Changing global public administration and its theoretical and practical implications for Africa (2023)


“Classic” theories, principles and paradigms of public administration continue to fascinate scholars because of their relevance to governmental practice, particularly in Africa. As used herein, "public administration" (in lower case) denotes governmental activities, while "public administration", often associated with Woodrow Wilson's famous 1887 essay, refers to the subject. However, New Public Management (NPM) dominated public administration from the 1970s to the 1990s, when it was replaced by 'governance'. This article examines the theory, practice, and related theories of public administration and how the centuries-old discipline has evolved from its introduction, interpretation, and application in the public sector in each era. It will conclude that these developments have had mixed consequences for Africa, which the article focuses on, largely due to the impact of colonialism on the continent's public administration. Using selected examples from African countries, this article draws on a qualitative and literature analysis of the issues discussed. Africa, like other 'Third World' or developing regions, is largely perceived as a consumer of the mostly Western dominated or inclined public administration, New Public Management and governance models it has inherited mainly from colonialism.

Keywords:Public Management Theory, New Public Management, Governance, Africa.


The field of public administration has experienced a continuous shift from one theory to another for well over 100 years (1880s-2014). Public Administration, the oldest theory introduced in 1887, was replaced by New Public Management (NPM) from the 1970s to the 1990s. NPM itself has been replaced by governance (1990s to present – ​​2014). This article attempts to explain the seemingly endless movement from one theory to another in this area and how this affected the African continent. It analyzes the historical development of the subject, in particular the later introduction of NPM; the successes and limitations of NPM and the emergence of governance as an alternative approach. These authors concur with the view that public administration as a subject in universities and colleges worldwide, to the extent that the practice of public administration is now fully integrated into the operational needs of the public sector of many countries, is similarly recognized as a discipline in its own right recognized as disciplines, just as economics, history, psychology, political science, sociology, law, philosophy, etc. are recognized (Peters and Pierre, 2003: 7). A concerted attempt has been made over the years by numerous scholars to define its scope, terms and conceptual features, including what are commonly known as theories of public administration (Basu, 2009; Peters and Pierre, 2003; Thoenig, 2003 ; Knott and Hammond). , 2003 and Heady, 1984).

Due to the difficulty of developing this topic, some terms like "discipline", "theory", "paradigm", "concept", "terminology" etc. have been used interchangeably and probably to the detriment of the topic. While acknowledging this apparent limitation, it cannot be assumed that public administration, as a school of thought, does not have its own body of knowledge, encompassing theories, concepts and systematically researched frameworks that have shaped its development path.

In this regard, the methodology and approach taken in this paper deserves some attention.


The methodology chosen in this article essentially follows a qualitative approach in order to understand the connections between public administration, new public management (NPM) and governance as well as their practical manifestation in Africa. The article attempts to trace the main arguments of scholars who, over the centuries, posited the formulation and reformulation of a range of ideas for the development of what later became popularly known as public administration; its practical implementation, particularly within a government or the public sector; as well as its metamorphosis into NPM and governance.

The authors assume that the subject of public administration and its practical form are now so widely accepted worldwide that a methodical development of this body of knowledge through systematic analysis and criticism is possible. In this article, such a systematic analysis and critique essentially takes the form of a document and literature analysis and theoretical postulation to try to explain the development of the issue and uncover its implications for Africa. Due to the wealth of literature that has evolved over the centuries, the authors have undertaken a review of the existing literature on public administration and its practical component in order to understand how far the school of thought has come and to analyze its evolutionary path.

The literature research was not about creating a bibliography, but about identifying references that focus on the authors' central questions. It is recognized that Africa is not homogeneous but a very diverse and complex set of countries, divided largely into Anglophone, Lusophone, Francophone (i.e. former British, Portuguese and French colonies respectively) and the Afro-Arab countries of North Africa (Ndjoze- Ojo, 2008:162). These geopolitical dynamics are taken into account in the analysis and are not overlooked. However, despite the vast geographical landscape of Africa, the enormous demographic and cultural differences and the fact that the continent now includes 54 independent countries within the framework of the article, an attempt was made not to cover every region comprehensively, but instead to draw conclusions from the available literature whenever possible based on a few selected examples.

conception of public administration

The importance of creating common concepts in the development of a body of knowledge is crucial. However, in the case of public administration, scholars often disagree about concepts or terms, particularly the name of the discipline itself (Coetzee, 2012:16). Observers similarly note that:

While theory and practice, as well as a range of academic disciplines, compete for control over the study of public administration, the fundamental point should be stressed that all of these perspectives bring something to help illuminate public sector administration (Peters and Pierre, 2003: 7).

Therefore, this article also does not postulate to offer a generally acceptable definition of the idea. However, some distinguish between lowercase “public administration” and “public administration” (uppercase P and A) (Coetzee, 2012:30) based on the origin and content of the subject. In terms of content, Botes et al. (1997:257) argue that public administration (in capital letters) is an academic discipline or subject taught in tertiary institutions, while "public administration" (in lower case) denotes the implementation of a country's laws, rules and regulations, to meet the needs of citizens (see also Botes et al., 1997; Coetzee, 2012:16-21). That is to say: 'One teaches public administration, but one conducts or conducts public administration' (Kent-Brown and Roux, 2003:68). In terms of origin, according to Fox and Meyer (1995), Coetzee (2012:30) and Basu (2009:1), the practice of public administration is as old as mankind itself, while public administration is almost a century old.

