Decentralisation and local government reforms in Africa: challenges, opportunities and the way forward
Strengthening local governments has emerged as a focus of decentralisation in developing countries. In Africa, a few attempts have been made to conceptualise decentralisation and/or to compare decentralisation and local policies across a group of countries. The paper builds on existing literature in examining characteristics of actors involved in decentralisation, democratisation processes, fiscal and resources autonomy and its implications on local government reforms in selected countries in Africa. There are commonalities and differences in local government reforms; however, the challenges to autonomous local government in Africa are linked to central governments’ inability to decentralise power and fiscal autonomy in the name of national unity and stability. The paper concludes that there are obvious shortcomings in the implementation of local government reforms in Africa. 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.
Keywords: Decentralisation, local government reform, inclusion, fiscal autonomy, Africa