'New' approaches confront 'old' challenges in African public sector reform

Pablo Yanguas Gil, Badru Bukenya

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The disappointing performance of conventional public sector reforms in developing countries has led to the rise of ‘new’ approaches seeking to overcome traditional bureaucratic barriers to change: leadership-focused interventions like the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI); accountability-focused initiatives like the Open Government Partnership (OGP); and adaptation-focused models like those of Africa Power and Politics (APP). While these approaches are appealing to aid donors in their promise to move beyond the limitations of purely formal institution-building, they fail to provide new answers to the ‘old’ analytical and practical challenges of public sector reform, in particular administrative patrimonialism, public corruption, and political capture. The evidence is yet inchoate, but all points to the need for these approaches to work in tandem with conventional ones. Beyond novel implementation tactics, however, there is a need for new strategies of sustained political support to embattled reformers who face powerful incentives against institutional change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-152
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number1
Early online date23 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • public sector reform; leadership; social accountability; policy adaptation; patrimonialism; corruption.

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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