In Cameroon, as in many other African countries, local governments do not have the resources to hire the best talent on the market. To enable local governments access adequate resources, STRATEGIES! worked with local governments on four different aspects:
Do the best you can with what you’ve got
Local governments are made up of a body of elected officials, only a few of whom are part of the executive. Many local governments are structured so that the sole contribution of the majority of elected officials is to attend 2-3 meetings per year. This means local governments miss out on the talent and energy of 80-90% of elected officials. Talent which they are usually willing to offer free-of-charge to serve their constituents.
At STRATEGIES! we asked local governments to carry out a few actions to make the best use of their elected officials.
- Get to know all elected officials. Obtain their CVs (often by interviewing) them and develop a clear idea of who has which skills and what specific knowledge about the municipality.
- Make all your committees functional and create additional ones. Municipal councils often function with statutory committees that meet on various topics. The law often allows municipalities to create more committees as needed. We worked with municipalities to increase the meeting frequency of committees, often moving from quarterly to monthly, and to give them specific tasks and responsibilities. This vastly increased the number and quality of persons available to the local government and enabled them to accomplish a much greater number of projects. Local elected officials felt valued and were proud to accomplish specific results for their constituents.
The local government must budget for additional costs with regard to logistics and transportation to enable the committees to work. The benefits however, far outweigh the costs. STRATEGIES! partner councils used committees to conduct projects such as bridge-building, water shed management, tax collection supervision, tree planting and more.
- One Councilor-One project. The Kumbo Urban Council in the North West of Cameroon decided to set aside a very small budget for each councilor to be able to carry out a project for the neighborhood they represented. This small budget (about $2000 per councilor), enabled each councilor to be engaged and to accomplish something for her/his constituents. Projects carried out included repair of a public tap, repair of a patch of road, building a retaining wall, maintaining water sheds, planting community trees, etc.
- Specific responsibilities for each deputy. Local governments are sometimes top heavy with multiple deputy mayors or vice-presidents to make sure the electorate is represented in the executive. To transform what can be seen as an inconvenience into an asset, STRATEGIES! encouraged local governments to assign specific responsibilities and develop a job description for each deputy. This ensured that deputies had monthly objectives to achieve and report on. It distributed work more evenly and engaged deputies who often receive a monthly stipend, in concrete work.
Citizens are your number one resource
Citizens are often willing to work on projects for community development. Extending committees to include citizens enables the local government to reach out to religious organizations, community development associations, youth groups, women’s groups, business associations and more.
Inviting citizens’ groups to committee meetings based on their area of interest and expertise enables the local government to build partnerships which are useful for:
- Communication – Gathering information from the community and getting council messages out to the community
- Project planning – Having community members present enables the council to plan projects based on reliable, up-to-date information and to take into account the objectives and resources of key stakeholders
- Project financing – Citizens’ groups can contribute to project financing by providing expertise, labor, infrastructure and even cash
Working with the Douala I, local council, STRATEGIES! encouraged the council to invite local stakeholders to join its council committees. By doing this the council obtained top medical doctors for its health and sanitation committee, one of the foremost art experts in the country for its culture committee and outstanding businesspeople for its economic committee. All of these people worked free-of-charge and felt privileged to contribute to planning city projects.
Short-term staff can build a long-term solution
There are very few young people with university degrees in local governments in Cameroon. Yet their talent, energy and creative thinking is greatly needed at this level. To enable local governments have access to young graduates, STRATEGIES! helped them develop two strategies.
- Internship Programs – Few local governments have structured internship programs. Yet the opportunity they provide to work on development issues on a subnational scale is mana for university students and young graduates. Councils were encouraged to develop a structured internship program for students who could carry out research and pilot projects and another for young graduates, providing them with a first job and much needed professional experience.
These councils participated in job fairs with private sector companies, competing for young talent and selling themselves as ideal employers for young graduates. Several local governments were able to hire young interns working on topics as varied as agriculture and database development with internships ranging from three months to one year.
- Technical Assistants – Local governments qualify as partners for many development organizations that provide technical assistants. When the Kumbo Urban Council (KUC) decided to embark on a local economic development program, they created a position for a Wealth Creation Officer. To launch the program, KUC applied to what was then a German technical assistance agency, DED, for this officer. DED was willing to finance the position for two years. KUC advertised a job description that specified that the person hired had to sufficiently increase council revenue to pay for their own salary after two years. The young graduate who took on the position, stayed with KUC for five years. He not only ran a very successful local economic development program, but was able to generate his own salary for three more years.
Train, train and train again
If you do not have capacity and cannot buy capacity, it is important to build it. Local governments should develop capacity building programs using every resource available to them. Many countries have training facilities for local governments. Municipalities tend to be passive with regard to these facilities. STRATEGIES! encouraged its partners to be proactive with every training resource. Local governments should define their needs and go toward municipal training facilities, private sector and civil society, development partners and most importantly central government to request for training. Training programs at local governments can go from a one-year peer-learning skill transfer to a 3-day specialized workshops and even 2-hour conference learning sessions. One of the reasons people will volunteer their time is if they feel they may benefit by learning some new skills. Training is therefore doubly beneficial for local governments.
All over the world, local governments are challenged with obtaining the human resources they need to do their work effectively. This is especially true in Africa. While it is incumbent on central government to ensure procedures are in place for subnational governments to access the human resources they need, local governments should not wait or be stumped because national frameworks are not yet in place.
Local governments working individually can define a variety of creative strategies to access the human resources they need. Several local governments working together will be even more effective in this domain, so access to qualified human resources is also an area on which associations of local governments can work.
Qualified human resources are essential for Building Block II: Increased Financial Resources.