As the ACBF (African Capacity Building Foundation) prepares for its Board of Governors’ Meeting in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, (4-5 September), under the theme “Enhancing Access to and Absorption of Development Resources in Africa,” its Executive Secretary, Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie, ponders, in this opinion piece, on the need for Africa and its various governments and their development partners to do more than they have been doing to fund capacity development on the continent, without which it will be difficult to successfully implement Agenda 2063 and the SDGs.
That Africa is a well endowed region of the world, a continent said to have a ‘golden hand,’ is a fact. But that our continent is not fully taking advantage of its weight and worth in gold, to transform itself and be the development wonder of the world, is a major issue to ponder.
This issue of why Africa is not yet fully taking advantage of its potential to completely achieve its own development, is a serious challenge to overcome, one that we have decided to address as ACBF prepares for its 26th Board of Governors Meeting (BoG) in Accra (4-5 September 2017). Being held under the theme: “Enhancing access to and absorption of development resources in Africa,” the two-day event opens with a High Level Meeting on Monday, 4 September.
The BoG meeting is organized under the patronage of Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo and will be attended by finance, economic development and planning ministers from across Africa, development partners from North America, Europe, and Australia; as well as top officials from the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Bank, among others.
Thus, we shall have in Accra an ensemble of minds and voices capable of making a difference to the way Africa has been doing business in the past decades.
This particular BoG meeting is coming at a crucial time when African countries are striving to implement the AU Agenda 2063 and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but are faced with inadequate human and institutional capacity to effectively implement these plans. Therefore, funding capacity development strategies is no longer a choice for Africa but a must.
How quickly African leaders make the right choice on this issue, I want to repeat, especially in supporting the comprehensive work done by capacity development organizations and think tanks, and particularly the work of ACBF (which this January was officially designated as the AU’s Specialized Agency for Capacity Development), will highly determine the pace of implementation and success of Agenda 2063 and the other development plans.
The 4 September 2017 High Level Meeting will hence provide an opportunity for key development actors to reflect on the means for effectively financing Africa’s development agendas and how to build related capacities. It is important that this is done, and done well, because Africa can no longer afford to ignore the critical need of funding capacity development on the continent.
However the problem, as ACBF has often reiterated, is beyond the availability of funds or even the access to such funds. The main problem is inadequate human and institutional capacity to effectively implement the plans put together by African countries.
At ACBF, we have always said – based on the findings of our empirical research – that funding, or access to funding, may be a challenge to Africa, no doubt about that; but that many African countries have had (and continue to have) funding for development projects but lack the human capital, effective institutions and the right mindset to effectively absorb and those resources to achieve their development objectives. The inadequacy of human resource is partly responsible for Africa’s continued importation of “experts” from abroad, paying them huge sums of money to do the work that could have been done at lower cost by local “experts” if they were available.
I speak with conviction that it is time African countries developed a radical mindset change that leads to the prioritizing of funding for capacity development. For, unless we can slay the ghost of the capacity deficits, it will be difficult to implement Agenda 2063 and SDGs.
Therefore, as we approach ACBF’s 26th BOG, I want to offer the following four reasons why African states must raise their game in funding capacity for development:
Reason 1: The institutional capacity deficits on the continent affect every level of African life. They affect the AU Commission and its organs and prevent them from effectively coordinating the continental development agenda. They affect regional economic communities (RECs) and inhibit them from effectively playing their role as building blocks of the continental development architecture and accelerating regional integration. The deficits also affect national institutions and take away their ability to align national development plans to continental and global agendas. Moreover, they affect Africa’s ability to retain, harmonize and fully utilize the capacity that it may have already sweated to acquire.
Reason 2: The continent has an acute shortage of the critical technical skills necessary for accelerating its industrialization and socio-economic transformation. An ACBF study on capacity needed to achieve the First Ten-Year Plan of Agenda 2063 has shown that the continent lacks over 4.3 million engineers and around 9,000 mining specialists/engineers. It is therefore imperative that Africa invests more in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, but we cannot do so without raising our game for funding capacity development. We must also pay attention not just to capacity building but also to capacity retention, capacity harmonization and capacity utilization. In fact, if African countries can build, retain and fully utilizing Africa-specific critical skills they would go a long way in providing a potent solution to the mass perilous migration of millions of their youth who constitute an important asset for the transformation of the continent.
Reason 3: Achieving “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa” as stated in the aspirations of Agenda 2063, must be driven by Africa’s own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena. The continent cannot do this if governments don’t lead the way by equipping their citizens with the right capacities and if educational institutions do not educate Africa’s youths to solve Africa’s problems.
Reason 4: So far, the continental and country development plans have and remain sound, but countries lack capacity to implement them. Even the art of assessing crucial funding for development requires specialist skills, and if these skills are absent, it makes it doubly difficult to assess, appropriate and fully utilize the needed funds.
In view of the foregoing, African governments, institutions and development partners must continue to support organizations, such as ACBF, that coordinate capacity development on the continent. ACBF has the biggest comparative advantage in coordinating complex and composite capacity development programs across Africa and has been giving high-impact support to over 45 countries across the continent, coordinating over USD700 million grants with high standards of accountability and transparency. It has the requisite experience, complex fund management savvy, and a huge network to help countries move forward. Therefore, both non-African and African donor partners as well as the Breton Woods institutions should take advantage of ACBF’s unique experience and fund its interventions now more than ever before given that the continent is begging for crucial leadership, managerial, scientific and technological skills to drive its transformation. As true development partners, all should work to give worthiness to Africa’s golden hands. Yes, together, we can build an Africa capable of achieving its own development!