Capable states a prerequisite for African development

17 Feb 2010

Dakar, Senegal – Experts at a UNDP conference on democratic governance concurred that Africa needs strong, capable states to reach development goals.  At the second day of the weeklong conference in Dakar, Senegal, experts turned their focus to the African continent, saying that more government capacity is needed for Africa to meet citizen’s needs, and that many challenges remain.  

“The main challenge is to have a democratic, capable state, a state that can meet the challenge of the 21st century, providing a satisfactory standard of living for the population and meet expectations of independence,” said Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, Executive Director of the Africa Governance Institute. “We hope UNDP can help states in meeting the challenges by helping them to better plan, better listen and respond to the population, and better help the people to participate.”

The special session on Africa was chaired by Joseph Mugore, Senior Advisor in the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, who in his background paper, emphasized that “the capability of the state is to be understood in the context of the functions to be performed, which in most cases, particularly in Africa- have always been contested.”

Conference panelists focused on those challenges that must be faced in building effective states. One of the greatest, noted by multiple participants, is managing the continent’s vast diversity, which can be politically exploited and potentially lead to violent conflict. According to Said Adejumobi, Chief of the Public Administration Section of the Governance and Public Administration Division at the Economic Commission of Africa, this issue deserves significant attention. “Management of diversity linked to elections is a big challenge and that’s why the next African Governors Report [to be released in 2011] will be on elections and the management of diversity in Africa.  We’re taking the challenge head on,” he added.  He pointed out a number of other issues that need to be addressed in the quest to create effective states, such as handling of elections, corruption, creating leadership with vision, and managing a growing youth population.

Abdoul Karim Lo, High Commissioner of Senegal’s Commission for Public Administration, spoke to the audience on his country’s reform initiatives, explaining that an effective state should meet the material needs of its population, but should equally provide space “where citizens and stakeholders are active participants in the future of their own country.” According to Lo, “poor institutional and human capacities explain the mediocre results in economic growth, poverty reduction and support for peace and security in many African countries.”   

The conference will continue for the next three days, addressing democratic governance in other regions around the world. Specific sessions will examine case studies of diversity issues and managing conflict, such as those of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan.

For further information, please contact:
New York, Sujala Pant, sujala.pant@undp.org, Tel: +1 212-906-5129 // +221-70-2000356
Dakar, Ngoné Sow, ngoné.sow@undp.org, Tél. +221-77 569 9605