The proportion of global poverty attributable to Africa is rising, and the likelihood is that this will continue unless there are radical changes to policies and performance” (African Poverty at the Millennium, World Bank, 2001). It has become increasingly clear in recent years that the effectiveness of efforts in developing countries to achieve their human development goals hinges largely on the quality of governance in those countries and the extent to which their governments interact with civil society organisations to accomplish these goals.
In the last ten years, the spread of democratic governments and market-based economic systems have unleashed a tremendous debate and effort towards advancing popular participation in governance and development in African countries. The evidence is that central governments have started to allocate more of the national budget to local authorities and are facilitating a greater role for civil society organisations and the private sector in providing improved and more focused support to both central and local government in development.
In addition to national level efforts, there are major regional and international initiatives to help Africa in the above pursuit. These include the United Nations System-wide Special Initiative on Africa to mobilize the concerted support of all UN agencies on behalf of African development, launched in 1996, New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the World Bank and IMF sponsored Poverty Reduction Strategies for development planning, among others.
This paper examines, through theoretical and case reviews, the purposes, principles, methods and forms of governments’ partnership with civil society in decentralised governance for poverty reduction. The discussion will lead to major lessons, which may serve as benchmarks for replication in analogous situations. For the most part, the scope of survey will focus on the West African sub-region.