Effective implementation of strategic performance management (SPM) requires discipline, capacity and commitment, given its complexity and the strictness by which it must be applied to obtain the desired outcome.
The challenges that African countries experience in attempts to apply SPM are indeed related to these values. We capture them under seven key areas as follows:
- Conceptual Problems. The first conceptual problem is the tendency to confuse performance management focused on individual performance with strategic performance management focused on the institution.
In the African context, the most severe challenge is how to indigenise the concept. Many reforms have failed implementation due to poor conception and therefore bad adaptation.
- Operational Challenges: The most severe of the operational problems relate to indicators and measurement. In most instances, a combination of different types of data is needed. Unfortunately, reliable and up-to-date data have high costs, both financially and in terms of systems and personnel. Thus, the general dearth of quality data in Africa has led to the use of expensive statistics drawn from different sources that cannot be accessed for verification.
- Political Leadership: It is next to impossible to introduce SPM in government without political support. That is why countries that have recorded success are those in which the political leadership drive the process. Political support ensures that negative factors, such as cultural sensitivities and resistance to reform are placated or neutralised.
- Reform Fatigue: Many countries get weary of reforms within a short time. Every political phase comes with peculiar reform demands. Also in many countries, the reforms were basically in fulfilment of conditionality for financial assistance.
- Financial and Technical Resource Challenge: SPM requires infrastructure support. SPM is particularly facilitated by computerisation. Unfortunately, for many countries in Africa, the challenge of e-governance is closely linked to poor supportive infrastructure, such as low electricity and internet connectivity, even as much as progress has been made by a number of countries.
- Getting the Fundamentals Right: SPM is an advanced form of administrative reform. It is a reform that assumes that some fundamentals are in place. The fundamentals include a robust administrative leadership that is able to think and act strategically. This includes the ability of the public service to attract and retain the best brains for good policy development and technical advice to political leaders. Unfortunately, many countries in Africa have been losing their human and institutional capacities. Introducing SPM in this circumstance requires reflection.
- Incentives and Brain Drain: Statistics show that African countries, compared with other world regions, lose more of their human resource talents to other countries. They have not been able to attract and retain scarce skills. Unfortunately, the reforms of the past that focused on cutback management and paid little respect to the erosion and compression of wages and salaries have further aggravated matters.