc was devalued. Franco-phone African countries moved toward multiparty politics and decentralization, which at times resulted in the loss of political and institutional stability and a weakening of central authority. The Bank entered a period of change and internal reorganization, in an attempt to respond more effectively to the new needs of its borrowers. Under pressure from an assortment of lobbies with varying and sometimes diverging interests or points of view, the Bank sought to assert itself on all fronts: protecting the environment, women in development, and community participation, among others. The confusion deepened with the arrival of a new kind of project - the Agetip (the French acronym for Public Works and Employment Agencies). With their focus on job creation the Agetips were not specifically called 'urban" projects, although they are directly involved urban services and facilities.

The Urban Projects Record

Despite the gradual blurring of their message, the urban projects have a positive record, as documented in the Operations Evaluation Department report "Twenty Years of Lending for Urban Development." In fact, 80 percent (116) of urban projects completed before 1993 were ranked "satisfactory," a better score than the average for all other projects taken together (74 percent). In Franco-phone Africa all of the 11 urban projects reviewed were ranked "satisfactory.' That said, the principal characteristics of projects completed or under way can be summarized as follows: (a) projects evolved differently from country to country; (b) projects were targeted at the larger cities and were centrally managed; (c) there were successes, but local capacity building was inadequate; (d) financing remains a problem.

• Projects Evolved Differently From Country to Country.
If we classify projects by their principal components and dates of completion, we find:

  • There was a shift from housing and infrastructure projects toward municipal and Agetip projects.
  • The degree of progress varied by country: in some countries Several projects were executed (C6te d'Ivoire-five, including two municipal; Senegal-six, including one municipal and two Agetip); in other countries projects were sometimes prepared but never executed: Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo DR), the Republic of Congo, and Rwanda.

• Projects were Targeted at the Larger Cities and Were Centrally Managed
Projects focused essentially on the capitals and, on the few large cities that contained the bulk of the urban population and suffered the most serious problems; secondary towns benefited little, if at all. Project management was highly centralized and generally supported by a project unit in one of the technical ministries (public works, urban affairs, and the like), which took responsibility for the entire process, from conception and design to execution. Local officials (in particular, mayors) had only limited involvement, for a number of reasons: donors prefer to deal with the central government, the central government is omnipresent and is modeled on the former colonial power, local authorities are often relatively new and inexperienced in their job and have few resources.

• There Were Successes, But Local Capacity Building Inadequate.
The desire to tackle urgent problems often took precedence over any transfer of responsibility to the local level. In a few notable cases projects did have a major impact on urban policies, even when they could not be called an outright success. Thus: (a) the first serviced plots provided in Dakar (1972) served as models for nearly all subsequent projects of a similar nature; (b) lessons learned during the first project in Burkina Faso (1978) were helpful in the huge effort to upgrade the peri-urban settlements on the edge of Ouagadougou; (c) the auctioning of the bulk of the plots from the second Mali project (1986) effectively marked the end of the system of centrally controlled land allotment; (d) the (admittedly limited) experiments with providing credit to local governments (CFC in Cameroon, FPCL in C6te d’Ivoire, C-CC in Senegal; see list of abbreviations) marked a significant milestone in the evolution of municipal finance; and (e) the creation of the Agetips pointed to an alternative to traditional approaches to project execution.

Many other examples could be cited for the progress achieved in individual projects, but there was an apparent lack of similar success in terms of empowering local authorities to run projects of this type. There were two reasons for this failure: the decision making process was too centralized and excluded the mayors, even in the capital city; with the use of project units located within the central government did little to promote management continuity. The project unit system proved successful at executing projects efficiently, to a degree that governments find difficult to match, for two reasons:

  • Government is more suited to regulation and control than to project execution.
  • Official rules and regulations are often inappropriate to the circumstances and too cumbersome to allow projects to be completed on time.

While the project unit was generally linked to the administration, its nature and input were more those of a mission than a manager. The project unit would normally be disbanded at the end of a given project (with a few significant exceptions) and could seldom be reconstituted for the next one. The objective of each project is different, and new skills have to be learned each time. The life expectancy of a project-unit is too short (at five or six years) for it to make much of a permanent contribution to capacity building.

