Since then, the Foundation has invested over $700 million in building critical human capital, creating or strengthening key institutions of development in member countries and producing valuable evidence-based knowledge products to support policy design and policy implementation. In this interview with AnnualMeetings Daily, the Executive Secretary of ACBF, Prof. Emmanuel Nnadozie, reflects on the institution’s journey so far.
Why is capacity development key for Africa’s transformation and what are the challenges in carrying out this crucial task?
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. This has severely hampered the ability to implement existing policies and development strategies across the continent. This persistent implementation gap has resulted in good development strategies and policies not translating to desirable development outcomes, including sustained economic growth, structural transformation, employment, reduction in inequality and eradication of poverty.
Identifying and addressing capacity deficits, especially implementation capacity deficits will require considerable effort in developing leadership and critical skills, catalyzing mindset change and building or strengthening key institutions at country, regional and continental levels both in the state and non-state sectors.
African countries wish to transform their economies from basically primary commodity-dependent to industrialized economies and they have articulated this both in their national development strategies and in the continent’s Agenda 2063. However, the reality is that the manufacturing sector remains relatively small in Africa compared to other developing regions, accounting for 11% of GDP, lower than comparable ratios for other developing regions such as East Asia and the Pacific (23%), South Asia (16%), and Latin America and the Caribbean (14%).
ACBF stands ready to continue supporting African countries and their institutions in their effort to develop or strengthen human, institutional and soft capacities and will continue to mobilize resources, provide grants, deliver capacity development services and leverage knowledge and learning to enable them to achieve their development objectives.
What are the critical skills needed for Africa’s transformation and what level of awareness and engagement is there from African countries to invest in these skills?
Agenda 2063 lays the foundation for Africa’s transformation from a continent that is heavily dependent on primary commodity exports to one that is more competitive, driven by manufacturing, industry, value addition and effective participation in the global value chains. ACBF’s work has demonstrated that critical to this effort is the capacity in science, technology and innovation, which requires considerable effort in promoting the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Unfortunately, such capacity is currently woefully inadequate.
In June 2014 African Heads of State and Government adopted a 10-year Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa, commonly referred to as STISA-2024. The strategy is part of the long-term people-centered African Union Agenda 2063 which is underpinned by science, technology and innovation as multi-function tools and enablers for achieving continental development goals.
As a specialized agency of the African Union on capacity development, ACBF’s Strategy 2017-2021 is developed around four strategic pillars, designed to support Agenda 2063 and the SDGs, the first and second ones aiming at enabling effective delivery of continental development priorities; and supporting countries to achieve tangible development results. ACBF welcomes every partner to join hands with us to help develop, retain and to fully utilize these critical skills for Africa’s transformation.
What are the major achievements of ACBF?
ACBF has achieved phenomenal success in its intervention across Africa in the past 26 years. The Foundation’s exemplary fund-management of about 750 million dollars for both knowledge production, capacity development and strengthening of human and institutional capacities has produced over 5000 experts in several fields of economic management in Africa. As I speak to you today, some of these experts have become Finance Ministers, members of Government while many more are the top-policy advisers in Ministries of Finance and Economic Development as well as in Central Banks, responsible in the design of some of the growth results you have seen in the continent in the last decade.
In one country alone, I found that there were about 30 members of staff of the Finance Ministry that are beneficiaries of ACBF capacity development programs.
Further, we have strengthened various institutions to improve their efficiency and effectiveness at various levels, ministries, parliaments, regional economic communities as well as key continental organizations such as the African Union Commission, NEPAD, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) among others. We have also contributed in calibrating continental agendas to make them achievable.
We have equally empowered women across the continent through various programs. We have promoted dialogue and better understanding of capacity development on the continent through our knowledge services and our knowledge products, including the African Capacity Report, and other knowledge instruments. The list goes on.
ACBF is one-year through its 2017-2021 strategy. Explain what the strategy seeks to achieve?
The Strategy seeks to achieve an Africa that is capable of driving its own development. That’s our overall vision and its development is enshrined in the Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The Strategy is hinged on Four Pillars: helping to deliver on continental agendas, that is Agendas 2063, 2030 and sub-regional plans; supporting countries to achieve development results; working with the private sector, civil society and non-state actors so that they can make more effective contribution to sustainable development; and producing fit-or-purpose knowledge services for capacity development and overall economic and social development of the continent.
We also pay attention to the sustainability of every one of our activity or program. Second, we focus on unraveling the binding capacity constraints to economic development and enhancing implementation capacity. Third, we promote capacity harmonization, capacity retention and capacity utilization, so that Africa can benefit squarely from the people whose skills it is improving through the efforts of ACBF and like-minded institutions. And the fourth, we are building strategic partnerships to help reach our goal.
What should donors, African countries and other partners do to support ACBF?
They can do a whole lot. ACBF is grateful for the satisfactory work that has been done, thanks to the support of African member States, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as well as bilateral partners in the West and such private supporters as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who have generously supported our work since 1991. However, more needs to be done because the challenges are quite enormous and they are becoming more complex each passing day. For instance, we have identified huge gaps in the number of engineers, agricultural scientists and development managers needed for Africa to get to a tipping point of transformation as well as the need for transformative leaders.
For the ACBF to continue with the good work, we need support, financial and political, from everybody – the bilaterals, the multilaterals and member states in Africa. After all, the only way we can achieve the Africa we want is for us to be able to ensure that Africa is capable of achieving its own development – as captured in our vision statement.