Moreover, the rudimentary development of this subject is inseparable from the work of the German sociologist Max Weber, "... who developed much of what is now called the theory of bureaucracy" (Robbin and Barnwell 2002:42, 487; Fox et al ., 2000:79). This includes in particular his focus on the field of public administration and its general characteristics such as "hierarchy, formal authority, division of labor according to specialization, employment according to merit, merit after training and other formal preparation, remuneration according to the civil servant's performance". functions … to increase efficiency” (Cooper et al., 1998:5-6). However, observers have argued that "the Weberian or 'classical' model of bureaucracy [or public administration] essentially applies to the countries of Western Europe, which are the prototypes for developed or modernized polities". (Heady, 1984:76).

Some important stages in the development of public administration are outlined below.

development of public administration

According to Coetzee (2012:35-36) and Basu (2009:16), the first phase in the development of public administration as a systematic study began with the publication of Woodrow Wilson's The Study of Administration in 1887, during what Basu called "The Study of Administration". Era of "political-administrative dichotomy" (1887-1926). Distinguishing between politics and administration, Wilson viewed administration as concerned with the implementation of policy decisions, not with their implementation (Uwizeyimana, 2013:2). Also Goodnow'spolitics and administration' 1900, supporting Wilson's theme, identified three separate governmental agencies (powers), which he called "the execution of the will of the state" (Goodnow, in Shafritz et al., 2004: 35-37). The first was the judiciary, which makes laws (Goodnow, 1900:17-26); followed by "the executive authorities", whose function is "general supervision of the execution of the will of the state" (ibid.). The third was the administrative authority, whose function was "to attend to the scientific, technical, and, as it were, commercial activities of government" (Goodnow, 1900:17-27; Goodnow in Shafritz et al., 2004:35-37). .

Still, it's Leonard White's "Introduction."to study public administration"1926, recognized as the first textbook on the subject (Basu, 2009:16; Hyde and Shafritz, 2012:12). The second stage called "scientific management" (akaPrinciples of the administration phase) ranges from 1927 to 1937 (Nasrullah, 2005:199; Basheka, 2012:41). According to Basu (2009:17), the central belief of this period was that certain "principles of administration" existed and scholars needed to discover and advocate.

The most influential of these scientists is Frederick W. Taylor, often referred to as the "founder of science management" (Locke, 1982:14). In 1909, Taylor proposed that productivity would increase by optimizing and simplifying jobs. In one of his experiments, "Taylor experimented with a shovel design until he had one that would allow workers to shovel for several hours at a time" (Mindtools, undated: 1). With masons, according to Costanzo (2014:2), he experimented with the different movements required and developed an efficient method of laying bricks. The literature shows that the people who imported Taylor's "scientific management" theories and Fayol's "theories of business administration" directly into the public sector were Gulick and Urwick, through their famous acronym POSDCORB, which stands for steps in the administrative process, namely: Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Coordinating, Reporting and Budgeting (Gulick, 1936:3). Thanks to Sarah Greer, a bilingual assistant to Luther Gulick, for finding and translating a 1923 speech by Fayol on "The Administrative Theory in the State". Gulick and Urwick (1937) were able to publish the acronym (Wren et al., 2002:906; Basu, 2009:17). Largely derived from the work of French industrialist Henri Fayol, it first appeared in a staff newspaper in 1936 “Notes on the Theory of Organization”, written by Luther Gulick and Lyndall Urwick for the Brownlow Committee in 1937 (Basu, 2009:17). As a mining engineer and mining director, Henri Fayol's theories were developed for the private sector in general and for the mining industry in particular. It could therefore be argued that the application of the principles of scientific management in the private sector was based on a set of well-known scientific experiments, while this was not the case in the public sector.

The third phase in the development of public administration, known as the "era of heterodoxy and challenge" (1938-1947) (Coetzee, 2012:37; Basheka, 2012:43), was a reaction to what was perceived as a mechanical approach the scientific management. The so-called “principles of administration” have been questioned and labeled as “naturalistic errors” and “proverbs” (Basu, 2009:19). In short, according to the University of Mumbai (undated: 12), “This period witnessed the spectacle of political science that not only allowed public administration to be divorced from what was then considered a major, but also not its growth and to promote and promote their development in their own field". Inevitably, at the time, there was serious disagreement about whether public administration deserves (or not) to be a science in its own right or a subset of political science? Thus, in the post-World War II era, public administration's claim to be a science and a separate discipline or field of study from political science was challenged. This led to the perception of public administration as both a political science and an administrative science, and subsequently to the development of administrative theory (Lungu, 1986:126).

