Comparative studies on the grand challenges in public administration in Africa are scarce. Using historical and sociological neo-institutionalist perspectives and multiple secondary datasets, this study explores and describes the grand politico-administrative challenges, the progress made, and the challenges hindering the achievement of six SDGs with regard to certain selected targets. It also seeks to find out how Ethiopia and Tanzania, and Africa in general should to respond to the grand challenges facing public administration in the age of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). The findings indicate that the deep-seated historical, sociological, and politico-administrative factors constrain the performance of public administration in Ethiopia and Tanzania. Second, despite the differences noted, the progress made in pursuit of SDG4, SDG5, SDG8, SDG9, and SDG16 is positive in both countries, but more so in Tanzania than in Ethiopia. However, the following challenges were reported: gender-based inequalities, the risk of a unsustainable GDP growth rate, and the lack of economic transformation. Moreover, the unprecedented digital divide and the consequences of Covid-19 to a large extent not only constrain the progress toward achieving the SDGs in both countries but also expose the countries to the possibility of losing the hard-won gains. Third, if not handled effectively, the 4IR will compound the challenges and erode the political sovereignty of Tanzania and Ethiopia, Africa, and Africans. To overcome the aforementioned challenges and to develop a new path that balances social, economic, and ecological goals in the two countries, there is a need to critically reform all the sectors, strategically and continuously invest in digital infrastructure, and introduce sector-fit capacity-building programs by taking into account the relevant politico-administrative contexts, and socio-economic structural and geo-spatial inequalities. The study contributes to the literature on developmental state in Africa.
Sustainable Development Goals, Inequalities, 4IR, Developmental State