Original Research

Public service reform in Ethiopia: Challenges and gaps post-implementation

Worku M. Tadesse
Africa’s Public Service Delivery & Performance Review | Vol 7, No 1 | a246 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/apsdpr.v7i1.246 | © 2019 Worku M. Tadesse | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 September 2018 | Published: 27 March 2019

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Worku M. Tadesse, School of Commerce, College of Business and Economics, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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Background: The Federal Government of Ethiopia has introduced successive public-sector improvement initiatives in the past few decades. However, preliminary studies and observations revealed that such efforts were far from meeting their targets of improving the operational effectiveness and efficiency of the public sector to the desired level.

Aim: This study has focused on identifying the challenges and gaps observed in the post-implementation phase of such initiatives.

Setting: Fourteen respondents were purposely selected, taking in account their extensive participation in both the implementation and post-implementation of the reform efforts with the justification that participation to such a degree provides them with a particularly higher level of access to the information related to the matter.

Methods: Basically, the study is characterised as exploratory in nature and used qualitative data with the pertinent analyses.

Results: It has been found that the reform programmes were top down, lacking the required ownership from the side of lower-level leadership and employees. As a result, the reform programmes were not popular and did not enjoy a reasonable level of commitment at the bottom of the hierarchy where the reform efforts were to be brought down on the ground for implementation and institutionalisation. The other finding demonstrated in this study was related to the fact that the reform agents as well as the process owners in the implementation endeavours were assigned not based on merit but political commitment. Obviously, such a lack of commitment to merit discouraged those experts with the required capabilities to make ends meet, casting a shadow on the successful implementation of the reform efforts. In addition, it has been found that the essence and strategies of the reform efforts were modelled on those of other countries and put into implementation in Ethiopia for all the sectors without doing the required adjustment and customisation on the ground. Also, the reform efforts were not able to offer incentives related to both the implementation and post-implementation phases.

Conclusion: It has been concluded, therefore, that because of the pitfalls in the reform efforts just mentioned, the desired targets of the reform efforts were not met. The study calls for further longitudinal study for informed decision regarding the reform initiatives in Ethiopia.


Ethiopia; challenges; gaps; public service; reform.


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