Decentralisation in Africa: Goals, dimensions, myths and challenges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Decentralisation is a complex and often somewhat elusive phenomenon. Many countries around the world have been attempting - for several reasons and with varying degrees of intention and success - to create or strengthen sub-national governments in recent years. Africa is no exception to either the decentralisation trend or the reality of its complexity and diversity. Drawing selectively on the academic and practitioner literature on decentralisation and the articles in this volume, this article briefly outlines a number of typical prominent goals of decentralisation. It then reviews some key dimensions of decentralisation - fiscal, institutional and political. These are too frequently treated separately by policy analysts and policy makers although they are inherently linked. Next, a few popular myths and misconceptions about decentralisation are explored. Finally, a number of common outstanding challenges for improving decentralisation and local government reform efforts in Africa are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-16
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Administration and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Public Administration


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