According to public policy analyst Dr. Martin Mushumba, the successful implementation of the recently launched decentralization policy in Zambia will depend on the government’s ability to entrench devolution of institutional powers, strengthen local government administration, and ensure effective fiscal decentralization.
This week, President Hakainde Hichilema introduced the 2023 National Decentralization Policy and the Devolution Plan.
Dr. Mushumba stated that another crucial factor in ensuring the success of the Decentralization Policy and the Devolution Plan is building local capacity in institutions such as councils.
He further explained that the 2023 decentralization policy aims to expedite the resolution of Zambia’s development challenges, including poverty, inequality, and regional disparities.
Dr. Mushumba also emphasized that the policy has the potential to promote effective governance, economic growth, and equitable service delivery.
Dr. Mushumba stated, “His Excellency President Hakainde Hichilema has launched the 2023 National Decentralization Policy alongside the Devolution Plan. The policy comes at a time when the country has experienced many failures in policy implementation due to rigidities arising from red tape and bureaucracy. One notable failure has been the slow and concerning pace of rolling out the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) by local authorities. The 2023 decentralization policy, with its theme of realizing local development through citizen participation, puts citizens at the center. This aligns with the New Dawn Government’s citizenocracy approach, which prioritizes citizens and puts them first and at the center. On the other hand, the devolution plan aims to address the reluctance of national institutions to relinquish power. Despite attempts to decentralize, very little power in government institutions has actually been devolved, leading to confusion at the local level.”
He highlighted the setbacks encountered by Zambia in previous attempts to implement decentralization policies.
“The country has been pursuing decentralization since the 1960s. The first National Decentralization Policy was launched in 2004 and revised in 2013 to acknowledge the role of traditional leaders in national development. It was not until 2016 that decentralization was enshrined in the constitution, solidifying the country’s commitment to a devolved system of government. However, past attempts at decentralization have faced various failures, including decentralizing functions without adequate human resource management capacity, lack of fiscal decentralization resulting in underfunding even in sectors that exhibited some form of decentralization, insufficient local control over natural resources by local authorities, failure to address the lack of technical and institutional capacity, and inadequate infrastructure and technical capacity. Drawing from these lessons, the New Dawn Government has ensured that the 2023 decentralization policy builds upon the challenges encountered in earlier reforms, considering them as part of a learning process that will ultimately yield positive outcomes,” Dr. Mushumba explained.
He further mentioned, “A significant milestone in the 2023 decentralization policy is the government’s effort to avoid a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and instead design the most appropriate type of decentralization for different sectors. The policy aims to implement the program using various approaches tailored to specific sectors. Additionally, the government seeks a more consistent and efficiently coordinated funding strategy, relying on optimized resource mobilization by both local and central government, as well as external funding agencies. It is worth mentioning that President Hichilema has always been an advocate of a robust decentralization program, and he reiterated this call during the official opening of the First Session of the 13th National Assembly on September 10, 2021.”