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The politics of decentralisation

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submitted on 2023-09-12, 05:13 and posted on 2023-09-13, 10:21 authored by Asiyati Lorraine Chiweza

Decentralisation has been an essential reform in many developing countries and a signifcant focus for support by development partners. Most international development agencies have, since the late 1990s, considered excessive centralisation in Africa as a serious impediment to development. Therefore, decentralisation was to facilitate citizen-centred development decisions (Manor 2008). Yet decentralisation record is mixed at best in realising many of the stated objectives of reform, enabling more efcient service delivery, advancing democratic reform, and promoting poverty reduction (Eaton et al. 2011, p. xi). Hussein (2013) notes that in many African countries, the outcomes of decentralisation and management reforms have been unsatisfactory. Since Malawi started implementing the 1998 decentralisation policy, its pace and content have been slow in administrative functional, fiscal, human resource devolution (Kutengule et al. 2015; Malawi Government 2016). Administrative functional decentralisation has somewhat advanced more than fiscal and human resource decentralisation. This has signifcantly afected the performance of local government authorities and their ability to achieve their constitutional mandates. While substantial attention has been devoted to defining the institutional and fiscal requirements for decentralisation objectives, much less consideration has been given to identifying the political and institutional incentives for policy implementation (Eaton et al. 2011). This chapter discusses the initial context and motivations for decentralisation reform, its key actors, and the incentives that have conditioned their reform design and implementation behaviour. The main trajectories of decentralisation reform in Malawi and the current stage of reform are also discussed.

Other Information

Published in: Routledge Handbook of Public Policy in Africa
See article on publisher's website:



  • English



Publication Year

  • 2021

License statement

This chapter is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Institution affiliated with

  • Hamad Bin Khalifa University
  • College of Public Policy - HBKU

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