The most notable contribution to this era came from the famous Hawthorne experiments of 1920-1932. The Hawthorne study found that productivity in organizations was not only influenced by the way work was designed and the economic rewards associated with it but also by “certain social, ecological and psychological factors as well” (Basu, 2009:19). The focus then shifted to “human relations” in both private and public sector organizations (Basu, 2009:19).

the fourth stage,New Public Administration (NPA), a period of “identity crisis” (Basheka, 2012:51), spanned from 1948 to 1970 and is characterized by the rejection of administrative principles and the politics-administrative dichotomy (Basu, 2009: 19). Accordingly, the latter approach not only recognized the political environment in which administration functioned, particularly in the public sector, but also posited that politics and public administration should be separated. However, as an extensive body of literature has shown, this would be easier said than done, given that public administration operates in a largely political environment and "...the constant and insistent demands that 'politics' place on administration..." ( Wamalwa, 1986:59; Uwizeyimana, 2013:171). This phase was heralded in the 1940s by two major publications, Simon's Administrative Behavior and Robert Dahl's essay, The Science of Public Administration: Three Problems. According to Nasrullah (2005:200), by rejecting both the "classical principles of administration" and the "political-administrative dichotomy" in administrative thought and action, Simon's approach broadened the scope of the subject by merging it with psychology, sociology and economics related and political science. The fifth stage is known as “New Public Management – ​​​​NPM”.,which lasted from the 1970s to the late 1990s (Nasrullah, 2005:200, Basheka, 2012:51). NPM or 'managerialism' essentially aimed to transform the traditional tenets of 'old' or Weberian public management, particularly through increased private sector involvement in public institutions (Uwizeyimana, 2008:20). As observers have noted, “almost every reform in the 1980s and 1990s involved the involvement of one or more large management consultancies…” such as Andersen, Ernst and Young and KPMG (Maphunye, 2003:7, citing Pollit and Bouckaert, 2000:20).

NPM dominated the field until the early 1990s when it was replaced by a new paradigm, governance (from the late 1990s to the present) (Basheka, 2012:56). Governance theory, in turn, produced what has come to be known as 'good governance' (Levy, 2002). In Africa, this approach is usually associated with multilateral or donor organizations and is closely related to “institutional reforms to strengthen political governance…” (Hope, 2003:4). Key to its mechanisms is the improvement of "...administrative and public services...the strengthening of parliamentary oversight...the promotion of participatory decision-making...and the adoption of judicial reforms" (Hope, 2003:4). The approach emphasized evaluating and improving governance and the quality of bureaucracy using specific "governance indicators" (Levy, 2002:14-22).

All of these phases, with the exception of NPM and Governance (i.e. Phase 1-4), constitute what this article refers to as legacy/traditional public administration. In the case of Africa, much of this debate about the historical development outlined above took place mainly in Europe and North America, although much of it had serious implications for public administration in many developing countries.

Table 1 traces different stages of public administration development and the movement from legacy/traditional public administration to NPM and governance.

Criticism of the "old" public administration

Traditional public administration contributed in many countries around the world until the late 1960s and early 1970s (Ibrahim, 2012). In the 1970s, however, new, market-oriented management systems were required. The need for such a management system arose from the increasing criticism that traditional public administration was no longer suitable for modern circumstances and should therefore be replaced (Ibrahim, 2012:1). Some criticisms centered on large-scale government leading to over-consumption of resources. Government involvement in too many activities; widespread bureaucracy; high inflation rates; the lack of a separation between politics and administration; the lack of rational decision-making; and disregard for citizen satisfaction (Ibrahim, 2012:1).

Others targeted inefficiency, corruption, lack of accountability and inflexibility (Ibrahim, 2012:1). In the face of such criticism, it is not surprising that countries that have recently gained independence, e.g. South Africa, wanted to 'transform' their Weberian-type public administration systems by learning from the best practices of 'public service systems [like those] in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore and the United Kingdom' (Maphunye, 2003:7). Perhaps the harshest criticism of traditional public administration has focused on its implementation of policy. His emphasis on the supremacy of politicians over administrators (as in the politics-administration dichotomy) (1887-1930) and his overemphasis on scientific management methods (according to POSDCORB) after Gulick and Urwick's "Paperson theAdministrative Science" in1937 had a negative impact on the relationship between politicians and administrators. Politicians have been variously described as politicians, statesmen (Wilson, 1887:28-29) and legislators (Goodnow, 1900:17-26). Traditional public administration saw politicians as the top of the bureaucratic pyramid (Weber, 1946 in Shafritz et al., 2004:50) and as key actors in policy formation and implementation. This assumes that policy implementation is a machine-like process (Cloete and Wissink, 2000:167) and views subordinates as cogs in the policy implementation machinery (Hjern and Hull, 1982:107; Moya, 2002:30; Botes in Cloete and Wissink, 2000:167). The model also assumed that subordinates are passive and unconditional recipients and executors of directives from politicians/politicians at the top, obediently, dutifully and with military precision (Uwizeyimana, 2011:110, citing Matland, 1995:146; Cloete and Wissink, 2000:166-167).

This apple of discord, as revealed in the 1980s debates about the “convergence thesis” by Joel Aberbach and his colleagues, clouded public discourse for decades. Their research attempted to uncover the limitations of the so-called politics-administration dichotomy, and instead suggested that high-ranking officials (bureaucrats) and their political leaders (ministers) tended to think more alike because they were faced with increasingly similar problems (Aberbach et al., 1981).

