I wrote this text with my colleague Emile Lebris from the Institute for Research and Development (IRD). Emile and I had accepted the responsibility of overseeing an issue of the journal Afrique Contemporain (contemporary Africa) devoted to the topic of decentralization on the continent. We called for papers and assembled the texts of the ten researchers who responded and whose papers got to the heart of the issue. The text presented here was the introduction to the themes in the collection. The diversity of topics covered by contributions revealed the extraordinary profusion of debates and ideas that the subject of decentralization generates, a profusion which this introduction sought to organize by providing a reading grid.