‘Classical’ public administration theories, principles and paradigms continually fascinate scholars given their relevance to government practices especially in Africa. As used here, ‘public administration’ (in lower case) denotes government activities whereas ‘Public Administration’, often associated with Woodrow Wilson’s renowned 1887 essay, refers to the subject matter. However, New Public Management (NPM) dominated Public Administration from the 1970s-1990s when it was replaced by ‘Governance’. This article examines Public Administration theory, practice and related theories and how the centuries-old discipline developed from their introduction, interpretation and application in the public sector during each era. It will conclude that these developments have had mixed consequences for Africa, on which the article focuses, owing largely to the effect of colonialism on the continent’s public administration. Using the selected examples of African countries’ experiences, this article relies 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 which it inherited primarily through colonialism.
Key words: Public administration theory, new public management, governance, Africa.
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