Some major criticisms of the scientific model were its ignorance of the implications of the prevailing environmental conditions and/or social, economic and political contexts in which government operates; and ignoring human factors such as resisting administrative orders (Uwizeyimana, 2011:112). communities. Therefore, a few years after the inauguration of Nelson Mandela's African National Congress government in 1994, the country saw several public protests against the provision of services. It is the harsh criticism of traditional/old public management that contributed to the rapid emergence of the new New Public Management (NPM) model in the late 1980s/1990s (Ibrahim, 2012:1).

In the case of many African countries, it must be noted that the above period was an era largely characterized by the general implementation of economic structural adjustment programs (Uwizeyimana, 2006:37); which inevitably provoked resistance and rejection from the citizens of African countries who had to implement such programs. As Olowu wrote in his essay on “The crisis of African public administration“, the reform of the African public administration to such programs or even NPM was essentially shaped by the ancient colonial legacy. He argues that “the continent's systems of public administration have functioned in the shadow of the colonial state model since their development in the early parts of the twentieth century” (Olowu, 2003: 510).


The New Public Management (NPM) era stretched from the 1970s to the late 1990s, although these public management reforms were slow to take hold in many African countries for the reasons outlined above. It is not surprising, therefore, that even when these reforms finally reached African shores, many countries on the continent were still suffering the shocks and impacts of structural adjustment programs, making them less receptive to yet another new model of public administration that would likely improve their situation . As Olowu correctly defines these impacts, many African countries adversely affected by the programs have had to cut their public services drastically; Some public companies were sold to the private sector, leading to a negative perception among Africans of new initiatives such as NPM that later followed (Olowu, 2003: 510).

As for its origins, according to Gruening (2001:1) and Bala and Alibali (2010:75), the first practitioners of NPM emerged in the UK under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1979–90) and in UK local governments in the US (e.g B. Sunnyvale, California) who had suffered the most from economic recession and tax revolts. The governments of New Zealand and Australia were the next to join the movement (Bala and Alibali, 2010:75). It is success in these pioneering countries that has put NPM administrative reforms on the agendas of most OECD countries and other nations (Grüning, 2001:1, citing OECD, 1995). Like public administration, NPM does not have a universally acceptable definition. Some, such as Waine (2004:16), argue that NPM is a general term that refers to a range of systematic changes that have occurred in the organization of public sector services. Ormond and Loffler (2002:11) and Batley (2004:32) argue that NPM should be viewed as a "shopping list," "toolbox," or simply a "menu" with many items. From the NPM toolbox or shopping list, different countries select a few items that are useful with a view to developing an “Effective,Efficient,and economic “public management” (Uwizeyimana, 2012:11, citing Manning, 2001:297; Kessler and Alexander, 2003:2; Polidano, 1999:6-8; Mutahaba and Kiragu, 2004:51-72; Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2000).

An analysis of the relevant literature shows that NPM should be both “down grid” in the sense of relaxing procedural rules and “down group” in the sense of reducing occupational boundaries between the public and private sectors (Lodge & Gil, 2011:142). NPM pioneers such as New Zealand tried to introduce NPM principles by more radically pursuing "massive privatisation", while others such as the United Kingdom (UK) were more radical in their focus on "managerialism" (Uwizeyimana, 2008, citing O 'Neil, 1994:4). According to Steward and Walsh (1992:1), “It is actually these two different approaches (i.e.privatizationAndmanagerialism) referred to when the term New Public Management is mentioned” (Uwizeyimana, 2008:33-34). Managerialism is about the application to the public sector of “a set of specific managerial approaches and techniques that originate primarily in the private sector” (Mongkol, 2011:36). Privatization is used to denote all possible practical policy options aimed at encouraging a greater role and involvement of the private sector in the delivery, management and/or financing of traditional government services (Baird, 2004:3).

Achievements and limitations of the NPM

One of the highlights of the NPM approach was its critique of the “classic role of the civil servant as a Weberian bureaucrat…” (Lægreid, 2000:880), passively obeying orders from above, without any discretion or significant contribution to policy. Manufacturing process in public administration. During the 1970s through the late 1990s, according to Manning (2001:299), "NPM clearly presented itself as the first best model for policy implementation - public management for all seasons, or the best way" in all situations. NPM “has often been derided as a useful model for developing countries to follow from the moment the trend is spotted” (Manning, 2001:297). According to Osborne and Gaebler (1992 in Manning, 2001:299), many managerial innovations were also well packaged as the best of their time; but the "NPM was distinctive in that it carried end-of-story overtones, suggesting that we were fortunate to be in public administration at a time when the truth had been discovered" (Manning, 2001:299) . For example, its proponents claimed that "the NPM menu or toolbox" was not a dietary supplement to its managerial predecessors - "NPM seemed to replace the previous managerial diet once and for all" (Manning, 2001:300). Evidence shows that the NPM did not win as resoundingly as it claimed (Mangkol, 2011:35).

One of the most compelling analyzes of the successes and failures of NPM in developed countries such as Switzerland and the Netherlands was provided by Noordhoek and Saner in their 2005 article entitled "Beyond New Public Management: Answers to the demands of politics and society". In this article, Noordhoek and Saner (2005:36) argue that NPM was actively promoted by Professor Ernst Buschor in Switzerland in the early 1990s, when he was still Professor of Management at the University of St. Gallen, the leading MBA school Switzerland, was . As in many other developed and developing countries (e.g. New Zealand, Wallis and Dollery, 2001), “NPM principles have been proposed to the Swiss administrations as a sine qua non to achieve a modern form of public administration” (Noordhoek and Saner , 2005:36).

