Participatory Democracy in Africa
With over 300 in attendance, the Congressional Palace of Tunisia is to host the Participatory Budgeting and Citizen Conference between Dec 4 and Dec 6.

Participatory budgeting is the collaboration between civil society and local government in allocating municipal funds. The purpose is to create transparency and accountability in the use of public funds as citizens themselves become engaged and more knowledgeable of their government. As a result, informed decisions can lead to fairer spending and community development.

The movement gained ground in 1989 at Porto Alegre, Brazil. In 2012, participatory democracy is practiced in over 2,778 municipalities worldwide from New York City to Buenos Aires to London.

The participatory budget movement in Africa gained ground in the early 2000s and as a result, there are a recorded 211 African communes that take part.

The first International Conference on Participatory Budgeting was held in 2008 at Senegal. The conference was supported by the World Bank and drew in over 200 participants from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas.

That same year, pamphlets about participatory budgeting were published in English, Arabic and French for their respective African countries.

Furthermore, in 2012, the Observatory on Participatory Democracy was launched for Africa at Dakar. The conference included over 154 participants representing 16 different countries. Among them included elected local officials, overseers of P.B., lecturers, university professors and researchers.

The goal of the Observatory is to publicize the efforts of participatory budgeting, support it within Africa and to educate the global audience in regards to the movement.

The participatory budgeting movement empowers local actors and ensures that public resources go towards the poor. Based on a report by the World Bank, participatory democracy can increase knowledge of municipal systems – from transparency to accountability. As a result, a level of public education about local government enables an active civil society and media. Thus, policy is shaped by a “pro-poor” influence.

For its part, the current conference in Tunisia hopes to elaborate upon the benefits and challenges that participatory budgeting faces.

Secondly, the conference aims to discuss the mainstreaming and possible institutionalization of participatory democracy throughout Africa.

Lastly, the conference hopes to address the role elected officials, particularly women, have in mobilizing grassroots efforts.

Such measures are in line with the goals of creating an active citizenry for the betterment of their localities, a true echo of democracy and self-determination.

Miles Abadilla

Sources: PBP, OIDP 1, 2, World Bank
Photo: Giphy.com