What are the smaller stories hidden within the larger trends on governance in Africa, and to what extent has decentralisation affected change in these areas? What are the factors that keep local government reforms from achieving more complete outcomes? These are the main questions asked by this IDS Bulletin, with articles focusing on explanations for the impact of decentralisation at the local level through detailed case studies of five countries – Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia.
This issue deals with all three of the main aims for decentralisation reforms in Africa: improved service delivery, democracy and participation, and a reduction in central government expenditure. It analyses micro, comparative stories by accumulating evidence on how decentralisation works differently within each featured country, and the factors that are responsible for differential outcomes. Contributors are mostly African scholars who live under the region’s decentralised systems and study them with a proximate lens often denied to visiting scholars. Their research questions, on their countries’ respective policy agendas, are joined by the common belief that more innovative methods should be applied to these questions in order to get at better explanations.
While decentralisation is an important issue, systematic analyses of its outcomes are limited. This IDS Bulletin represents first efforts to use more innovative and incisive methods to understand decentralisation and its impact – with more resources, such enquiries can be strengthened to provide deeper understanding. The set of studies presented here already represent exciting and important new contributions to a field that requires more attention.