Despite the seemingly “unstoppable implementation of the NPM in Switzerland, there were also clear indications of increasing implementation difficulties and strong reservations by some leading scientists” (Noordhoek and Saner, 2005:3). In the case of Switzerland, according to Noordhoek and Saner (2005:35), "NPM was rejected by the votes of two parliaments, one provincial parliament, the other municipal parliament". As they put it: “Voters raised concerns about the incompatibility of NPM with the existing administrative culture, and others objected to the political implications of NPM for the federal and political constitution of Switzerland and its civil rights” (Noordhoek and Saner, 2005: 36 ). For example, in Geneva, a major city and canton in Switzerland, NPM projects ventured in the mid-1990s, but then abandoned the venture because the associated privatization element was seen as "a step too far" (Noordhoek and Saner, 2005:4).

Unlike Manning (2001:298) who argues that "NPM has not been used extensively in practice outside of its original OECD/Commonwealth habitat"; a wealth of literature suggests that the IMF and World Bank and other international financial institutions (IFIs) “harnessed the need for credit and debt relief in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa to increase the pace and scale of New Public Management style reforms in the 1980s and 1990s” (Uwizeyimana, 2008:34-35, cited Common, 2001:440-448; Baird, 2004:3; Björkman, 2003:2). The Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) have been described as "the main vehicle through which the NPM principles were transported and expanded in some sub-Saharan African countries in the 1980s" (Osei, 2002:3; ECA, 2003:5; Mutahaba and Kiragu, 2004:51-72). Apart from the donor organizations' insistence on “managerialism” or decentralized management as part of a package of public sector reforms in Africa (ECA, 2003:17), “privatization was the most important condition imposed by the IMF and World Bank on developing countries' access to have credit and debt relief” (Tangri, 1999:38; Grusky, 2001:46; Uwizeyimana, 2012:148). Unfortunately, in the case of many African countries, the multiple donor-driven attempts to introduce NPM-related public sector reforms have usually been associated with the negative image of Africa as “…a continent mired in socio-political conflict, armed conflict and military dictatorships , disease, corruption, vulnerability to the elements leading to famine and a global decline in living standards…” (Kamoche, 2002:994). Whether NPM-like reforms were the panacea for such challenges has therefore always been a matter of debate.

Reasons for the NPM error

The main reason why the NPM has not won as resoundingly as it promised in both developed and developing countries is that its debate has failed to establish a visible "public service ethos" or "public service culture". established that are distinct from the old/traditional public administration they sought to replace (Manning, 2001:302). For example, some important features of the old public administration remained, such as "the ongoing discipline of compliance management". Furthermore, “most functions of government retained their vertically integrated bureaucracies, functioning much as Weber might have intended more than a century ago” (Manning, 2001:302; Bhatta, 2003:12). Manning asserts that "any examination of developments in public administration in any developing country in any region shows beyond any doubt that hierarchical bureaucracies have not been essentially replaced by chains of interconnected contracts" (2001:302).

Finally, the NPM failed to connect to existing key factors for improving public service and failed to create them where they did not exist. According to Noordhoek and Saner (2005:38-40), "NPM has been used too much as a method in its own right, with little or no consideration of the economic and socio-political context in which it was applied." replaced by governance after partially achieving the goals set by its proponents.


According to Maldonado (2010:3), "governance" was first identified in the 1989 World Bank study "Sub-Saharan Africa – from crisis to sustainable growth”to describe the need for institutional reform and a better and more efficient public sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. The 1989 Africa study defined governance as “the exercise of political power to administer the affairs of a nation” (Maldonado, 2010:3) in an effective, efficient and economical manner (emphasis mine). The notion of “governance” as espoused by Western countries and financial institutions is suggested by Cajvaneanu (2011:113-114), who argues that:

“The concept of governance accompanied a paradigm shift in economic thinking by focusing on political institutions as determinants of economic development and growth. The World Bank's question was, "What types of political institutions were required to create and maintain an institutional infrastructure that resulted in transaction cost savings?"

This is consistent with the argument of scholars who advocate for a democratic developing state in Africa, whose public administration will be more relevant to the continent's current development challenges (Maphunye, 2011). As with its predecessors, particularly the NPM, the focus of governance, as initially envisaged by the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank (WB), was again on the growth of the economy and this was to be achieved through the use of private sector principles in government service . To some extent, this has meant the World Bank and IMF's neglect of broadly social and political issues (Uwizeyimana, 2014:1), which have not been analyzed extensively here as they are beyond the scope of this article.

Therefore, a relevant question is how issues of democracy and social justice became part of governance. According to Grindle (2010:6-7), it is the human rights community and the United Nations, including its affiliates such as UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), human rights organizations such as Human Right Watch and Amnesty International, but above all social and environmental organizations that “with considerable Strength and reason asserted that countries with good governance respect human rights” (UNDP, 1997; Chowdhury and Skarstedt, 2005:5). Once these organizations had created a belief that “good governance” is essential to—and, in their view, a prerequisite for—development, these environmentalists and human rights activists certainly benefited from having their cause listed among the characteristics of good governance ( Grindle, 2010:7).

