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Proposals booklet on Governance and public services - paper n°2010-05

Not giving up on the dream of development

By Falilou Mbacké Cissé, Alliance pour Refonder la Gouvernance en Afrique (Alliance pour Refonder la Gouvernance en Afrique, May 31, 2010)

Despite the commitment of many actors and the wealth of initiatives at all territorial levels, provision of public services is still unsatisfactory in Africa, which is still the world’s poorest continent. Many argue that the problem lies in insufficient institutional capacities or administrative meanderings, but in fact it can be found in the link between governance and public services.

In attempts to bolster or improve the services provided to populations, the most important issues are avoided, or they are deemed of little interest. For example, isn’t it time we questioned the ‘absolute truth’ that a good decentralisation policy is always accompanied by a good de-concentration policy? Don’t we need to re-examine the approach used to divide competences between the State and local authorities? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to revise the frameworks and mechanisms of negotiation between the State, local authorities, populations and development partners?

We urgently need to rethink our approach to public services, re-situating it in the framework of governance in Africa, and we need to make governance part of how public services work.

This is the position adopted by the Alliance for Rebuilding Governance in Africa (ARGA)

after extensive study. The booklet you are now reading is the result of the Alliance’s work,which included a regional study begun in 2007, on the provision of basic public services.

The study proved the existence of a link between the lack or inadequacy of modes of

governance and problems in the sector, and it described that link. It also led to the

definition of possible avenues for reflection, research and action to improve the offer and accessibility of public services, in terms of both quantity and quality.

In its focus on political orientations and institutional configurations, but also on the practices of institutions and people in the sector, the study clearly reflects ARGA’s belief that governance is an operational concept: a concrete practice that cannot content itself with overall considerations, that proves its worth only through real-world applications.

Consequently, the study was based on feedback from actors, comparative analyses,

debate and the drafting of proposals.

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