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Decentralisation in Africa: A Pathway out of Poverty and Conflict?

Gordon Crawford
Christof Hartmann
Series: EADI
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Decentralisation in Africa
    Book Description:

    Grounded in empirically-based country case studies, this new study provides a sober assessment of what decentralisation can achieve. The current momentum for decentralisation of government in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world is unparalleled, but are the benefits claimed by its advocates being realised? Focusing on two claims in particular, this book questions whether decentralisation does offer a significant pathway out of poverty and conflict in Africa. Issues of poverty reduction are addressed in Uganda, Ghana, Malawi and Tanzania, while those of conflict management are explored in Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda and Rwanda. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0161-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Economics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. 1 Introduction: Decentralisation as a Pathway out of Poverty and Conflict?
    (pp. 7-32)
    Gordon Crawford and Christof Hartmann

    Decentralisation entails the transfer of power, responsibilities and finance from central government to sub-national levels of government at provincial and/or local levels. Its current popularity, especially in the developing world, is unparalleled, with 80 per cent of all developing and transition countries undertaking some form of decentralisation over the past two decades (ICHRP 2005: 11). In Africa south of the Sahara, the focus of this book, there are few countries that have not implemented decentralisation reforms.

    This is remarkable, as Africa has a long history of formally centralised rule which dates back to colonial times, and in some instances much...

  4. 2 Constraints on the Implementation of Decentralisation and Implications for Poverty Reduction – The Case of Uganda
    (pp. 33-72)
    Susan Steiner

    In recent years, it has come to be widely accepted that decentralisation can be conducive to poverty reduction mainly because local governments are assumed to have better information and higher incentives than the central government to design and implement policies that respond to local needs and preferences. Besides, decentralisation is considered a means to achieve good governance in terms of a high level of public participation, accountability of public officials, and low corruption, all of which are crucial conditions for poverty alleviation. These arguments are very popular among policy-makers in developing countries, including donor organisations. The World Bank, for example,...

  5. 3 Decentralisation and Poverty Reduction in Malawi – A Critical Appraisal
    (pp. 73-106)
    Blessings Chinsinga

    Democratic decentralisation is seen as the most topical state reform that can open up spaces for wider and deeper participation at the local level. It encourages more people to get involved in the politics that affect them, making government more accountable through citizen oversight and control through elections. Thus, in theory, the devolution of governance to the lowest possible unit paves the way to fully entrench and consolidate democratic values, principles and practices. This in turn improves responsiveness to local needs in the delivery of public services and hence contributes to the attainment of the trinity of good governance, development...

  6. 4 Poverty and the Politics of (De)centralisation in Ghana
    (pp. 107-144)
    Gordon Crawford

    Through a case study of Ghana, this chapter questions the conventional wisdom concerning the relationship between decentralisation and poverty reduction in three ways. First, it questions the assumption, as noted by Johnson (2003: 8), that ‘democratic participation will yield strong mechanisms of accountability’. Findings in the Ghana case are that increased participation and popular input into local policy-making processes has not led to greater popular control of government, highlighting a de-linkage between participation and accountability. Second, it questions the ‘ubiquitous claim’, as noted by Smoke (2003: 12), that political will is ‘the principal requirement for success’. The finding here is...

  7. 5 The Impact of Decentralisation on Poverty in Tanzania
    (pp. 145-168)
    Meine Pieter van Dijk

    Decentralisation is an important part of political and administrative reform in many countries, including Tanzania. According to Lee and Gilbert (1999), an active decentralisation policy is carried out in sixty-three of the seventy-five developing countries with more than 5 million inhabitants. The expectations of the political benefits include a strengthening of the democratisation process leading to new initiatives at the local level. Another important expectation is that decentralisation will lead to a reduction in rural-urban disparities through providing employment and basic social services at the local level and thus diminish the high rate of rural-urban migration. This paper focuses on...

  8. 6 Decentralisation and the Legacy of Protracted Conflict – Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa
    (pp. 169-190)
    Christof Hartmann

    The democratisation processes initiated in the early 1990s in Sub-Saharan Africa brought much hope in a reduction of violent conflict, both at the intra-state and the inter-state level. If African governments were to become replaceable via the ballot box or amenable to change by peaceful means, there should be a corresponding decline in the resort to armed struggle. More than a decade later, this hope in such a democratic peace dividend has been shattered, at least with regard to the intra-state level. Many processes of political liberalisation and democratisation were indeed accompanied by a rise in the number of violent...

  9. 7 Decentralisation and Conflict in Kibaale, Uganda
    (pp. 191-212)
    Anna Katharina Schelnberger

    The contribution of decentralisation policies to economic development, participation, good governance and democratisation has been the topic of an increasing body of research over the last decade (Crook and Manor, 1998). Given Africa’s context of protracted violent conflicts both at the national or regional level and at the local level, it is surprising to see how little attention has been accorded to the potential role of decentralisation for the management of conflict, especially those conflicts related to issues of participation, governance and democratisation.

    Like federalism and autonomy, decentralisation addresses the territorial structure of a state. Federalism, autonomy and also decentralisation...

  10. 8 Decentralisation as a Stabilising Factor in Rwanda
    (pp. 213-232)
    Peter van Tilburg

    There has been a dramatic change in violent conflicts in the world from traditionalinter-stateconflicts tointra-stateconflicts. From the 1990s onwards, almost all major conflicts around the world are taking place within states. These conflicts are in most cases caused by two powerful elements, which usually operate in combination: strong identity (based on race, religion, culture, language) and imbalanced distribution of economic, social and political resources. The result has been an immense growth of civilian casualties in conflicts, increasing from 5 per cent of all war victims during World War I to 80 per cent during the 1990s...

  11. 9 Conclusion: Decentralisation – No Shortcut to Development and Peace
    (pp. 233-252)
    Christof Hartmann and Gordon Crawford

    Proponents of decentralisation anticipate many positive outcomes, inclusive of benefits in terms of poverty reduction and conflict management. The case studies in this book have subjected these claims to empirical investigation in the context of Sub-Saharan Africa. What are the overall findings from the country studies? This concluding chapter outlines the findings in three main sections. First, the extent to which decentralisation has contributed to poverty reduction is discussed, inclusive of consideration of key constraints. Second, the impact of decentralisation on conflict management is summarised, highlighting both direct and indirect effects. Finally, the prospects for decentralisation in Sub-Saharan Africa are...

  12. About the Authors
    (pp. 253-254)
  13. Index
    (pp. 255-260)