Strategies of Subversion in Vertically-Divided Contexts: Decentralization and Urban Service Delivery in Senegal
37 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 29 Sep 2014
Date Written: August 1, 2011
Vertically-divided authority, or a context where opposition parties control sub-national levels of government, is becoming increasingly common in Africa‟s major cities. How does this context impact the delivery of services to urban constituents? I argue that vertically-divided authority exacerbates the trade-offs between autonomy and accountability that are inherent in the decentralization process. Such circumstances encourage the central government to employ “strategies of subversion,” or tactics to purposely reduce the autonomy of local government under conditions where the latter may be held accountable for good service delivery and increase autonomy when local government can be targeted for poor performance. By focusing on the case study of Dakar, Senegal, I delineate the specific manifestations of these strategies, which include backtracking on political decentralization, preventing fiscal decentralization, and augmenting administrative ambiguity. By employing these strategies, President Abdoulaye Wade has attempted to minimize the popularity of Dakar‟s municipal government, which is controlled by the opposition coalition Benno Siggil Senegaal. The paper further provides some policy implications for donors supporting decentralization and urban service delivery projects in opposition-controlled cities.
Keywords: Urban service delivery, decentralization, opposition parties, Senegal, Africa
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