Governance in Africa

Bruce Baker

in Political Science

ISBN: 9780199756223
Published online November 2011 | | DOI:
Governance in Africa

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  • Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • Political Institutions
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Definitions of governance in Africa in the early 1990s emphasized public sector management, efficiency, and organizational and technical questions. This narrowed governance to the conduct of state institutions, and it depoliticized governance. Later definitions added normative overtones and spoke increasingly of “good” governance. Over time, key indicators have come to focus on government effectiveness, political stability, voice and accountability, rule of law, control of corruption, and regulatory quality. Governance, however, is broader than “government” or the relationship between the state (and its leadership) and society. It relates to all power relationships, including nonstate, substate, and suprastate relations. Essentially, governance concerns the exercise of authority. It may be through structures (e.g., rule systems of governments) or social functions and processes (e.g., by nonstate entities). Persons may have authority because of who they are (their formal role is authoritative, such as government officers distributing grants according to rules); because of what they do (their informal action is authoritative, such as patrons distributing gifts as they choose); or a mixture of the two, where they use formal authority in informal ways (e.g., government officers distributing state resources to clients, supporters, or family members). In other words, governance entails overlapping spheres of authority, each with a set of norms, principles, and decision-making procedures that control how power is allocated. Those exercising governance may be politicians, civic institutions, media, religious and cultural organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as well as government agencies. With the widely held recognition by the late 1980s that many of Africa’s development problems were due to poor governance, the focus of national and donor programs turned to seeking to achieve good governance, which is understood to be the allocation and management of resources to respond to collective problems. It is characterized by participation, transparency, accountability, rule of law, effectiveness, and equity. Good governance is critical for Africa for two principal reasons: economic and social. Economically, it lies at the heart of economic development, helping to harness and develop weak economies. It promotes economic efficiency through equitable rules, by promoting fair and well functioning markets, and it curtails corruption and ensures the fair delivery of services. Socially, it prevents exclusion, promotes peace, and encourages welfare programs.

Article.  6556 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions ; Political Methodology ; Political Theory

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