This is not to deny the role of the IMF/World Bank in promoting development in Africa (Davids et al., 2005:30, 90) or its concern for democracy and human rights worldwide. According to Dañino (2006:7) and Maldonado (2010:16), the Bank [and other IFIs] could only take human rights considerations into account in three specific situations: “First, when the borrowing country asks the Bank to do so; second, when human rights violations have had economic repercussions; and third, when a violation of human rights would result in a breach of international obligations relevant to the bank, such as those created by binding decisions of the UN Security Council.” It is clear from this analysis that the bank only needs time to consider a country's human rights record occurs when the violation of these rights affects foreign investors and when such violation results in a situation in which the country is unable to meet its financial obligations to the World Bank. Examples of countries that have avoided the economic sanctions Zimbabwe faces today for embracing the neoliberal structural adjustments advocated by the World Bank and IMF despite their poor human rights record are Rwanda under Maj. Gen. Paul Kagame and Uganda under Lt. Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (Uwizeyimana, 2012). The following is clear evidence that the term governance was invented by the IMF/World Bank and that its original intent was solely for economic development - not human rights or democracy etc.

Governance as an IMF/World Bank project

An analysis of the World Bank (and all its affiliated banks) such as the African Development Bank's (AFDB) own "Articles of Agreement" leaves no doubt that the World Bank disagreed with the inclusion of demands such as human rights, democracy, social justice etc .in its governance proposals. According to Maldonado (2010: 22), "at the beginning of the governance debate, the bank limited itself to 'purely' economic aspects of its work and thus followed a strict interpretation of the bank's statutes". For example, Article IV, § 10 of the “Articles of Incorporation” dictates that the Bank must in all circumstances refrain from taking political considerations into account in its work (Maldonado, 2010:13). This section, entitled “Political Activity Prohibited,” reads as follows:

The Bank and its officers shall not interfere in the political affairs of any member; Nor may their decisions be influenced by the political nature of the member or members concerned. Only economic considerations are relevant to their decisions, and these considerations must be weighed impartially in order to achieve the purposes set out in Article I (World Bank, Article IV,§ 10; Sheeran und Rodley, 2014:267).

In addition, the prohibition on political activities also refers to two Articles III and Article V of the Bank's Statute, which read as follows:

Art. III, Section 5(b): The Bank takes precautions to ensure that the proceeds of a loan are used only for the purposes for which the loan was granted, with due regard to considerations of economy and efficiency and without regard to political or otherwise non-economic influences or considerations (World Bank Article; Article III, Section 5(b) see alsopalace, 2006:2).

Both Articles III and V of the World Bank Memorandum of Understanding are strengthened by Article V Section 5(c), which reads as follows:

The President, officers and personnel of the Bank owe their duties in the exercise of their offices solely to the Bank and to no other authority. Each Member of the Bank shall respect the international character of this duty and shall refrain from any attempt to influence any of them in the performance of its duties (Article V, Section 5 (c);palace, 2006:2).

Article 38 Section 2 of the Agreement Establishing the African Development Bank (AFDB) emphasizes that “The Bank, its President, Vice-Presidents, officers and employees shall not interfere in the political affairs of any member; nor may their decisions be influenced by the political nature of the member concerned. Only economic considerations are decisive for their decisions. Such considerations must be weighed impartially in order to fulfill and carry out the Bank's responsibilities” (AFDB, 2011:31). Section 5 of Article 15, dealing with “Terms of Funding”, states: “The Fund shall make arrangements to ensure that the proceeds of any Funding are used only for the purposes for which the Funding was provided, and with due regard taking into account considerations of economy, efficiency and competitive international trade and without regard to political or other non-economic influences or considerations” (AFDB, 2011:8).

The authors claim that the activities or operations of human rights and other democratic movements have been affected in some African countries where the IMF, World Bank and other IFIs deliberately ignored unfavorable socio-political conditions of citizens as perpetrated by their own governments during the course were enforcing public sector reforms such as NPM and good governance. Nonetheless, it is recognized that this offshoot of these reforms themselves merits systematic treatment and study, which is beyond the scope of the analysis in this article.

Nevertheless, there is a strong connection between this discussion about the agreements between the IMF/World Bank and the NPM and the governance debate with the economic policy development processes currently taking place in Africa. As the analysis in this article shows, much of the debate or historical development outlined here took place mainly in Europe and North America, and was introduced to some extent by the IFIs and Western donor countries in Africa. The trend has been like this over the years. Whether it was Daniel Arap Moi (former Kenyan President, 1978-2002), Jerry Rawlings (former Ghanaian President, 1966-1968) or Yoweri Museveni, current Ugandan President (1986-) - all their regimes had to demonstrate and unite before the IMF, WB Western donors that they are capable of enforcing anti-democratic, anti-union and other misanthropic policies (Boafo-Arthur, 1999:17 in Alidu and Ame, 2012). For example, while critics have accused Paul Kagame, the Rwandan President of being authoritarian and trampling on political freedoms, he (Kagame) has continued to garner international praise for the country's reconstruction after the 1994 genocide, and both the IFIs and many foreign governments continued to applaud Rwanda's development achievements (Clover et al., 2013:1).


