9 January 2019

Interview with Roger Mahazoasy, Director of City-to-city cooperation at the Ministry of the Interior and Decentralization of Madagascar

This interview with Roger Mahazoasy, Director of City-to-city cooperation at the Ministry of the Interior and Decentralization of Madagascar, took place in CODATU on December 14, 2018.

CODATU: Mr. Director, as an active observer of Madagascar territories through their city-to-city cooperations, but also as a former Minister and former Mayor (PDS) of Nocy-Be, what do you think about the development of cities in Madagascar and especially mobility issues in these cities?

Roger Mahazoasy: I think that we must already consider the new urban agenda at the global level. Awareness has been raised for decades and Madagascar development fits into these evolutions. In Madagascar, the dream of the Mayor of a rural commune is now to become Mayor of a city. Today there are 76 towns out of 1695 communes classified as urban administratively. However, the National Planning Scheme of 2009 studies rather show 172 urban centers according to international criteria for the operating of areas. Ministries are collaborating to develop new classification criteria for municipalities. The new 2018 census, whose results will come out in 2019, should confirm these developments. The elected representatives of the 172 urban centers are motivated and seek technical and financial support to manage the new challenges they face.

The main problems are the management and development of the City, the management of household waste and sanitation, and the inefficiency of urban transport systems in the largest cities (Antananarivo, Tamatave, Majunga, Diego, Tulear, Fort Dauphin, Fianarantsoa). Urban transport is also becoming an issue in smaller cities like Moramanga or Morondava. It is mainly paratransit transport carried out by small operators divided in cooperatives. It may be Taxis-Be [= Taxis Minivan, “be” means “big” in Malagasy, NDLR], Bajaj tricycles, cycle-rickshaws, or even pulled rickshaws. There is no rational organization which makes the system ineffective, develops full competition and thus poor safety and comfort conditions for users.

But the system does exist, more than 1 million passengers are indeed transported daily in Antananarivo with no State subsidy. So it must be improved. Urban transport competencies are not explicitly assigned between the State and local authorities, which probably explains some of the difficulties we are facing. This will certainly be one of the future government priorities (presidential elections are underway). And it is a prerequisite for moving forward on mass transport projects, many times announced in the Capital, but still not realized.

CODATU: CODATU is currently trying to support and develop city-to-city cooperation in the field of urban mobility, through the development of mechanisms such as the “1% transport urbain“, or submissions to the EU calls for projects. How is city-to-city cooperation changing in Madagascar? What are the trends? Is urban mobility a concern?

Roger Mahazoasy: We are today in the transitional stage following the 2nd meeting held in March 2018. We have seen little real progress on urban planning questions although it has been identified as a key issue. The Department now believes that we must adapt the approach in terms of public policies with the territories targeted. It is a request of elected representatives. Cooperation is moving in the direction of global projects: SDGs, climate change, urban development. We have an growing interested in good practices that may interest us, make us save time in urbanisation process and avoid mistakes made elsewhere, because Madagascar is still at the very beginning of its urban transition, with a rate of urbanization of about 30%. South/South/North tripartite cooperation is also very interesting.

In Madagascar, city-to-coty cooperation with local authorities has been a real laboratory for inspiring new public policies, and sometimes even stimulating structural projects that were subsequently financed by traditional donors. At the State level the context is favourable to support the steps. There are some examples such as the role of Picardy in the North Madagascar on the territorial approach to governance. Or the support of the Alsatian communities through the GESCOD in the Boeny Region, which strengthened the autonomy of the Majunga municipality. Or the example of intercommunality in Maevantanana: this cooperation has led the construction of an intercommunal bus station at the entrance of the city, which allowed the operation of the intercommunal structure to be funded. We also tend to involve more the private sector in decentralized cooperation projects. I seize this opportunity to call upon worldwide cities which may be interested in supporting Malagasy cities: we can put you in touch and do our utmost to facilitate your efforts. There is much to be done and we have now understood the specific added value of city-to-city cooperation, which seems to us crucial to support the municipal project management.

CODATU: Is decentralization progressing in Madagascar?

Roger Mahazoasy : We are in phase II, starting from the new laws of 2014. Many questions have been taken into account. We have also institutionalized experiments such as the participatory budget, such as the IGL (Local Governance Index) or the Observatory of Decentralization and Local Development.

Another important point is that the State has made a great effort on the dematerialization of subsidy transfers to municipalities and regions. We need to go even further in the direction of transparency, accountability, both at central and subnational level.

Communities are becoming increasingly aware of their role and are starting to organize themselves into associations and become interlocutors of the State in the formulation and implementation of public policies. We can mention the AMGVM (Association of Mayors of the Major Cities of Madagascar, which is a partner of CODATU by convention), the association of mayors of rural communes, the association of women mayors, the association of municipalities practicing the participatory budget, the association of small and medium-sized towns (currently undergoing structuring), the association of port and coastal communities, or finally the association of municipalities around and in protected areas.

We are currently trying to federate all these associations, including the association of the Madagascar regions.

In summary, decentralization is progressing, but this is necessarily gradually happening. One of the great difficulties lies in the human resources of the staff of Municipalities, and for this too a new construction is underway with the development of the INDDL (National Institute which trains the agents of the local communities).