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Integration is vital for Africa’s transformation — Litse

LitseJanvier Litse, Acting Vice President, Operations of the African Development Bank (AfDB) is a veteran of the Bank, having climbed through the ranks to his present position. In this interview with the AnnualMeetings Daily, he speaks on the High 5s and the strategies design to ensure that it fast-tracks Africa’s transformation. Excerpts:

How would you appraise the responses of member countries and development experts to AfDB’s High 5s agenda for transformation of Africa?
As you know, economic growth in African countries has been robust for the past 15 years, without leading to any significant structural transformation, to create decent jobs and fight poverty. Our Regional Member Countries (RMCs) are still struggling with major challenges, including poverty, inequality, huge infrastructure gaps, fragmented markets, lack of diversification, fragility and weak business environment. This situation is exacerbated by global threats, particularly climate and terrorism.

Since President Akinwumi Adesina took office in September 2015 and announced his vision for the transformation of Africa, articulated around the High 5s agenda, the responses and enthusiasm from RMCs and other development partners have been extremely positive. Actually, RMCs want the delivery of the High 5s like yesterday, given the pressing challenges and needs of African populations. In his speech at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Annual Meetings, the President highlighted the significant progress made in articulating the relevant strategies and operationalizing the High 5s agenda, namely the New Deal on Energy for Africa, the Plan for Agricultural Transformation, the Jobs for Youth in Africa (JfYA) initiative, and the Industrialization Strategy.The High 5s are about scaling up, accelerating the implementation of the TYS, by delivering transformative outcomes in the focused High 5s critical areas. The High 5s are also about reaching out to RMCs and other development partners through strategic partnerships, what the President refers to as “Co-development”

As the Acting Vice President for Operations, what strategies are you banking on to ensure that the High 5s agenda bears fruits?
The relevant strategies of the High 5s are mostly in place. To ensure that the agenda bears fruits, a number of actions are being taken at the corporate level. The Board of Directors recently approved the new Bank’s Business Development and Delivery Model (BDM). Under the proposed new organizational structure, operations will move closer to the clients in the regions, which will be empowered and resourced to deliver the High 5s of the TYS.

At the level of operations, we need to take actions to ensure that the appropriate conditions are met for success. These should necessarily include, amongst others, ownership and understanding of the High 5s strategies among our staff. This would be achieved by putting the right staff at the right place, appropriate resourcing, empowering the staff with responsibility and accountability, recognizing and rewarding performance. Responsiveness and the right expertize to serve our clients, delivering results with agility, and development impact should be among our key guiding principles.We need to clearly articulate and operationalize the High 5s at the country level in our country and regional strategies. These should help design high quality transformative operations, that we will endeavor to execute and disburse with the adequate speed for quick development impact. The links we make between the High 5s and the strategic partnership we develop are paramount.

Judging from your experience as former Director for West Africa Region, what will it take for Africa to successfully integrate into regional and global value chains?
Integration is key, without which markets will remain small and industry will hardly take off. Energy is critical as economic transformation through industrialization needs a lot of power and many countries still lag behind on this.

We have been involved for many years in regional integration efforts. Actually, the Bank has contributed to achieving significant progress, particularly in the area of infrastructure. We face major challenges in soft issues where political and institutional challenges and constraints need to be addressed. Integrating physically Africa is not an end in itself, if those issues are not addressed to allow for economies of scale and competitive production to take place across the continent, through effective cooperation and free movement of people and goods. In this context, the promotion of integration into regional and global value chains becomes critical.

The Bank has developed a strong comparative advantage in regional integration issues and initiatives. We have accumulated tremendous wealth of experience and knowledge, as well as coordination with other development partners. What is needed is to adopt a comprehensive and determined approach to accelerate the achievement of stronger development results through effective economic integration along regional and value chains. The implementation of the High 5s is meant to achieve this, particularly in the areas of energy, agricultural transformation and industrialization.

What policies are best suited to engineer industrialization in Africa?
What we need is a comprehensive and regional approach and we also need to promote the idea of co-development and work with other development partners who have developed tremendous knowledge and experience. This is the approach that has been adopted in developing the Industrialization Strategy, which a multi-disciplinary Bank team is finalizing, in coordination with UNIDO and UNECA. Given the political will, we will work in synergy with others to help device appropriate policies and create the right conditions for industries to develop. Such conditions include having economic zones with adequate power, governance, connections to markets and skills development.

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