THE AFRICAN GOVERNANCE CRISIS (4/4)
After the analysis of decades of public sector reform in Africa with special focus on Ghana, one can draw the conclusion that the external support during the 1980ies has been vital, but to some degree harmful due to a “faulty diagnosis and prognosis” (1). The African public sector during that time cannot be described as too big, but as expanding. This growth was a direct result from the new-won independence and was therefore a necessary step of taking control.
In order to overcome the economic decline in the 1980ies African states were dependent on foreign investments. While the IMF, the World Bank and individual donors did provide the money, they also set unfitting goals and an unrealistic time schedules. Instead of strengthening the existing system of public administration, Western NPM methods of downsizing, retrenchment and cost cutting were introduced. As has been stated in the above, African states did not have an oversupply of qualified civil servants, but a demand for the latter. Instead of ensuring their loyalty and providing a better education for them, many positions were cut and the crucial increase of salaries was implemented with reluctance (2).
The results of these reforms of the public administration of the 1980ies in Ghana and other countries were modest to say the least. From a different point of view, one could even assert that they were modest from a short-term perspective, but fatal in a long-term perspective, because they focused on technicalities in order to save money – that actually weakened the civil service (1) and ignored the core aspects of successful public sectors. While it might make great sense to concentrate on cost-cutting and downsizing of the public administration in Western countries like the UK or Germany – where a certain ethic belief may be attributed to the public officials because of centuries of institutionalized rules and norms – African bureaucracies were nowhere near this point of development. If one observes the economic progress of Asian tiger states whose economies greatly strengthened during the past decades, one is also able to attribute this success to strong systems of public administration (3).
As there is no such history in African public management, it seems obvious that an emphasis has to be laid on the establishment of civil service ethics and accountability. One could conclude, that the reforms of the 1980ies in Africa skipped one step, because they aimed at shrinking something that wasn’t even stable to begin with. Only technicalities were at focus. Therefore, one is drawn to argue that reforms from this time period inhibited the development of committed reformers in Africa.
Of course, this statement must be handled with care, as one does not have the possibility of comparison with an African country that did not follow the NPM reforms at all. However, cutting costs at the wrong places led to the “unfolding challenges” (4) African countries encountered during the 1990ies and even in the new millennium. While techniques for more ethical behavior and accountability are decided on, their implementation must be coordinated among the African states. Instead of relying on external help, the more successful countries have to set an example and support the weak links.
Dealing with these problems, the UN concludes:
“For poor, resource-constrained countries, the reform challenges are daunting, not because the countries do not know what to do, but because they lack the resources to initiate and sustain a comprehensive programme of change.” (4)
Financial aid is thus still vital today. But instead of forcing these different systems to adapt Western ideals of public administration reforms, the support should be engaged on the education of civil servants, hence human capacity building and training. In combination with a rise of public official salaries, the two core weaknesses identified in this work would be tackled. While the downsizing of the public sector has already taken place, one could attempt to stabilize this system now. Therefore, the current trend of African civil service reform can no longer in any way be attributed with an inhibition of the countries’ development.
On the whole, it has been clear that the reforms of the NPM-wave during the 1980ies did little to promote sustainable development in African public sectors and consequently in the countries’ economies (1) (2). Despite these negative experiences and the sentiment of wasted money, external support is a sine qua non in Africa now. The necessary strategies can only be implemented after the application of sophisticated analyses and diagnoses and with the involvement of all stakeholders, especially the civil servants in regard to more ethical behavior (2).
Only by doing so, policies – such as the liberalization of markets, vital for a more successful participation in global trade – can be implemented.
In order to highlight the difficulties encountered by Ghana and other African states in establishing an efficient and sustainable civil service resulting in a stronger economic development, this paper concentrated on the introduced governance crisis (2). However, there are of course great interdependencies between the public administration and the central government of a country. The best governance system would only get so far without a stable, organized and constitutional government (4). It would be interesting to analyze these realities for African states, as it seems logical that weak governments are another trigger for underdevelopment.
On the whole, one can conclude that reforms of the 1980ies were not customized for African developing countries and most probably inhibited a quicker economic development. The second wave of reforms however, is much more focused on the involvement and training of civil servants, which is – as seen in the cases of Developed Countries and Tiger States – crucial for a stable public administration and economic growth. If provided with the necessary financial aid, reform-committed African states like Ghana could indeed face an overcome of economic underdevelopment.
· The African Governance Crisis (1/4) · A sift inventory of Africa’s development problems
· The African Governance Crisis (2/4) · The Consequences of Reforms on the African Civil Service
· The African Governance Crisis (3/4) · Rehabilitating the African Civil Service
· Millennium Development Goals: Fragile states claim summit outcome off-target
(1) Olowu, B. (1999). Redesigning African Civil Service Reforms. In: The Journal of Modern African Studies 37, 1 (1999). Cambridge University Press.
(2) Adamolekun, L. (2005). Re-Orienting Public Management in Africa: Selected Issues and Some Country Experiences. In: African Development Bank – Economic Research Paper Series No. 81.
(3) Evans, P. (1995). The State as Problem and Solution: Predation, Embedded Autonomy, and Structural Change. In: Politics and Society.
(4) United Nations. (2005). Public Administration and Development – Report of the Secretary General.