Manual Decentralization and Reform in Africa

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The IIAG shows some improvement in overall governance performance across the continent the latest edition of the IIAG provides not only the annual scores and ranks for the 54 countries of Africa, but also trends over a decade. Of the five countries studied in this issue, Ethiopia and Kenya have shown encouraging improvement — 7 and 5.

Uganda and Nigeria have registered slight improvements with 3. Ghana is part of the top ten African countries in terms of overall governance, ranked 7th despite its recent decreases.

Straight Talk Africa: Government Decentralization and Women in Politics

Kenya and Uganda lie above the African average, ranked 12th and 19th respectively, while Ethiopia and Nigeria lie below the average, at 31st and 36th of a total of 54 countries in the IIAG. This reveals that despite Ghana's impressive ranking overall, sub-indicators related to public management have registered a decrease in scores over the last decade. Some of these sub-indicators include effectiveness of public administration, budget management, ratio of revenue to expenditure, fiscal policy, and revenue mobilisation.

Of the other two countries that lie above the African average, Kenya has registered a real improvement in health outcomes between and This seems to be accompanied by a slight improvement also in the health sub-indicator that measures public satisfaction with how the government handles basic health services. Uganda though, appears to be an interesting puzzle. While many education indicators have improved over the past decade, primary school completion figures have remained stagnant and the score for 'education provision', which measures public satisfaction with how government handles educational needs, has decreased.

So while inputs into service delivery may be improving — an increase in school enrolment, of teachers in primary schools, in funding, and in the involvement of more actors from the private sector — neither outcomes of this delivery nor satisfaction with government services are registering commensurate increases. For the two countries that lie below the regional average in terms of overall scores, we notice in Figure 1 that Ethiopia ranks above the African average in three out of the four categories — safety and rule of law, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development — but lags in participation and human rights on measures such as 'political participation', 'civil society participation', and various freedoms.

Nigeria's problems are of a different variety. Its major issues seem to be safety and rule of law, on which it ranks 44th out of 54 countries. It has seen some improvements, mainly in police services that have contributed to stronger scores on 'personal safety', but this has not led to improvements in terms of how safe people actually feel. In fact, there has been a decrease of public perception of neighbourhood safety in particular. What is the significance of all this information?

For instance, Ghana has one of the strongest governance systems in Africa but its bureaucratic processes seem to be lagging. Nigeria has one of the weakest systems but it has registered improvements over the last decade on some important indicators, including on rule of law and safety. What types of conclusions do we draw from such findings? The problem with most composite measures, as with studies that focus on macro narratives and broad conclusions, is that they often conceal and conflate more than they reveal.

A focus on decentralisation is an important way of giving a more realistic sense of how the governance reform agenda is working out at the grass roots. The decentralisation reforms that were instituted to deal with many of these governance problems may have few big stories to tell of transformative local governance, but there may be smaller stories — either of positive outcomes, or at least of how different parts of each country and different actors experience differential outcomes in the decentralisation process.

Such smaller, more micro and comparative stories have not been told in enough detail in the overall narrative on Africa's decentralisation efforts. This IDS Bulletin is an attempt to get at these micro, comparative stories by accumulating evidence on how decentralisation works differently within each country, and the factors that are responsible for differential outcomes. Decentralisation reforms in their most recent form in Africa have had three main aims: The studies in this IDS Bulletin deal with all three of these aims — the articles on Kenya, Uganda and Ghana look at issues of service delivery at the local level; those on Ethiopia and Nigeria raise questions about local democracy and participation by formal and informal actors; and the article on Ghana by Crook looks at issues of local revenue mobilisation.

In doing so, each article considers in particular the country-specific areas highlighted in the IIAG previously mentioned — public administration in Ghana, security provision in Nigeria, participatory local governance in Ethiopia, education provision in Uganda and maternal health care in Kenya. Together, the six articles of this issue interrogate the extent to which decentralisation has affected change at the local level — in terms of democratisation, participation and service delivery — and identify the factors that may allow decentralisation efforts to have greater impact through future reforms.

More importantly, what are the factors that keep local government reforms from achieving more complete outcomes? These are the main questions that this IDS Bulletin asks. The articles in this collection focus on providing more nuanced and grounded explanations for the impact of decentralisation at the local level in Africa through detailed case studies of local governments in five countries.

This issue is also special because it brings together a unique set of African scholars who live under the region's decentralised systems with the exception of Crook , and study them with a proximate lens often denied to visiting scholars from other, usually Northern countries. More importantly, these scholars regularly work together as a team to conduct annual trainings on research methods for university staff from across the African continent.

This orientation is obvious in the design of each study, uniquely formulated to deal with research questions that are on the policy agenda in each country. The questions are all currently relevant — and so it is no surprise then that the topic chosen for investigation by each country team matches the issues highlighted by the IIAG — and they are held together by the common belief that more innovative methods should now be applied to these questions in order to achieve better and deeper explanations.

The composition of the team and their approach to the subject brings a thematic and methodological freshness to this issue. The two articles on Ghana look at public administration, fiscal transfers and local revenue mobilisation. In other words, they look specifically at the indicators on which Ghana has registered decreases over the past decade. Crook looks at the issue of local versus central funding of local government expenditures, and explores in particular whether democratic decentralisation means that Ghana's District Assemblies can raise more local revenues, and in the process engage more with citizens to deliver better services.

His article deals centrally with the question of whether public administration and service delivery are negatively affected by the way in which democratic decentralisation interacts with the logic of a clientelist political system. Doh's article, on the other hand, looks at the extent to which staff quality within the local bureaucracy makes a difference to local service provision.

