How Far Have Public Financial Management Reforms Come in Africa?

CID Working Paper No. 208

Matthew Andrews
October, 2010


This paper asks how strong African Public Financial Management (PFM) has become, after a decade and more of reform. How well do African PFM systems in place now facilitate effective public financial management? Where are the next challenges and how can they be met? It analyzes recent PFM assessments in 31 governments to answer these questions, identifying patterns of strengths and weaknesses across the PFM system and across countries. In respect of the former, the study finds that budgets are made better than they are executed, practice lags behind the creation of processes and laws, and processes are stronger where concentrated actors are engaged. In respect of the latter, the study finds that different countries fall into different 'PFM performance leagues' and countries in the different leagues look very different to each other. A range of factors influence which league a country is associated with; including economic growth, stability, reform tenure and colonial heritage. On the basis of this evidence, the paper argues that existing reforms face limits that can only be overcome with adjustments in reform approach; with less focus on pushing reform technicalities and more on creating 'space' in which reform takes place, less concentration of engagements with small sets of actors and more on expanding engagements, and less emphasis on reproducing the same reform models and more on better understanding what context-appropriate reforms look like.