The development of public administration, both as an object and as a practice, has produced largely mixed results, particularly for Africa. On the one hand, Africa has enjoyed the spin-offs of the largely developed countries over the years since the development of public administration through the training of its public sector workers and public services, and through the development of its private sector and overall infrastructure. This has largely evolved into public administration as we know it in Africa today, with its distinctive features and characteristics that have largely enabled African countries to participate in the global economy. From reforms and immense developments in public administration, to the introduction of the New Public Management, to further reforming the system through the adoption of governance models, African countries have largely managed to join the rest of the world in terms of the metamorphosis of the issue Keep up; although they usually lagged behind as the overall flow of innovative ideas and practices came overwhelmingly from Western countries.

On the other hand, the development of public administration as a discipline and practice in its own right, including its subsequent derivatives, has had few positive effects on the African continent, largely because these developments largely emanated from colonialism. First, the misconception propagated by successive colonial regimes was that Africa was a mere “wasteland,” or an unpopulated geographic space in which no semblance of culture, development, or civilization existed (Arowolo, 2010: 1). Apparently this was part of the colonizers' propaganda machine to gain control over the 'subject peoples' (Arowolo, 2010:1). Second, a careful analysis of Africa's historical record before slavery and colonization shows that Africans had their own civilizations and systems of public administration that were subdued during slavery and colonialism. Third, the introduction of Western administrative systems, which largely ignored previously existing native African forms of administration, led to resentment among local populations and, in some cases, to violence and wars (Basheka, 2012). However, the enforcement of such models by the colonizers led to a reluctant acceptance of the "new" systems of public administration. Thus, over the years, it can be assumed that such models have almost always been reluctantly accepted over the years because of their association with the military conquest of Africans by the colonialists, whether dealing with public administration as an issue, practice or their later developments acted. Indeed, many African countries continue to struggle with the uneasy coexistence of 'modern' public administration with disparate flavors of 'traditional' African leadership or 'chiefs', whose status had long since been invalidated during slavery and colonialism. In some African countries (particularly in the francophone and lusophone countries) the system of indigenous or 'tribal' authorities has been practically integrated into 'modern' public administration; but where it still exists, we now have a largely watered down or corrupted version of the once powerful and effective indigenous system of authority that continues to be severely overshadowed by its western counterpart.


The aim of this article was to show that the movement from one theory of public administration to another over the past 134 years (1880s-2014) is not due to flawed theories, but to the way these theories are perceived in the public sphere were applied sector in each epoch. The application of each of the above theories has generally produced mixed results in the public sector, and in the African context in particular. This article argues that the contradiction between theoretical postulates and actual results regarding socio-economic development during the old/traditional public administration era (1887-1970) was due to the fact that the principles on which the old public administration was based were not so were designed for public use. Apart from Woodrow Wilson's contribution (introducing public administration as a science independent of politics and law), most of the principles on which the practice of public administration was based came from the private sector, as in the case of Frederick W. Taylor's scientific management, the focused on the manufacturing and construction industries. Furthermore, the acronym POSDCORB was based on Henri Fayol's theory of private enterprise - not government administration. However, they did not bother to conduct appropriate experiments in the government environment before claiming the universal applicability of the POSDCORB. In the 1970s, the idea that policies could be implemented with military precision and success achieved through strict planning; organizing, directing and controlling by checking lists had failed miserably. However, the failure of the old/traditional public administration does not mean that the POSDCORB principles have failed. The POSDCORB continues to describe the core functions of managers in both the public and private sectors. What has led to the failure of the old/traditional public administration is the rigid application of the POSDCORB and other scientific management approaches of that era, and the failure of their proponents to recognize that government cannot be run as a mining, manufacturing or manufacturing industry. Nor have proponents of old/traditional public administration realized that complex problems and environmental uncertainties require that the problem be not only defined and redefined, but also that a policy be interpreted and reviewed throughout the policy's lifespan (Alesch et al Petak, 2001: 2-3). All attempts to apply the cybernetic paradigms were bound to fail when applied in a non-industrial process (ie state) (Hofstede, 1978).

Unfortunately, the proponents of the NPM were no different. As the article has shown, the first and most important weakness of the NPM debate was that its proponents marketed it as a new and different approach to governance. However, this article found that the NPM was unable to establish a visible "civil service ethos" or "civil service culture" distinct from that of the legacy/traditional public administration it sought to replace . For example, it retained the bureaucratic structure of government (Manning, 2001:302) and applied the principles of private corporate governance (similar to POSDCORB) in the administration of the state. The only difference was that it emphasized privatization as clearly as the old/traditional public administration. Second, while the NPM sought to replace the old/traditional public administration, it failed to create a neutral and depoliticized bureaucracy (Manning, 2001:302). This article has shown that one of the weaknesses of the NPM was its ability to take into account the context of the socio-economic environment in which the government operates. For example, the NPM was abandoned in some of the countries discussed in this article because citizens expressed concerns about the lack of democracy, lack of accountability, and the high cost of goods and services as a result of NPM reforms.

