n Journal of Public Administration - The relevance of the developmental state model to South Africa's and Botswana's public services : a comparative perspective

Volume 46, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



The concept of a developmental state (DS) is controversial, misunderstood and often presented as a panacea for Africa's development challenges; but seemingly reflects more hopes than practical solutions for such challenges. It appears that public servants, who have to implement the policies for building the DS, play a minimal role in articulating the vision or relevant approaches for such a state. South Africa and Botswana are frequently cited in the literature as African examples of a DS (see Maserumule, 2007; Mbabazi, 2005; Mkandawire, 2001; Naidoo, 2006; Osei-Hwedie, 2001 and Sindzingre, 2004). The defining characteristics of a DS are that it must have a professional public or civil service, a "strong bureaucracy" along with a cocktail of other requirements for building a DS; such as a prominent state role in the economy similar to what the "Asian Tigers" (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea) experienced between 1960 and 1970. Asian Tigers generally symbolise a transition from low economic growth (as experienced by African countries) to high-level growth frequently associated with the developmental state model. Using Botswana and South Africa as case study examples, this article argues that public administration practitioners in these countries have not interrogated the implications of their countries' adoption or implementation of developmental policies; which their public services must apply. The article argues that African public servants and public administration academics must play a leading role in the debates and search for solutions to the continent's development problems if the DS as a model is to be relevant to their countries. Using an analytical, theoretical and comparative approach, the article examines the political-administrative interface in the two countries and what this means for their DS models. It concludes with a brief assessment of the performance of these countries' public services including lessons Africa might learn from them. Overall, the article highlights the deficiencies of the two countries' public bureaucracies in its assessment of the DS as an alternative development model.

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