Decentralized governments: local empowerment and sustainable development challenges in Africa

Abstract

This study examines the extent to which decentralization is being utilized as a vehicle for sustainable economic development outcomes at all levels of governance in Africa. Research shows that decentralization is missing the triple-bottom line of sustainability: economic, social and environmental prosperity that meets current needs and does not take away from future generations in regions settled by indigenous communities. In this study, selected peer-reviewed literature and reports from conservation organizations on decentralization are analyzed. This research explores ways decentralization can be integrated with sustainability to minimize the short-term and long-run consequences of human actions on the environment at local levels. Factors enabling local sustainability—the legal structures, mediating factors and the decision-making sphere—are used to identify sustainability processes and activities in the governance and decentralization outcomes. This study is guided by the argument made by the United Nations in Agenda 21 and the 2030 Agenda that local governments are best placed to implement sustainability through the development of programs that educate and engage with local communities. Under these circumstances, the best avenue to advance sustainable development initiatives is through the framework of decentralization in order to produce durable economic outcomes, minimize civil disputes and improve the living standards of local communities. The results demonstrate that there are no concrete national initiatives that have been developed to date to promote sustainability within the decentralization framework.

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Correspondence to George Atisa.

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Atisa, G., Zemrani, A. & Weiss, M. Decentralized governments: local empowerment and sustainable development challenges in Africa. Environ Dev Sustain 23, 3349–3367 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-020-00722-0

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Keywords

  • Decentralization
  • Indigenous communities
  • Local government
  • Implementation
  • Sustainability
  • Agenda 21