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Governance in Africa's Development: Progress, prospects and challenges

The 9th Africa Partnership Forum

NEPAD Secretariat

Algiers, Algeria, 12-13 November 2007

SARPN acknowledges NEPAD as a source of this document:
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Towards a new vision and dynamism

  1. Africa is making significant progress in promoting good governance in all its dimensions. This progress is not limited to violent conflicts which are receding; but the continent’s economic growth rates in recent years have also surpassed the global average. Despite these giant strides, the enormity of the challenges faced by Africa in its new determination to accelerate the momentum of development points to a difficult and daunting task. Africa is, perhaps, the only region where poverty in increasing. The continent is also is not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

  2. Cognizant of these challenges, African leaders have pledged to take joint responsibility to eradicate widespread poverty on the continent and place their countries on a path of sustained economic growth and development as encapsulated in the adoption of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in 2001.

  3. Governance and democracy are central to Africa’s search for social, political and economic renewal. In recognition of the imperative of good governance for development, African countries, over the last decade, have made remarkable strides and commitments partners towards good governance in Africa. The 2000 Lomй Summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which adopted the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU), the Inaugural Summit of the AU in Durban, South Africa in 2002, the launch of the NEPAD in 2001 and the adoption of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) in 2003 are important landmarks in the effort to develop common values and standards of good governance in Africa.

  4. This progress is also exemplified by the adoption of a number of governance initiatives including: the 2001 AU/NEPAD Foundation Document on Conditions for Sustainable Development in Africa; the 2002 Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance; the 2002 Kananaskis G8 Africa Action Plan on Capacity Building and Conflict Resolution; the coming into force of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2004; the 2005 Commission for Africa Report; and the 2007 Potsdam G8 Action Plan for Good Financial Governance in Africa.

  5. However, the concept of “governance” is highly contested and indeed its definition and application are not without problems. Since its appropriation into the development discourse in the late 1980s, “governance” has not just become associated with its normative partner, “good”, but it is also highly politicized. “Good governance” has come to be associated with a set of technocratic variables pertaining to the functioning of a government. African governments, for their part, have expressed their concern with the politicization of “governance”, especially with how this is used as conditionality. There is generally a consensus on the continent that “governance” must be defined in a less prescriptive and technocratic manner. This definition will have to take into account the relationship of “governance” to development, democracy, state effectiveness, and the market. From this perspective, “governance” can be defined in terms of state-society relations and internal structures and processes within government as a principal organ of the state.

  6. There is, of course, a correlation between governance and development. There is widespread agreement that governance matters intrinsically and for improvement in economic and social outcomes. The evidence from cross-country analysis is clear. Governance matters instrumentally for socio-economic performance; better governance is positively associated with improved investments and growth; government effectiveness and efficient bureaucracy and the rule of law are associated with better economic performance, adult literacy; and corruption hinders development. A key lesson however, is that governance is contextual. While it is possible to identify concepts and principles of governance that are universal, they make no sense without adequate contextual reference. The peculiar conditions of each country do provide both constraints and opportunities to improve governance.

  7. Furthermore, the World Bank indicators coupled to the Mo Ibrahim Indicator of Human Development illuminates the complex relationship between governance and development in general and particularly in the African context. Scholars and practitioners such as Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, have presented intricate arguments demonstrating the causal connections between governance and democracy on growth and development.1

  8. However, current data and governance indicators allow for the presentation of meaningful correlations that are indicative of the positive impact that improved governance has had for human development on the continent. The basis of this interpretation is that Africa has recently exhibited consistent and significant growth rates that are not simply the result of the resources boom due to increased demand from Asian countries. Improvement in the investment climate and the management of macro-economic fundamentals are indicative of enhanced economic governance on the continent.

  9. It is important to note that with the increase in economic growth, there is also an increase in the rating of most African countries with regard to human development. This suggests that the resources generated by economic progress are increasingly being used more effectively and efficiently. The general improvements in the provision of health and educational services coupled to inroads into poverty suggest better governance and the management of resources to the benefit of citizens. This correlation is supported by the World Bank Governance Indicators of “Voice and Accountability”, “Government Effectiveness” and “Control of Corruption”.

  10. This data indicates that improved economic performance is linked to better governance and that improved governance has contributed to the more effective utilization of resources. Africa appears to be moving forward in terms of economic growth, human development as well as democratic and political governance.

  1. See Stiglitz, J. “More Instruments and Broader Goals: Moving Toward the Post-Washington Consensus”. The 1998 WIDER Annual Lecture Helsinki, Finland:; Sen, A. “Development as Freedom”. Anchor Books, New York 2000.

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