Finally, this article notes significant differences between the interpretation of the term “governance” provided by IFIs (such as banks) and non-IFIs such as UNDP, Human Rights Watch, etc. There is ample evidence that a number of IFIs such as the World Bank and AFDB have addressed social justice, democracy and human rights issues in their definition of governance and in the principles governing their lending practices, consciously and expressly excluded. The fact that organizations with financial strength such as the IFIs differed from human rights and environmental organizations on the content and meaning of governance had a major impact on the acceptance, practice and ultimately the success of governance. This is because while the IFIs could use their financial power to coerce governments in need of credit and financial support to adopt governance (including issues of democracy, human rights and social justice), these IFIs rarely do so . The IFIs have clarified that the proceeds of their loans must be used with due regard to considerations of economy and efficiency and without regard to political or other non-economic influences or considerations. Because of this guarantee, governments like that in Rwanda have no incentive to promote human rights and democracy etc. Based on the challenges identified through this research, this article concludes that the theories of public management did not live up to the way they were introduced, interpreted and applied in the public sector, were not as expected but were not flawed. The problem seems to be that policies originally designed to achieve individualistic private business interests and goals have often been transported to the public sector without prior experimentation. Therefore, based on the reasoning of this article, it is safe to conclude that after the “current theory of governance”, new theories are needed to help explain the new dynamics that public administration as a discipline and as a practice must now contend with . However, new or future theories must also address the failure of governance theory to explain contemporary phenomena such as the trade-offs between human rights violations and economic growth that are the direct consequences of World Bank/IMF agreements. This is especially true given that the sustainability of any theory depends on its ability to adapt to changes in a changing environment in which governments operate and public administration is practiced.


The author has declared no conflict of interest.


A previous version of this article was published on the 13ththSouth African Association of Public Administration and Management (SAAPAM) Annual Conference, 3-5 April 2013, Cape Town. We are grateful for the constructive comments we have received from members of the association on the original version of this article. Thanks also to the three anonymous reviewers for their comments, constructive criticism, and advice, which helped us improve the article significantly.


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As a discipline, Public Administration is linked to the pursuit of public good through the enhancement of civil society and social justice in order to make life more acceptable for citizens through the work done by officials within government institutions and to enable these institutions to achieve their objectives at ...

What is the administrative system in South Africa? ›

South Africa is a constitutional democracy with a three-tier system of government and an independent judiciary. The national, provincial and local levels of government all have legislative and executive authority in their own spheres, and are defined in the Constitution as distinctive, interdependent and interrelated.

What are the benefits of globalisation in Africa? ›

Rising incomes elsewhere in the world have increased demand for African commodities and natural resources, boosting national economies. Globalization has also supported knowledge transfer, enabling African countries to improve living standards by “leapfrogging” to new technologies.

What is the role of globalization in this modern time? ›

Globalization allows companies to find lower-cost ways to produce their products. It also increases global competition, which drives prices down and creates a larger variety of choices for consumers. Lowered costs help people in both developing and already-developed countries live better on less money.

How does globalization affect management practices? ›

Globalization has also impacted management because it has led to many employees transfers to international locations. This causes the need for more management and forms of communication. This also requires management to consider the needs of employees in other countries, and to offer compensation for relocation.

Is globalization a curse or blessings to Africa? ›

Globalization has both negative and positive aspects. Among the negative aspects are the rapid spread of diseases, illicit drugs, crime, terrorism, and uncontrolled migration. Among globalization's benefits are a sharing of basic knowledge, technology, investments, resources, and ethical values.

What is the positive impact of globalization on developing countries? ›

Globalization also gives organizations the opportunity to take advantage of lower labor costs in developing countries, while leveraging the technical expertise and experience of more developed economies. With globalization, different parts of a product may be made in different regions of the world.

What are the positive and negative impact of globalization? ›

Globalization has allowed society to enjoy many benefits, including increased global cooperation, reduced risk of global conflict, and lower prices for goods and commodities. Unfortunately, it's also led to serious negative effects on the environment.

What are the 5 key drivers of globalization? ›

Broadly speaking, economic, financial, political, technological and social factors have paved the way to globalization. Economic factors mainly include lower trade and investment barriers.

What are the impacts of globalization? ›

Globalization has positive effects such as increase in national income, access to global capital, emergence of new business opportunities, increase in loans and investments, technology transfer, development of energy and communication sub- structures, improvement of labor quality and working conditions and ...

What is the impact of globalization on society? ›

Globalization is associated with rapid and significant human changes. The movements of people from rural to urban areas has accelerated, and the growth of cities in the developing world especially is linked to substandard living for many. Family disruption and social and domestic violence are increasing.

How globalization led to underdevelopment of Africa? ›

Globalization and its Consequences on African Development

In the economic sector, the distribution of global wealth has never been fair, but globalization has widened the chasm between rich and poor. In sub-Saharan Africa and some other less-developed regions, income has actually decreased in the past three decades.

Why are large parts of Africa bypassed by globalisation? ›

Africa's poor road networks make it prohibitive for the continent to participate effectively in the global economy. Much of the discussion on industrial policy is futile without adequate transportation and energy infrastructure, as a recent study by the Brookings Institution notes.

How much does Africa contribute to the global economy? ›

around US$2.7 trillion


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