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Local Governance in Africa: The Challenges of Democratic Decentralization

Dele Olowu and James S. Wunsch
with contributions by Joseph Ayee, Gerrit M. Deslooverer, Simon Fass, Dan Ottemoeller, and Paul Smoke
Local Governance in Africa: The Challenges of Democratic Decentralization
ISBN: 978-1-58826-173-1
2003/310 pages/LC: 2003046724
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"An indispensable guide for all African government ministries handling local government reform."—Arthur Abraham, African Studies Review


Why have some decentralization reforms led to viable systems of local governance in Africa, while others have failed? Exploring this question, the authors outline the key issues involved, provide historical context, and identify the factors that have encouraged or discouraged success.

Detailed studies of seven African states are grounded in a common analytical framework, one that emphasizes the importance both of national policy and of local problem-solving initiatives. The final chapter of the book revisits the country studies, offering a new approach to explaining the emergence of effective local governance.


Dele Olowu heads the Public Policy and Administration Program at the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. His most recent publications include Better Governance and Public Policy: Capacity Building and Democratic Renewal in Africa and African Perspectives on Governance. James S. Wunsch is director of the African Studies Program and professor of political science and international studies and department chair at Creighton University. His extensive work on Africa includes The Failure of the Centralized State: Institutions and Self-Governance in Africa (coauthored with Dele Olowu) and Primary Health Care and Local Governance in Nigeria.


  • Preface.
  • Introduction: Local Governance and Decentralization in Africa.
  • The Historical Context.
  • New Dimensions in African Decentralization.
  • South Africa and Botswana: The Impact of the National Context.
  • Nigeria: Local Governance and Primary Heath Care.
  • Ghana: A Top-Down Initiative—J. Ayee.
  • Chad: Governance by the Grassroots—S. Fass and G.M. Desloovere.
  • Uganda: Multiple Levels of Local Governance—J.S. Wunsch and D. Ottemoeller.
  • Kenya: Erosion and Reform from the Center—P. Smoke.
  • Conclusion: What Have We Learned?