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zambia-political-mapPopulation: 14,075,099

HDI ranking: 163/187

HDI score: 0.448

Zambia is implementing a national decentralization policy which the country approved in 2002, following two failed policy attempts in 1968 and 1980. However, progress has been slow due to local governments’ continued dependence on central government administration and reliance on civil society organizations support (CLGF, 2012).

Local Governance at a Glance

  • The Ministry of Local Governance and Housing (MLGH) oversees the 89 local authorities which consist of 4 city councils, 15 municipal councils and 70 district councils (CLGF, 2012).
  • MLGH is responsible for providing local grants, managing certain statutory bodies and institutions, auditing local financial reports as well as overseeing the Local Government Service Commission which is mandated to hire, fire, promote, demote and otherwise discipline district council officials (CLGF, 2012).
  • Local governance is a single tiered system, where the districts serve as the main level of service delivery to citizens (MLGH, 2013).
  • The most recent local elections were in September, 2011 concurrent with the presidential and parliamentary elections (UCLG, 2005).
  • The national decentralization policy requires sub-district structures to be developed in order to meet its mission of enhancing civic engagement in local decision-making governance. This would be implemented through a proposed amendment to the Registration and Development of Villages Act (UCLG, 2005).
  • There is no gender quotas at subnational level on the local level (IDEA, 2009).

Fiscal Control

  • Local councils are required to raise and collect taxes and fees from their districts; however collection of these revenues does not meet local budgets (UCLG, 2005; CLGF, 2012).
  • Local councils’ main source of income comes from local taxes and fees, with national support consisting of only 3% of local budgets (UCLG, 2005; CLGF, 2012).
  • Under the Local Government Act of 1991, the central government is required to give grants to local councils for services within their delegated power (UCLG, 2005; CLGF, 2012).
  • The Urban and Regional Planning Bill currently being debated would address accountability issues around decentralization of responsibilities for local development initiatives and would allow communities to become involved in the planning and budgeting processes in council decisions (UCLG, 2005; CLGF, 2012).

Civil Society Actors Include

Capacity Building Institutions

  • The Local Government Association of Zambia is a voluntary national association with no legal or constitutional recognition whose mission is to protect and promote the interests of local government, and all 89 councils are members (ARIAL, 2011).

Key Initiatives for Participatory Local Governance

  • The1991 Local Government Act restructured the local government agency to become the MLGH as well as introduced a dual system of district administration and election systems (CLFG, 2012).
  • In 1995 Zambia established coordinating committees to coordinate development activities (CLFG, 2012).
  • In 2000 the government introduced the position of District Administrator who is responsible for field administration and is appointed by and reports to the President (CLFG, 2012).
  • In 2010 the government piloted its MTEF/ABB (medium-term expenditure framework/activity-based budget) guidelines in seven councils as a way of strengthening the tracking system on the use of public funds (CLFG, 2012).
  • In 2010 Zambia implemented a formula-based grant system in order to enhance local level accountability when using public funds (CLFG, 2012).

Challenges for Participatory Local Governance

  • Women consist of less than 10 percent of elected local government councilors (UCLG, 2005; CLGF, 2012).
  • The law currently does not recognize any sub-district structures, and most Ward development committees are ad hoc and established by one or two representatives (CLFG, 2012).
  • Election turnouts are around 12% due to citizens’ mistrust of local governments’ limited transparency and accountability in management of public resources (ECZ, 2013).
  • The Central government does not enforce a system or formula for revenue sharing with local governments, nor do local governments have an effective system for collecting taxes and other revenue. Therefore there is a low capacity of the civil service to implement government programs and the need for wide-ranging civil service reform (ECZ, 2013).

Recent posts on this website about this country:


List of sources (in order of citation):

UN Human Development Index, 2012: “Zambia”

Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF),  2012: “Zambia”

United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), 2005: “Zambia”

Ministry for Local Government and Housing (MLGH), 2013

IDEA, 2009: “Zambia”

ARIAL Programme, 2o11: “Zambia”

Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), 2013

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