Local Governance in Benin: A Guarantee of Sustainable Development?

In Benin, since the installation of the first communal and municipal councils in February 2003, decentralization has become one of the pillars of development, making better governance in local matters a fundamental element of the process. Municipal councils have taken on a number of responsibilities once left to the central state, such as maintaining local marketplaces and community hygiene, issuing bicycle licenses, and collecting some taxes. In order to manage and monitor financial resources allocated to local bodies, the central state established the Communal Development Support Fund. Despite good intentions and political decisions in favor of the decentralization process, good governance in our communities faces significant hurdles. Local populations express dissatisfaction with local councillors, and the transfer of powers and financial resources from the central state to local bodies is still not completely effective. This study examines the notion of local governance and highlights factors contributing to its flowering. Our analyses reveal that Beninese citizens largely disapprove of the management of key local issues and do not fully exploit the concept of proximity between grass-roots actors. Built on proximity, good local governance is characterized by accountability, in which participation in a public meeting or accountability session organized by the local authority, like other political engagement activities, becomes visible evidence of good municipal council performance.