Accra, Ghana 04 Sept 2017 (ACBF) – The intensification of political and financial support for the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) has been the dominant theme at the opening day of the 26th ACBF Board of Governors (BoG) meeting being held in Accra, Ghana, from 4 to 5 September 2017.
All the main six speakers of the morning of 4 September touched on the issue, an indication of the criticality of a smatter that can make or break Africa’s determination to resolve the capacity deficits hampering the development of the continent.
And not only that: Africa’s ability to mobilize resources, utilize and absorp them in the right way, in the right areas, and in the right time has become critical for the implementation of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, but also for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as for regional and national development plans.
It is why the ACBF chose the theme, “Accessing funds for development: required capacities for resource mobilization, utilization, and absorption”, for this year’s BoG.
The tone of the opening morning was set by the ACBF’s Executive Secretary, Prof Emmanuel Nnadozie. Acknowledging the fact that a lot had been done in Africa over the last two decades to strengthen institutions and build the requisite skills for development, Prof Nnadozie nonetheless said the continent still had serious capacity gaps to conquer.
“There is a compelling body of knowledge pointing to limited absorptive capacity as a key impediment to the implementation and effectiveness of various development projects and programs in Africa,” the Executive Secretary said, adding:
“The Foundation has discovered that it has become urgent that we go beyond addressing the resource access challenge towards finding solutions to the utilization and absorption of resources challenge.”
For Africa to beat this challenge, ACBF - which last January was designated as the AU’s Specialized Agency for Capacity Development on the continent - will need $250 million in the next five years to do the work.
And, “with official development assistance to Africa diminishing,” Prof Nnadozie said, “the continent will have to rely more on mobilizing domestic resources if it is to move forward on meeting both Agenda 2063 and the SDGs.”
The ACBF Secretariat is ready, according to Prof Nnadozie, to play its part in tackling the capacity challenges. More than ever before, the Executive Secretary said, the ACBF’s role of coordinating Africa’s capacity development mandate is more compelling now with the official status conferred on the Foundation by the African Union.
“But as you will all agree, for us to effectively deliver on this mandate, we will need the political and financial support of African governments and cooperating partners,” Prof Nnadozie said. “We can have no better ambassadors for this than the Board of Governors and the various development partners represented here today.”
It was a call for action, and the other speakers who followed the Executive Secretary did not disappoint, particularly Hon Goodall Gondwe, Chair of the ACBF Board of Governors, and H.E. Erastus Mwencha, Chair of the Executive Board of ACBF.
A Malawian economist and finance minister since 2014, Hon Gondwe said as far as resources were concerned, Africa had relied too much on outsiders to fund the ACBF, and as “he who pays the piper calls the tune, the outsiders have dictated what ACBF has been doing. But our institution should be directed by what Africa needs, as such there is a need for more domestic mobilization of resources for the ACBF.”
Recalling a recent trip to the World Bank with the Executive Secretary, Hon Gondwe said he suspected in Washington DC that “there is a fatigue somewhere, so we should take very, very carefully the call for domestic mobilization of resources.”
Continuing, Hon Gondwe roused the audience, saying: “We need the ACBF more now than when it was created. ACBF is very clear on what it is going to do, and where it wants to go. The Executive Secretary tells me he needs $250 million in the next five years. It will be good for this meeting, before we rise, to have a clear idea of how we are going to raise this money. It can be done, it should be done.”
Explaining why ACBF should be supported, the Board of Governors chairman said the Foundation had successfully established itself as a thought leader and reliable partner in promoting transformative change in many African countries.
“The Foundation has invested in strategic engagement along the entire policy value chain and in building human and institutional capacity across Africa, encompassing over 321 capacity development projects and a commitment of more than $700 million to date,” Gondwe said.
“Through its 25 years of operation, our Foundation has helped us achieve significant results in terms of increasing macroeconomic stability, fiscal management and debt sustainability; enhancing our capacity for economic policy analysis and management, thanks to the training of over 50,000 economists and public sector managers as well as the creation of more than 40 think tanks and policy institutes.
