Lessons Learned from Koudougou
There have been many plans drawn up for the city of Koudougou over the past fifteen years—some with an overview as are the local development plans or master plans—or more sectoral as the strategic sanitation plan or strategic household waste plan. Their advantage is that they give a picture of the investments to be made to improve the situation in the municipality. Their great weakness is that they are not executed because they are out of step with the financial means and the competencies of the municipal administration. At best, they serve to reassure donors during financial negotiations. We face this fundamental contradiction as we face the objectives of urban planning. What do the stakeholders say? What are the intentions of this urban planning that has been largely developed in Burkina Faso since the 2000s, in line with the strategies of international donors that support the government in its development efforts?
The plans do not meet the traditional goals to develop the future of Koudougou, but mark the ambitions of the authorities facing the organization of the territory. And it is clear that challenged by the multitude of problems to solve, it is difficult, both politically and technically, to set priorities in terms of areas and sectors. Everything immediately becomes a priority, without criteria that justifies choices made. And consultation frameworks between policy makers, operators and popu- lation—if they are desired and recognized useful—are gradually set aside, for lack of resources and available time. In fact, much focus is put on the tool, implementing a proven technicality (that of consulting firms mandated to do this), and on the indicative outcomes—and very little on the approach and the objectives of the application of this instrumentation.
The second very large problem encountered is related to the conditions of the production of urban development plans, in Koudougou as in other cities of Burkina Faso. Three stumbling blocks: the first is that these local plans are decided by the national government and “imposed” on the municipalities; the second comes from the fact that the municipal administration of Koudougou, like many Burkinabe cities, is under endowed with competent personnel, and is thus unable to participate in the design, the supervision and the monitoring of this production of local plans. Neither does the glaring lack of financial resources allow the Municipality to implement this planning that takes more than wishful thinking and is primarily used for advocacy with funders, rather than as a guide in an assured control of local urban development.
And the conclusion of all the experts agree that planning tools exist but are not used as such, and prove to date to be unnecessary. Indeed, it is revealed by the study, they are diverted from their original purpose and become an object for urban marketing and communication with donors, since all donors think it essential that each city where they intervene includes planning. In the words of one amused speaker: the plan is a catalog of all that must be done in the municipality, donors choose what they want to finance! Two rationales conflict with the overall interests of coherent and sustainable urban planning: first, the aspirations of foreign donors, to which national and local authorities will submit, are a priority and guide investments; second, the will of national and local political leaders is to make their mark on the territory by occasional symbolic “gestures” of their presence in power, rather than stewardship over the long term.