Highlights from NSI’s participation in the Global Government Forum webinar “How to boost state capacity”


On February 29, 2024, the New South Institute (NSI) contributed to a significant dialogue on enhancing state capacity during a webinar hosted by the Global Government Forum. The session, titled “How to Boost State Capacity,” featured NSI’s Director and Co-founder, Ivor Chipkin, alongside esteemed panelists Zukiswa N Mqolomba from South Africa’s Public Service Commission and Elizabeth Obeng-Yeboah from Ghana’s Office of the Head of the Civil Service.

The webinar tackled the urgent need for governments worldwide to strengthen their capabilities to meet citizen demands effectively. The discussion revolved around identifying key areas requiring attention, streamlining processes for enhanced government function, and embedding a culture of efficiency within public services.

Zukiswa N Mqolomba shared insights into South Africa’s approach to building a “capable, developmental, and responsive” state. Efforts are focused on enhancing the government’s planning capacity, ensuring robust property rights, and fostering fiscal development to deliver vital services efficiently. Mqolomba pointed out the critical challenges of corruption and the need for professionalization within the public service sector as pivotal areas for improvement.

Elizabeth Obeng-Yeboah discussed the Ghanaian experience, highlighting initiatives aimed at reforming the civil service to improve service delivery. These include modernizing bureaucratic operations, leveraging technology for better public service, and prioritizing the training and development of civil servants. Ghana’s strategy centers on identifying essential capacity-building areas and implementing reforms to bolster the public sector’s responsiveness to citizens’ needs.

Representing NSI, Ivor Chipkin delved into the political and administrative challenges that hinder state capacity, particularly focusing on the South African context. He emphasized the importance of differentiating political from administrative roles to mitigate the politicization of public service. Chipkin pointed to recent legislative reforms in South Africa designed to shift recruitment authority away from political figures, advocating for merit-based recruitment and the development of a professional public service.

This webinar was part of an ongoing partnership between the New South Institute (NSI) and the Global Government Forum, reflecting a shared commitment to enhancing governance and public administration globally. The collaboration serves as a platform for NSI’s researchers and associated scholars to contribute regularly to the discourse on government efficiency, innovation, and reform. Through periodic columns, in-depth analyses, and content contributions to the Global Government Forum, NSI aims to foster a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in public sector governance.

For those interested in the detailed discussions and insights shared during the webinar, the full session is available for viewing on the Global Government Forum’s YouTube channel: How to Boost State Capacity.

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