“ACBF has enhanced our accountability systems through supporting national parliaments, regional parliamentary institutions, and government oversight bodies; contributing to advancing regional integration through support to the African Union and Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
Yet, despite the notable achievements, Africa is still confronted with persistent capacity deficits as consistently revealed by ACBF’s Africa Capacity Reports. “The capacity challenges that we face dictate that we invest in securing the long-term sustainability of the Foundation,” Hon Gondwe said.
“The support by African countries at the Pledging Conference in June 2016 is proof that the shareholders of the Foundation remain convinced of the continued relevance and importance of the Foundation. So let us make good of our pledges and those of us who are yet to pledge, let us do so with the sense of urgency that the capacity development agenda deserves.”
To this end, he said, Africa must go beyond the traditional development partners and harness private sector and civil society contributions in supporting inclusive economic development while leveraging knowledge and learning to increase development effectiveness.
“We recognize the mammoth task that lies ahead in mobilizing resources to secure the future of this great continent but we cannot afford to fail,” the Malawian finance minister said. “It is our collective responsibility: African member states, multilateral and bilateral partners, foundations, the private sector, and indeed non-state actors, should mobilize the political and financial support needed to sustain the much-needed capacity development interventions.
“I therefore call upon leaders in Africa to set the tone by availing the financial resources needed to enable the ACBF Secretariat to effectively implement the new strategy.
“ACBF is the central cog in unlocking the unrealised potential in many of our countries. It is now time for action, let us support ACBF support our efforts in bringing about sustainable growth on the African continent,” Hon Gondwe urged Africa and its development partners.
It was a clarion call, and tempting enough for H.E. Erastus Mwencha, Chair of the Executive Board of ACBF, to pick itup for amplification. Since 1991, H.E Mwencha said, ACBF, as a continental body, had been fulfilling its mandate to ensure that capacities were in place at all levels to deliver the expected development results.
“In recognition of this tremendous contribution to Africa’s development and the relevance of the ACBF mandate,” H.E. Mwencha explained, “African leaders have this year officially designated ACBF as the African Union’s specialized agency for capacity development. This recognition launches the beginning of a new era for capacity building by ACBF which will require an appropriate level of political commitment and financial support.
“I thank African governments and development partners for their support and take the occasion to emphasize the need for continued financial support to ACBF.
“Africa needs ACBF to continue playing its capacity building coordination role to effectively address development bottlenecks such as the limited absorptive capacity.
“The Foundation is well placed for this role on the continent not only because it has accumulated immense experience and knowledge on capacity development but also because the growing impact of its operations and interventions provides the proof that capacity should be central to development.”
Moving forward, H.E. Mwencha said, “the Foundation has through wide consultations, devised its 2017-2021 Strategy which has four important pillars: enabling effective delivery of continental development priorities such as Agenda 2063; supporting countries to achieve tangible development results; enhancing the ability of the private sector and civil society to contribute to sustainable development and; leveraging knowledge and learning to increase development effectiveness.
“For this strategy to deliver on the expected results, it requires the continued commitment and financial support of African governments and cooperating partners,” Mwencha explained. “By designating ACBF as the specialised agency in capacity development, the African Union leadership is simply voicing the voice of the Africa people that coordinated capacity development should be a priority moving forward and we count on you Governors and cooperating partners in this noble agenda.”
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ABOUT the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF)
Having spearheaded and robustly coordinated capacity development programs worth over 700 million US dollars across 45 countries and 8 regional economic communities (RECs) in Africa since 1991, ACBF has gathered the requisite experience that makes it the go-to institution for expert knowledge and human resources to advise and support African countries, regional economic communities and institutions on decisive steps to take to develop the practical skills urgently required for the continent’s economic transformation.
Evidence from our cutting-edge work (constituting hundreds of knowledge publications) and the work of several partners show that Africa's development efforts are being hobbled by severe capacity deficits often in the form of shortage of critical skills, deficits in leadership, inhibiting mindsets and weak institutions. The continent’s practical skills shortage is acute in key areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Agriculture.
At ACBF, we will continue using our unmatched track record in managing financial facilities for development, our vast knowledge gathering experience thanks to the exceptional skills mix of our core staff as well as our strong strategic partnerships and networks to help countries and institutions identify their capacity needs, advise them on how to plug these capacity weaknesses and on where to find the knowledge and resources to develop the requisite capacity resources, effectively use them and retain them to achieve their short and long-term development objectives.
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