• Financing is a Continuing Problem.
The financial issues involve cost recovery and mobilization of resources. As one of the clear messages of the first projects, cost recovery was all the more significant because it emerged at a time when the idea of the welfare state was still very much alive. Indeed, the goal of cost recovery encountered strong opposition - for example, in projects aimed at slum upgrading. Residents found that they were expected to help bear the costs of their new facilities, while many of those living in richer neighborhoods had never had to pay for the far higher level of amenities they enjoyed. To overcome these difficulties, projects gradually began to pay more attention to resource mobilization and local taxation. But overall, results were disappointing when measured against the obvious needs. There were three reasons for this:

  • It is impossible to mobilize local resources if local people are excluded from a meaningful role in project identification.
  • The fiscal health of local authorities in Francophone Africa cannot be improved without overcoming certain dogmas (which most countries have managed to circumvent).
  • Urban projects are not the best context in which to tackle such shortcomings, since the underlying problems have more to do with the finance ministry than with the urban development ministry.

The problems associated with cost recovery, and the emphasis placed on alleviating poverty or preserving the environment, gave rise to projects where cost recovery was abandoned, and where in the end costs were borne by the state, rather than by local beneficiaries. This is what happened with the first Agetip projects. These projects went ahead as if governments could be compelled to make transfers of resources to local authorities or to low-income groups; indeed, governments were supposed to do just that but were handling the transfers ineffectively, or not at all. Proceeding in this way no doubt makes it easier to get projects up and running, and even to attain some of their key objectives, but it poses a number of risks that have become increasingly obvious:

  • It discourages local residents and authorities from taking responsibility for projects and risks deepening their dependency.
  • By failing to demand even a modest local contribution, it forgoes an opportunity to mobilize local resources, at a time when public funds are becoming increasingly scarce.
  • By exhibiting an inconsistent approach to cost recovery, it can create confusion locally, since people wonder why one project requires them to make a contribution, while another project funded by the same donor does not.

In conclusion, reliance on centralized structures, combined with the problems of local financing, has done little to engender a sense of responsibility or ownership of projects among local beneficiaries. The flow of funds has been sustained since independence, but if it continues for too long, it risks becoming a form of welfare, rather than promoting real development.

Recent Trends

As discussed, the fate of urban projects has been largely dependent on the global context. It is thus worthwhile to look more closely at the context within which future urban projects will be undertaken. Three features will be significant: urban management is becoming more complex, the economic crisis is ongoing, and the institutional setting is shifting.

• A Structural Change: The Urban Population is Now the Majority.
Cities today account for the greater part of GDP, and the urban population is now in the majority. In the Sahel region urban dwellers constitute 35 percent of the total population (12 million out of 32 million), and they will account for 50 percent of the population within 2.5 years (34 million out of 68 million).' Over the next 10 years cities will grow by 6 million people, or 50 percent more than their population to6ay, and these people will occupy an additional 100,000 hectares. In West Africa as a whole the outlook is even more alarming: 63 percent of the population will be city dwellers in 2020 (270 million out of 430 million). Within 10 years the urban population of West Africa will have increased by 43 million. It is true that urban growth has slowed over the past decade, and urban migration has been restrained by better world economic conditions and the effects of structural adjustment. Yet the traditional image of an essentially rural Africa is increasingly out of touch with reality.

• The Imbalance Between the Economic Importance of Cities and Their Available Resources.
Urban areas account for only one-third of the total population, but they produce 60 percent of national GDP. Yet local governments currently collect scarcely 1 percent of the urban GDP in revenues, or somewhere between $6 and $8 per inhabitant, and their resources are growing more slowly than the urban population. Finally, there is an analogous discrepancy between the economic dynamism of cities and the general weakness of municipal management at the technical level.

