Since the 1980s, the NPM has been entrenched in theory and practice across the world. Many governments and several international organizations have embraced the NPM as the framework or paradigm through which governments are modernized and the public sector re-engineered to 'strengthen the connections between government and the mechanisms, both in government and civil society, that are responsible for how well government works' (Armacost 2000: v).
Indeed, the NPM offers important lessons and analyses for public management throughout the world and African countries are no exception to the process of implementation of efforts aimed at achieving the outcomes embodied in the said NPM. This chapter explores the relationship between the basic features of the NPM, as applied to public sector reform in Africa, and critically examines the impact stemming therefrom. Let us begin by first delineating the basic features of the NPM concept.
Although adequately addressed in Part I and other parts of this book, a brief outline of the basic features of the NPM concept is necessary here to locate the framework against which the objectives of this chapter are to be accomplished.
The NPM represents the culmination of a revolution in public management that emerged in the 1980s. Rather than focusing on controlling bureaucracies and delivering services, public managers are now responding to the desires of ordinary citizens and politicians to be 'the entrepreneurs of a new, leaner, and increasingly privatized government' (Denhardt and Denhardt 2000:549). As such, the NPM is clearly linked to the notion of trust in economic rationalism through the creation of public value for public money.
The NPM concept is centred on the proposition that a distinct activity - management - can be applied to the public sector, as it has been applied in the private sector, and that it includes a number of elements (Aucoin 1990; Bale and Dale 1998):