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Decentralisation expands Bank’s presence — H’Midouche

HmidoucheMr Mohamed H’MIDOUCHE is the Director & Chair, Permanent Committee on the Review and Implementation of Decentralisation (PECOD). PECOD is responsible for the revision of the AfDB decentralisation strategy and co-ordinating the implementation of the updated version as approved by the Board of Directors.

 Mr H’Midouche joined the Bank in November 1978 and has continuously served the AfDB Group both at its Headquarters (16 years in Abidjan and two years at the ATR in Tunis) and in its Field Offices (17 years).

 In the 35 years he has been with the Bank, Mr H’Midouche has held various key positions, including Regional Resident Representative in Senegal; Board Member of the Africa Governance Institute (AGI); Resident Representative in Egypt; AfDB Executive Director at the African Export Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK, Cairo); Non-Resident Representative of AfDB in Tunisia; Head of the Cooperation and Partnership Unit. He also served the AfDB Group at the European Office in the City of London before his position as chair of PECOD.

 How would you appraise the AfDB decentralisation road map and how far have you gone with its implementation?

The implementation of the Decentralization Roadmap is making significant progress barely 18 months after Board approval. I should say the implementation rate of the Roadmap has reached 80 percent of its target, with tangible results in all three main pillars. These targets relate to strengthening existing Field Offices, expanding presence in fragile states, and consolidating regional capacity.

 A major aspect of the implementation was the decision which enabled the Bank to devolve more authority to Field Offices to better serve its client countries in Africa. Another implementation success story of the Decentralization Roadmap is the significant increase in staffing levels in Field Offices in 2012, with about 35 percent of Bank’s operations staff now managed from the field as at the end of 2012.  It is important to note that strengthened field presence has resulted in the Bank surpassing its portfolio management key performance indicators (KPIs) for 2012. Specifically, projects and programmes being managed from Field offices increased to over 40 percent in 2012, involving closer supervision and problem-solving dialogue with Government Executing Agencies.

 In continuing with our efforts this year, we are undertaking a major mid-term review of our decentralization strategy.

 The Decentralisation Roadmap 2011 – 2015 revolves around three key pillars: strengthening the Bank’s existing field offices, expanding its presence in fragile states, and consolidating the institution’s regional capacity.

 How would you evaluate the Bank’s performance in these three key pillars in strengthening its on-the-ground support to Regional Member countries?

On the first Pillar (Strengthening Existing Field Offices), we have increased the number of staff and, with the promulgation of the new Delegation of Authority Matrix, transferred more responsibilities for portfolio management and implementation, including fiduciary and safeguard and audit expertise. In addition, the Bank now has an expanded role in analytical work to support policy dialogue with client governments and the donor community, and to underpin project design and management from the field.

 On Pillar II (Expanding presence in Fragile States), in Fragile States, the Bank expanded its presence by opening a fifth office in South Sudan, in addition to offices already opened in Liberia, Burundi, Central African Republic (CAR) and Togo, which were opened in 2011. With the operationalization of these new offices, the Bank has doubled its field presence in Fragile States which has resulted in improved portfolio management. Technical support was also provided our clients to reinforce Government capacities and promote better donor coordination and harmonization. This has strengthened the Bank’s ability to respond to specific needs of these countries as demonstrated by the increasing analytical work being undertaken by our offices.

 Finally, on Pillar III (Consolidating Regional Capacity), we established two regional resource centres (RRCs) in Nairobi and Pretoria in January 2012. This is the first time in the Bank’s history that we are transferring to the field two full-fledged regional departments with their respective Directors and Staff from the Bank’s Headquarters. The establishment of these two pilot RRCs enabled more rapid support to clients and field offices alike through increased sharing of technical and specialist skills, including enhanced procurement and fiduciary management. It has also facilitated dialogue with Regional Economic Communities and other regional bodies.

 What are the major challenges facing the decentralization policies in Africa?

We appreciate the interest you have expressed in publicizing the Bank’s decentralization efforts during this Annual Meetings. The Bank has a great asset in the confidence and trust of its Regional Member Countries which is being reinforced by being able to work closer, and more present at country level, to jointly respond to their development challenges. If the Bank is to contribute effectively to the development of Regional Member Countries, it must face these challenges head on.

 Having said that, measureable achievements in the Bank’s decentralization programme have nurtured increased demands for more technical assistance through staff placements in Field Offices, particularly in Fragile States.  In response, the AfDB will explore opportunities to provide customized field presence support to the countries currently without AfDB Field Offices.

 In view of the importance of decentralization, there is need to deepen and sustain the progress to date to ensure that high quality operations are assured as more of these operations are initiated and implemented from the field. As such reinforcing portfolio and financial management capacities will be important to reduce operational and fiduciary risks. Also, staffing in the Field Offices will be reviewed to ensure that the Bank can implement its 10-Year Strategy as One Bank, regardless of level of assistance — from Headquarters or a Field Office.  In addition, PECOD will work to ensure that the decentralization programme is fully aligned with the priorities of the upcoming People Strategy; which is designed to position the Bank as the Employer of Choice for those working on African Growth and Development, in all countries of our operations.

 I am confident that these challenges and demands will be fully met. I also see decentralization at the centre of current need for changing and transforming Africa’s economic operations culture.

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