• Rising Urban Poverty and the Spread of Squatter Settlements.
The urban population is growing at a rate of more than 6 percent a year in the capital cities of West Africa, as a result both of a natural increase in the cities and the continuing influx from the countryside. These growing numbers are absorbed in part by the increasing density of existing
neighborhoods and in part by the creation of new ones. In these informal settlements, which often spring up overnight, living conditions are rapidly deteriorating as overcrowding intensifies. The chaos in the housing situation-attributable to governments' inability to come to grips with the land management issue-makes it impossible, or very difficult, to provide basic services: passable roads, storm sewers, drinking water supply, street lighting, and the like.

• Urban Planning Tools are Inadequate.
Policies and tools for managing urban growth (master plans, in particular) are less and less adequate for coping with the economic and social situation of the cities. Urban projects have helped highlight the obsolescence of these tools, by providing facilities and services (sites and services, upgrading) that are more attuned to reality. But the old tools have not been discarded-they survive, at least on paper, even though the departments responsible for applying them no longer have the know-how or the capacity to use them effectively.

A Permanent Economic Crisis

The economic crisis of the past few years persists and is becoming deeper, in the face of limited resources, ineffective tax structures, and the inability of the economy to generate added value. The current turmoil stands in sharp contrast to the early days following independence, when states still had the capacity to manage urbanization and finance its infrastructure.

• Resource Restrictions.
The growing demands of newly independent countries and the general international economic situation have made donors more selective, particularly when it comes to funding for countries whose economic performance is regarded as unsatisfactory. Yet while available resources are becoming more restricted, urban growth continues unabated.

• The Weakness of Local Taxation.
With resources shrinking, efforts to raise money through local taxation have been frustrated by taxpayer resistance, and attempts to improve municipal revenue systems have been disappointing. Moreover, the fiscal fragility of local governments stems as much from their own management shortcomings as from their dependence on the central government. Yet current attempts at decentralization seem to put more emphasis on the formal division of powers between the state and the municipalities than on ensuring any degree of fiscal autonomy for local government. What can be done to circumvent this problem?

• Low Value Added in the Urban Economy.
While industry stagnates under the impact of the economic crisis, and the tertiary sector registers only feeble growth, the informal sector is becoming the dominant economic force. Although it is difficult to judge value added in this sector, it should not be underestimated - in fact, urbanization throughout the region depends largely on the flourishing of the informal economy.

The Shifting Institutional Setting

Several elements have contributed to rearranging the institutional landscape: the collapse of the welfare state, decentralization and the concomitant weakening of the central government's role, and the emergence of new players.

• The Collapse of the Welfare State.
The end of the welfare state, in the wake of the economic crisis, was a major shock and had a profound impact on behavior. The welfare state had been virtually the only model for Franco-phone Africa since independence. It was not without its ambiguities: sustained in part by the largesse of the former colonial power, it also reflected the influence of newfound friends who had sup- ported the national emancipation movements.

• Decentralization.
Decentralization, and the simultaneous movement toward democracy, are under way in some 15 countries. Decentralization has mainly benefited the municipalities - the primary players at the local level. The shortcomings of the preceding centralized governments and the need for broader political outlets have fed the dynamism of the municipalities. But new urban institutions have tended to proliferate faster than the resources at their disposal, and in the current context it is far from certain that they will have the means, in the short run, to fulfill the obligations they have taken on.

• The Retreat of Government Authority and the Rise of the Cooperative Sector.
The weakening of central government has not been offset by the rise of any real private sector, nor has any parapublic sector arisen to take its place. There has, however, been a move toward privatization of marketable services (water, electricity), and an increasingly potent cooperative sector drawing on local community support has evolved. This sector is now trying to fight unemployment by providing local services that would normally be the responsibility of municipal government (household garbage collection, for example).

• The Arrival of New Players.
The institutional landscape has been enriched by the arrival of "delegated contract managers" in the form of the Agetips, which have proved far more effective than government authorities in undertaking public works. To this scene we must add the "customary' or traditional rightholders, who have been around for a long time. As democracy has spread, this group has again advanced its land claims, which were suppressed during the previous period, with the state's claim of eminent domain over all national territory.



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