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benin-political-mapPopulation: 12.2 Million

HDI ranking: 158/189

HDI score: 0.545

Whereas the 1990 constitution clearly provided for local self-government, decentralized local governments actually only being established in early 2003 due to the lengthy process of elaborating the legal framework. Benin needs a political leadership for the reforms and decentralization (DeLog, 2007).

The April 2019 legislative elections were neither free nor fair, as new electoral rules effectively prevented all opposition parties from participating. Observers canceled poll-monitoring plans for fear of violence, turnout fell to about a quarter of eligible voters amid an opposition boycott, an internet shutdown on election day, and security forces violently suppressed protests before and after balloting, resulting in several deaths (Freedom House).

Local governance at a glance

  • National land is subdivided into 12 provinces which stand between the central government and administrative districts. 77 administrative districts are divided into urban subdivisions, villages, and neighborhoods (UCLG, 2006).
  • Administrative districts are local authorities with legal status and financial autonomy and are governed freely by an elected council. Members of the administrative district’s decision-making body, municipal councilors, are elected by universal direct suffrage for a five-year term (UCLG, 2006).
  • Prefects and mayors who are elected since 2003 chair the sub-national government institutions (Arial, 2010).
  • Benin does not have legislated gender quotas at local levels of government (IDEA, 2012).

Civil society actors include

Capacity building institutions

  • National Association for Local Governments in Benin (ANCB) was created after 2002 election to provide interface between local governments and the national governments, and has the aim to strengthen the capacity of local governments and encourage solidarity among local governments.
  • Centre de Promotion de la Société Civile (CPSC) is a national autonomous unit placed under the auspices of Ministry in charge of civil society for enhancing the contribution of CSOs for economic and social development.
  • House of Local Authorities created by Ministry of Interior, Security and Local Governments is entrusted with the support of the communes through training and technical assistance (DeLog, 2007).
  • Newly created Ministry of Decentralization and Local Governance, led by Minister Raphaël Akotegnon, looks to be at the forefront of government-led local governance.

Fiscal control

  • Administrative districts have legal status, financial autonomy, and an autonomous budget. However, urban divisions do not have legal status or financial autonomy (UCLG, 2006).
  • Local taxes are collected by Ministry of Finances and then transferred to administrative districts (UCLG, 2006).

Key initiatives for participatory local governance

  • National Conference of Active Forces of the Nation marked the beginning of the democratization and decentralization in 1990. Local-level authorities were created, and the Constitution of 11 December 1990 stated that local authorities are governed freely by elected councils (UCLG, 2006).
  • The first local elections of the period of democratic renewal were organized in 2002. People had opportunity to take action and appoint their representative to govern local affairs (UCLG, 2006).
  • In the second generation PRSP (Strategie de Croissance pour la Reduction de la Pauvrete) elaborated in 2007 put forward the implementation of decentralization reform as a core element for poverty reduction (DeLog, 2007).
  • The second local elections took place in 2008 (CERDI, 2010).

Challenges for participatory local governance

  • Due to a lack of qualified staff, most civil servants from the former prefectures were transferred to the administrative districts. There is no specialist institution to train and retrain local civil servants (UCLG, 2006).
  • Most sector ministries have not advanced the creation and strengthening of their respective sub-structures due to the lack of a clear vision from government on deconcentration (DeLog, 2007).
  • Resources of local governments are still by far insufficient to improve service provision. They depend a lot on development aid (DeLog, 2007).
  • Civil society has a lack of knowledge on how to participate in local decision making, so there is a lack of demand for transparency and accountability of the local governments (DeLog, 2007).

Recent posts on this website about this country:


List of sources (in order of citation):

FreedomHouse: Benin

UCLG, 2006: “Republic of Benin”

IDEA, 2012: “Benin”

Decentralization and Local Governance (DeLog), 2007: “Alignment Strategies in the Field of Decentralization and Local Governance: Benin”

ARIAL programme, 2010: “Benin”

Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches sur le Développment International (CERDI), 2010: “Decentralization in Africa and the nature of local governments’ competition: evidence from Benin”