BLR  Vol.3 No.2 , June 2012
The Constitutionalization of Local Government in Developing Countries—Analysis of African Experiences in Global Perspective
Author(s) Dele Olowu*
The constitutionalization of local government is a distinctive contribution of developing countries to governance reform and the policy and practice of modern public administration. Local governments in most western and industrialized societies are creatures of the national government and are essentially statutory bodies-created, modified and suspended or eliminated at will by the state statutes. In fact, in the Anglo Saxon tradition, these institutions are referred to as local authorities and never local government. In seeking to enhance the capacity of sub-national entities against overbearing central authorities countries as disparate as Brazil, India, Philippines, Bolivia, Colombia, South Korea to mention only a few constitutionalized their local governments. This boosted the status and role of these entities in terms of the policy processes for local level development, services delivery and citizen participation. There have also been a number of challenges—local elite capture or corruption, capacity, coordination, equity and stability issues. However, a consistent overall consequence when properly implemented has been a positive impact on service delivery and the enhancement of the interface between local government and local governance as well as the strengthening of intergovernmental relations. A number of African countries have followed this global good governance practice but the results have been mixed. This paper reviews the experiences of Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Ghana that have all constitutionalized local governments and seek to explain the differential outcomes in each country context. This is an important issue as a number of other countries that have recently initiated fundamental governance changes have incorporated local government reform as a part of the constitutional reform process. These countries include Kenya while a number of other countries in eastern, southern and especially northern parts of the continent are likely to follow this example as they engage the constitutional reform process.
Cite this paper
D. Olowu, "The Constitutionalization of Local Government in Developing Countries—Analysis of African Experiences in Global Perspective," Beijing Law Review, Vol. 3 No. 2, 2012, pp. 42-50. doi: 10.4236/blr.2012.32006.
[1]   World Bank, “World Development Report,” Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004.

[2]   K. Millett, D. Olowu and R. Cameron, “Local Governance and Poverty Reduction in Africa,” Joint Africa Institute, Tunis, 2006.

[3]   United Nations Development Program, “Supporting Capacities for Integrated Local Development,” Practice Note, 21 November 2007.

[4]   A. Shah, “Local Governance in Developing Countries,” World Bank, Washington, 2006. doi:10.1596/978-0-8213-6565-6

[5]   M. S. Grindle, “Good Enough Governance: Poverty Re- duction and Reform in Developing Countries,” John F. Kennedy School of Government, Havard University Cambridge, 2002.

[6]   D. Olowu, “Local Government Innovation in Nigeria and Brazil: A Comparative Discussion of Innovational Transfers and Intergovernmental Relations,” Public Administration and Development, Vol. 2, No. 4, 1982, pp. 345-357. doi:10.1002/pad.4230020406

[7]   E. Ostrom, “Design Principles in Long Enduring Irri- gation Institutions,” In: M. McGinnis, Ed., Polycentric Governance and Development, University of Michigan Press, Michigan, 1999, pp. 87-113.

[8]   D. Olowu and J. Wunsch, “Local Governance in Africa: The Challenge of Democratic Decentralization,” Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, 2004.

[9]   N. Kersting, J. Caulfield, R. Nickson, D. Olowu and H. Wollmann, “Local Governance Reform in Global Per- spective,” VS Verslag fur Socialwissenschaften, Berlin, 2009. doi:10.1007/978-3-531-91686-6

[10]   N. Awortwi, “An Ubreakable Path? A Comparative Study Decentralization and Local Government Trajectories in Ghana and Uganda,” International Review of Administrative Sciences, Vol. 77, No. 2, 2011, pp. 347-378. doi:10.1177/0020852311399844

[11]   J. Kathyola and O. Job, “Decentralization in Commonwealth Africa,” Commonwealth Secretariat, London, 2011.

[12]   B. Olowu, R. Suberu, J. Erero and R. Soetan, “Com- parative Assessment of Decentralization in Africa,” Nigeria In-Country Assessment Report, USAID, Washington, 2010.

[13]   H. W. Okoth-Ogendo, “The Quest for Constitutional Government,” In: G. Hyden, D. Olowu and H. A. Okoth- Ogendo, Eds., African Perspectives on Governance, Africa World Press, Inc., Trenton, 2000, pp. 33-60.