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Decentralization in Africa: The Paradox of State Strength

J. Tyler Dickovick and James S. Wunsch, editors
Decentralization in Africa: The Paradox of State Strength
ISBN: 978-1-62637-053-1
2014/319 pages/LC: 2014002632
Also of interest: The Limits of Democratic Governance in South Africa by Louis A. Picard and Thomas Mogale
"A remarkable collection.... A must on bookshelves of any researcher with an interest in decentralization—in Africa and outside—from the point of view of the analytical method it proposes and its transposition in real world analysis."—Bernard Dafflon, Journal of Modern African Studies

"A well-researched and authoritative book on decentralization.... A must read for students and researchers interested in contemporary decentralization in Africa and ways in which regimes within the continent entrench themselves in an age of democratization."—John Boye Ejobowah, Publius: The Journal of Federalism

"An excellent and thought-provoking volume.... This well-focused group of essays is the best available survey of this important and often overlooked element of political transition in Africa."—William Reno, Northwestern University


In recent decades, laws passed by African governments to transfer power and resources to local and other subnational governments (SNGs) have been greeted by many in the policy community with enthusiasm. But how far has decentralization really gone in Africa? How well does it work? And what have been its consequences? The authors of Decentralization in Africa work within a common conceptual framework to examine the process in 10 countries, contrasting clear increases in the legal authority of SNGs with the reality of limited successes in deepening democracy.


The late J. Tyler Dickovick was associate professor of politics at Washington and Lee University. He was author of Decentralization and Recentralization in the Developing World: Comparative Studies from Africa and Latin America and coauthor of Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. James S. Wunsch is professor of political science and international studies at Creighton University. His publications include Local Governance in Africa: The Challenge of Democratic Decentralization and The Failure of the Centralized State: Institutions and Self-Governance in Africa.


  • Decentralization: Theoretical, Conceptual, and Analytical Issues—J.S. Wunsch.
  • Botswana: Political and Economic Obstacles to Decentralization—A.R. Poteete, B. Mothusi, and D. Molaodi.
  • Burkina Faso: Limited Decentralization Under Tight Oversight—P. Englebert and N. Sangaré.
  • Ethiopia: Ethnic Federalism and Centripetal Forces—J.T. Dickovick and T. Gebre-Egziabher.
  • Ghana: Decentralization in a Two-Party Democracy—J. Ayee and J.T. Dickovick.
  • Mali: Incentives and Challenges for Decentralization—S.D. Wing and B. Kassibo.
  • Mozambique: Decentralization in a Centrist Setting—B. Reaud and B. Weimer.
  • Nigeria: Issues of Capacity and Accountability in Decentralization—D. Olowu and J.S. Wunsch.
  • South Africa: Decentralization and the Apartheid Legacy—L.A. Picard and T. Mogale.
  • Tanzania: Devolution Under Centralized Governance—P. Tidemand and N. Sola.
  • Uganda: Decentralization Reforms, Reversals, and an Uncertain Future—P. Smoke, W. Muhumuza, and E. Ssewankambo.
  • African Decentralization in Comparative Perspective—J.T. Dickovick and R.B. Riedl.