CIMPAD’s First International Conference convened August 4 through 7, 1997 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The theme was “Transforming and Revitalizing Public Management and Development Through Institutional Capacity Building and Governance: A Program for Action. Joining COMPA in convening this first conference were Southern University, the National Forum of Black Public Administrators and the King-Luthuli Transformation Centre. Generous support was also provided for the conference by a variety of public service and business organizations.
More than 150 individuals, representing eleven African countries, Great Britain, India, and the United States, participated in the first conference. Although the historical legacy of apartheid inspired these participants to congregate in South Africa, this abhorrent system of oppression did not constrain the vision for the conference. Although initially conceived as a one-time event, the conference organizers and participants immediately realized the far-reaching advantages of continuing this international endeavor. A decision was made to hold a biennial conference in a capital city of an African country with a forward plan to hold conferences in other countries outside of Africa, including in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Linkages established between African and American public service professionals have resulted in productive program and personal opportunities for individuals from both groups of participants. Perhaps the greatest benefit has been the linkages and networks fostered among African public service professionals. Significantly, emerging from the vision of the conference has been the realization that African public service professionals have much to share with the rest of the world. Innovations, often the product of necessity, have proven to be effective management techniques and instructive practices.