In the last year, Africa has been through enormous challenges on economic, social and political levels. The softening of commodity prices, sluggish growth in some of the continent’s biggest markets, political upheaval and slight weakening of investor sentiment have all caused some to call into question the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative of recent times.
However, there have also been some watershed moments that have bolstered optimism - such as the successful democratic elections in Nigeria as well as the fact that Africa received the second-highest amount of foreign direct investment in the world in the last year, creating a significant number of jobs on the continent.
It is in this mixed performance that we start to see the diversity of this great continent, and continue hoping for the future we are striving to build. At the Africa Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), our ambition is for Africa to be recognised for its socio-political and economic capabilities and endowments – a continent with effective institutions and policies acquired through sustained investment in people and institutions. It must be said that this can only be achieved when and if governments and institutions have the capacity to deliver on their promises.
As President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia once said in response to the frustration felt by leaders across Africa in the inability of their governments to deliver: "They voted for you because they had confidence in your ability to deliver immediately. Only you cannot. Not because of the lack of financial resources, but simply because the capacity to implement whatever change you have in mind does not exist."
The very establishment of the ACBF was in response to this severity of Africa's capacity needs, and the challenges of investing in indigenous human capital and institutions in Africa. For 25 years, ACBF has worked with governments and non-state actors in 45 African countries to research capacity needs, invest in human and institutional capacity and support policy dialogue and formulation with a view of implementing effective capacity development strategies across the continent.
An inclusive, sustainable growth path is possible, but will require active participation and commitment from multiple stakeholders. The new cry we are hearing across the continent is “Africa for Africans” and this mirrors ACBF’s vision of an Africa capable of achieving its own development.We believe, as a pan-African organisation, based in Africa and run by African experts that the people of Africa have an inherent and strategic advantage by understanding the issues affecting African capacity gaps and strengthening its response capabilities to more rapidly address Africa’s capacity needs.
African countries realize that they cannot continue to rely on external assistance eternally. This is why they are putting more emphasis on home-grown solutions while learning from the success of others and on strengthening the capacity for domestic resource mobilization. In this regard, African member States of ACBF have stepped up their financial support to ACBF, reaching the highest level of contribution in the history of the Foundation in 2015. They expect their partners to honor their pledges as well.
We accept that solutions need to make sense both politically and technically, but there needs to be commitment and a will if we are to see a prosperous continent. We can see this shift in thinking happening, with the African Union’s “Agenda 2063: as a prime example. Aiming to encourage discussion among all stakeholders, this is an approach to how the continent should effectively ‘learn from the lessons of the past, build on the progress now underway and strategically exploit all possible opportunities available in the immediate and medium term, so as to ensure positive socio-economic transformation within the next 50 years.’ It is a global strategy, with the aim of utilising African resources for the benefit of all people on the continent. At its heart, this new roadmap, emphasizes the importance to success of rekindling the passion for Pan-Africanism, a sense of unity, self-reliance, integration and solidarity that was a highlight of the triumphs of the 20th century.
Operationally, funding needs to be made available for capacity building programmes. African countries should budget appropriately for capacity building initiatives in relation to their development plans and policies and invest accordingly. Ruthless prioritisation is in order. As development partners, we aim to support governments to both define and implement their own priorities. Where this is done - where public and private sectors, development partners and civil society work together - results can be achieved easily.
Our vision—Africa capable of achieving its own development—strongly echoes that of “Agenda 2063”. In carrying out its mandate, ACBF is guided by the pursuit of excellence and recognising that capacity building is a long-term process and is only worthwhile if development efforts become self-sustaining. Our priority is for African participation, and take a highly strategic approach based on the following four strategic pillars which maximize the Foundation’s comparative advantage and its catalytic role in the area of capacity building: enabling effective delivery of continental development priorities; supporting countries to achieve tangible development results; enhancing private sector and civil society contribution to sustainable development and leveraging knowledge and learning to reach greater development effectiveness.