How to boost state capacity

February 29, 2024

Governments are facing unprecedented pressures to deliver the services that citizens demand.

However, many countries lack the capacity across government departments and agencies to deliver, and many governments are looking to boost state capacity to promote economic growth and development.

This work often involves boosting the ability of the government to plan and direct action across government, ensure property rights, develop fiscal capacity, and embed a well-functioning public service to deliver essential services.

Many governments are therefore working to boost state capacity. In South Africa, the Public Service Commission is developing a plan to build “a capable, developmental and responsive” state, while other developing countries governments are similarly looking to build such capacity to promote economic growth and development.

This webinar looked at how to build such capacity in government. This session covered:

  • How to identify the areas of state capacity that need to be prioritized.
  • The process of boosting state capacity.
  • How to engage existing government institutions in efforts to boost State capacity to make sure efforts have the best chance of success.


Zukiswa N Mqolomba, National Commissioner (Deputy Chairperson), Public Service Commission, South Africa

Zukiswa Mqolomba is a senior Public Sector Executive with roots deeply embedded in strategy, economics, poverty and public policy work. She is a Mandela Rhodes Scholar and Chevening scholar. She has two master’s degrees: a Master’s from the University of Cape Town and a Master’s in Poverty and Development from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom respectively. She also holds an executive leadership training certificate in 21st Century Leadership with Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, Boston, United States. She is doing her PHD in Sociology at the University of Cape Town doing a dissertation on professionalisation of the state and (re)building state institutional capabilities.

She has won international, continental and domestic awards for her leadership in public policy and governance. For instance, she has been awarded the Africa Youth Awards 2021, and Africa3535 leadership laureat award for Governance. She has also won the Humphrey Leadership award from the United States also for her policy contribution in the Public sector, as well as 2 time winner of the Mail&Guardian top 200 youth leaders award, running in the top 10 for Politics and Government. She is also a recipient of the Vice-chancellor’s award, University of Cape Town. She has a keen interest in finding solutions to public sector challenges, as well as public service innovations and transformations.

She’s done research and policy work on public sector innovation and transformation. Her research work includes conducting research on the developmental state and the institutional architecture pertaining to building it. She has done some work on building meritocratic states, including recruitment in the public service, as well as strategies on how to deal with corruption and to professionalise the public service. She’s also done work on the National Development Plan and how to build a professionalised and transformed public service. She is a member of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) headquartered in the United States. She used to serve as a member of the Panel of Experts, which has been tasked to develop a poverty alleviation and job creation strategy/policy for the Department of Public Works of South Africa. She used to work for the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa at the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation as a Senior Sector Expert: Economy (“Senior Economist”).

She formerly worked as an Executive Manager: Research, Training, Monitoring and Evaluation at a State Agency, namely the Media Development and Diversity Agency; influencing the country’s community media and development agenda on inclusion, marginalization and transformation. She’s participated in civic programmes of the United Nations, NATO, The Elders and African Union Commission. She is interested in reading biographies of legends in international and local nations. She also likes to write on various themes and topics affecting women, youth and marginalised communities. She is a co-editor of a book of essays entitled ‘Chasing Freedom: Histories, Analysis and Voices of Student Activism in South Africa published by CODESRIA in March 2022.

She has been appointed by the President of the Republic of SA to be a National Commissioner (Deputy Chairperson) for the Public Service Commission of South Africa. She is now an Adjunct Faculty member and member of the Experts Network of the Chandler Institute of Governance headquartered in Singapore, appointed to train public sector officials in Africa and across the globe; in an effort to build capacity and to professionalise it.

Elizabeth Obeng-Yeboah, Director, Reforms Coordinating Unit, Recruitment, Training and Development, Office of the Head of the Civil Service, Ghana

Elizabeth Obeng-Yeboah (Mrs.) emerges as a very accomplished Human Resources Professional with over 20 years of expertise in all aspects of Human Resources and Administration, as well as programs and initiatives in the Ghana Civil Service. During this time, Elizabeth has overseen administrative duties, gender development, project beneficiary capacity building, and reforms.

Elizabeth has also managed the Ghana Civil Service’s Performance Management as well as the development of the Ghana Civil Service Annual Performance Report. As a result of her skills, Elizabeth can deliver fruitful and long-lasting results for high-level clientele. She is currently in charge at the strategic level of affairs, overseeing the recruitment of prospective candidates into Ghana’s Civil Service as well as Training and Development. Elizabeth is also the Director in Charge of Reforms in the Civil Service.

She serves Ghana’s 28 Ministries, two Extra-Ministerial Organizations, and 23 Departments. She possesses good interpersonal relationships with her colleagues, subordinates, and Senior Civil Service Staff. She is skilled at persuading and influencing high-ranking individuals in addition to her position as a Human Resources Professional. Her judgements are trusted and respected, and her opinions are highly regarded.

Elizabeth graduated with a Bachelor of Education, Social Science. She gained a strong interest in management because of her education. As a result, she continued her study and earned an Executive Master’s in Business Administration, Bachelor of Laws and Master of Laws (ADR), in 2008, 2016 and 2020 respectively. She is currently a student, pursuing PhD in Management.

When she joined the Civil Service, she worked hard to attain roles in the then Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, now Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection. She was later posted to the Office of the Head of the Civil Service to the Planning Budgeting, Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate and subsequently to the Recruitment, Training and Development the Reforms Coordinating Unit, where she currently serves as the Director in charge. Elizabeth has also participated in and attended various international conferences, trainings, and meetings in the UK, the Netherlands, Japan, China, South Korea, Lesotho, Senegal, and Kenya.

Ivor Chipkin, Director, New South Institute (NSI), South Africa

Ivor Chipkin is the Director of the New South Institute, based in Johannesburg. He was the founder and director of the Public Affairs Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town for ten years before that. In 2017 Chipkin, with several colleagues, wrote and released the Betrayal of the Promise report, a study of state capture that had a huge political impact in South Africa. Chipkin completed his PhD at the Ecole Normale Superieure in France, where he also did his DEA. Chipkin was an Oppenheimer Fellow at Oxford University. He is the author of Do South Africans Exist? (WUP: 2007) and Shadow State: the politics of state capture with Mark Swilling (WUP: 2018). His new book, The Shattered Vessel, is due out in 2023.

Webinar chair: Siobhan Benita, Facilitator, Global Government Forum

Siobhan Benita was a senior civil servant with over 15 years’ Whitehall experience. She worked in many of the major delivery departments, including Transport, Environment, Health and Local Government. She also had senior roles at the heart of Government in the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury, including supporting the then Cabinet Secretary, Lord O’Donnell to lead work on Civil Service reform and strategy. Siobhan left the Civil Service to run as an independent candidate in the Mayor of London election. She subsequently joined her alma mater, Warwick University as Chief Strategy Officer of Warwick in London and Co-Director of the Warwick Policy Lab.