In the context of plans for greater decentralisation in Ghana and giving District Assemblies more devolved responsibility for service delivery, Crook and Doh's articles draw our attention to the types of factors that can limit performance both within the system through staff quality and outside it through clientelism.

Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

The study on Kenya looks at citizen perception of maternal healthcare provision by local governments, and demonstrates how this is commensurate with the improvements in health care registered by the IIAG Kilonzo, Kamaara and Magak tell us, however, that there are differences in the perceptions of service users and service providers. Users are generally satisfied while providers, with a broader and more intimate view of the system, complain about the inadequacy of a number of facets, largely the result of limitations placed on local healthcare provision by higher tiers of government.

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The fact of perceptions being closely linked to sectional views of the system is an important one, especially when it applies to deepening ethnic discrimination in more heterogeneous counties the unit of local government in Kenya. This works the other way round in Nigeria in the context of high insecurity and citizens' growing concerns about their own safety. Here better services do not seem to be connected to better perceptions of provision by communities.

In this case, the authors Ojebode, Onyishi and Aremu tell us that perceptions are closely related to expectations that are built through the practice of local democracy, in particular through campaign promises made in a context of very limited resources, an echo of the impact of clientelism in Ghana. Democratic decentralisation interacts with limited fiscal decentralisation and autonomy to lead to unfavourable perceptions by constituents, and a feeling of being let down yet again by politicians.

The Uganda study explores the conundrum of how some of the country's education indicators have improved over time for instance, human resources in primary schools and government support for education , while completion rates remain stagnant they actually decrease if we look at the trend over the past 15 years Mo Ibrahim Foundation b. Maractho points out that part of the answer might lie in how government handles educational needs, with the liberalisation of education widening a gap between public and private education, and, once again, resource differentials affecting the quality of provision by local governments.

The Ethiopia article uses the case of waste management in the capital city of Addis Ababa to provide a quite unique perspective on why the country is not performing well on indicators for participation and human rights. Alemu examines the decline in the quality of waste collection and recycling services in the city by comparing the role of formal and informal actors, based on the premise that it is the increasing centralisation tendencies of the Ethiopian government that is leading to reduced participation by previously active actors within service delivery networks.

The study alerts us to the fact that decentralisation reforms that formalise processes and procedures indiscriminately may lead to worse, rather than better, services. What particular contributions does this issue make to the above debates over decentralisation and governance reform? First and foremost, it highlights an area where the literature continues to be very limited. By this, we do not refer simply to literature on decentralisation in Africa, but also to literature on this subject by African scholars, and to studies that are comparative and provide a systematic analysis of the outcomes of decentralisation efforts.

In other words, this IDS Bulletin offers studies by African scholars that observe the functioning and impact of decentralisation at the most micro level through detailed cases that draw out nuanced differences between different parts of the country, different political systems, and different political actors.

Introduction: Interrogating Decentralisation in Africa | Khan Mohmand

Besides this fundamental contribution, this IDS Bulletin also provides insights into three main issues within the study of decentralisation. As suggested earlier, the argument is that bringing decision-making closer to people provides greater opportunities for participation, more relevant policies, more rational expenditure, and so helps improve local governance. However, the literature also accepts that the decentralisation agenda remains incomplete in most countries. Sometimes this is because of the partial implementation of administrative, political and fiscal devolution, while at other times it is because of the absence of other complementary changes that are required to ensure that decentralisation efforts will succeed.

This is the overall, collective story that the articles in this issue tell. It is not a surprise that each study highlights a fairly similar set of missing elements.

Introduction: Interrogating Decentralisation in Africa

Almost everyone agrees that there is a lack of funds at the local level — in some cases central transfers do not adequately match local needs, or do not correspond to the functions legally devolved to local governments; in other cases, political manoeuvres and clientelistic politics lead to funds being distributed unevenly or ineffectively across districts; and in almost all cases, local authorities do not have the power to raise adequate local funds.

Another regularly cited issue is the continuing centralisation tendencies of higher tiers of government. The reluctance by African governments to decentralise power, noted by Conyers in the foreword of this issue and in her earlier articles , , remains true today. This is recent renewed commitments to decentralisation in some countries, such as in Ethiopia in , and in Kenya in A number of papers point out that national and state governments' need to hold on to power leads to limited space available for lower tier governments within districts and counties to make substantive decisions that would lead to service delivery improvements within their areas.

The studies approach decentralisation by examining specific aspects of local administration and the delivery of specific services — local revenue mobilisation and the motivation of frontline workers for public service in the case of Ghana, security provision in the case of Nigeria, urban solid waste management in Ethiopia, maternal health care in Kenya, and primary education in Uganda. This case-based exploration leads them to identify the key factors that limit the quality and efficacy of delivery in each case.

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  • For instance, there is a need:. Any one of these reforms may not in itself ensure better access to and quality of local services, but if decentralisation is to remain on the agenda, it cannot function within the strangleholds placed on it by limited funds, restricted autonomy, exclusive spaces and clientelistic politics.

    The paper concludes that there are obvious shortcomings in the implementation of local government reforms in Africa.

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    • Nonetheless, mistakes and setbacks should be used as learning opportunities to strengthen reform, rather than as excuses for adopting a closed system of government that is not autonomous, inclusive, transparent and accountable. If you would like to authenticate using a different subscribed institution that supports Shibboleth authentication or have your own login and password to Project MUSE, click 'Authenticate'. View freely available titles: Book titles OR Journal titles. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

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