Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

Hrm Practices and Challenges: Evidences from Africa

Academic journal article Current Politics and Economics of Africa

Hrm Practices and Challenges: Evidences from Africa

Article excerpt


The capacity of a nation for economic growth and development is determined by factors that can be categorized as human, financial, physical or material and technological. Of these all important factors, the human factor is universally regarded as the most valuable and most strategic (e.g., Boxall, 2003; Caligiuri, Lepak, and Bonache, 2010; Klingner and Nalbandian, 1998; Rainey, 2009; World Bank, 1997). Every organization, whether it be a public, private, or NGO, must operate with or through people. Service sector such as public organizations, being labor intensive, are judged on the basis of the performance of their human resources. Ingraham, Selden, and Moynihan (2000: 56) explain that "Members of the public service are...government's most important resource. Failure to understand and value that resource will inevitably be linked to lack of capacity and performance." Thus, public organizations need to effectively manage their human resources if they are to realize their objectives (Hays, 2009). This suggests that effective Human Resource Management (HRM) especially in the civil service has become of great importance. However, HRM has come under strong criticism in many African countries with their effectiveness thrown in considerable doubt (e.g., Budhwar and Debrah, 2004; Hilderbrand and Grindle, 1997; Tessema and Ngoma, 2009; Tjiptoherijanto, 2007).

The ineffectiveness of HRM in Africa in general and the sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) in particular has been one of the main causes of the failure to retain and utilize the trained personnel employed in the civil service (Brewer and Choi, 2007; Dirk, 2008; Hilderbrand and Grindle, 1997; Kiggundu, 1989). Beyond that, moonlighting and corrupt rent-seeking practices have become a way of life for public servants in many African countries (Das, 1998).

This paper tries to answer the following four research questions:

1. How are civil servants procured (recruited, selected and placed) in SSA?

2. How are civil servants trained and developed in SSA?

3. How are civil servants utilized in SSA?

4. What are the challenges of HRM facing civil service organizations in SSA?

This paper has four sections. After the introduction, section 2 reviews the literature on HRM in general and that of the civil service in particular. Section 3 discusses the HRM practices and challenges in SSA's civil service. Finally, section 4 forwards conclusions and future research directions.


HRM underscores a belief that people really make the difference; only people among other resources have the capacity to generate value. According to Bratton and Gold (2007), HRM is a strategic approach to managing employment relations which emphasizes that leveraging people's capabilities is critical to attaining sustainable competitive advantage, this being achieved through a distinctive set of integrated employment policies, programs and practices. According to this definition, HRM should not merely handle recruitment, pay, and discharging, but should also maximize the use of an organization's human resources in a more strategic level. It seems that HRM is so crucial to the organizations success, for it affects nearly all aspects of the business. Moreover, Stone (1998: 4) argues that "HRM is either part of the problem or part of the solution in gaining the productive contribution of people". This suggests that if organizations are to realize their objectives, they need to effectively manage their human resources.

While this study tries to consider HRM in the public sector as a whole, the focus is mainly on HRM in the civil service organization (central ministries). The question is what do we mean by the "civil service"? "It is the branches of public service excluding the legislative, judicial, and military sectors and in which positions are typically filled on the basis of competitive examinations and a professional career public service exists, with protections against political influence and patronage" (Berman et al. …

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