This review essay outlines and discusses the conceptual and empirical dimensions of decentralisation in Africa. It examines the link between decentralisation, development and good governance. The essay contends that even if decentralisation has been embraced by several countries as an institutional reform capable of transforming intergovernmental relations, fiscal arrangements in local governments, increasing people’s popular participation and enhancing accountability, there is evidence that suggests that the ‘good governance’ dividends of decentralisation remain limited. The key conclusion is that though the new decentralisation efforts aimed at reshaping central-local power relations of the state, introduction of markets into public service provision, and allowing civil society to play a greater role in public governance than was the case in the past, significant issues of political capture and manipulation continue to undermine its gains. This also appears to have reduced the capacity of decentralisation to engineer the much touted good governance tenets of transparency, accountability, efficiency and value-for-money to transform the ways the African states operate.
Key words: Good governance, decentralisation, popular participation, accountability and state-society relations.
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