African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF)
From TrustAfrica wiki - African Regional Organizations
7th & 15th Floors, Intermarket Life Towers
Cnr. Jason Moyo/Sam Nujoma Street
P. O. Box 1562
Tel: +263 - 4 790398/9, 700208/210
Fax: +263 - 4 702915, 738520
Dr. Soumana Sako, Executive Secretary
The African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) is an independent, capacity-building institution established in 1991 through the collaborative efforts of three multilateral institutions (the African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Bank, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)), African governments and bilateral donors.
Its objectives include building and strengthening sustainable human and institutional capacity in the core public sector and its interface areas with the private sector, civil society, training and research institutions as well as regional organizations to spur economic growth, poverty reduction, good governance and effective participation by Africa in the global economy. To achieve these objectives, the organization mobilizes and provides funding, intellectual, information and research support for capacity building in Africa in the areas of its core competences and the emergence of ACBF as a knowledge-based institution.
It works in six core areas namely: economic policy analysis and management; financial management and accountability; strengthening and monitoring of national statistics; public administration and management; strengthening of the policy analysis capacity of national parliaments; and professionalization of the voices of the private sector and civil society. The current membership comprises the three sponsoring agencies (AfDB, UNDP and the World Bank), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which joined the Foundation in April 2002, as well as 35 African countries and non-African countries and institutions. The countries include Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Finland, France, Gabon, Ghana, Greece, India, Ireland, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Countries and organizations processing administrative formalities for membership include Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, the European Union, Guinea-Conakry, the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). In addition, Japan has contributed resources to the Foundation through the Policy Human Resources Development (PHRD) Trust Fund at the World Bank.
ACBF was a created to address Africa's capacity problem and the challenge to invest in indigenous human capital and institutions in sub-Saharan Africa.
ACBF seeks to augment partnerships and stakeholders' ownership based on an inclusive and participatory approach to capacity building and development management, effective coordination of interventions and a holistic approach to capacity building. It also seeks to build a partnership between African governments and their development partners to ensure effective coordination of interventions in capacity building and the strengthening of African ownership, leadership and responsibility in the capacity-building process. ACBF uses three funding mechanisms in capacity building: direct funding, co-financing, and parallel funding. Technical and advisory assistance is provided to project beneficiaries at several levels in the project management cycle.
Governance: ACBF is governed by two boards viz: the Board of Governors and the Executive Board. The Board of Governors consists of 28 members representing 25 countries and three sponsoring agencies (AfDB, UNDP and the World Bank). It is the principal policy-making body of the Foundation. Each government and institution that contributes to the African Capacity Building Fund (ACB Fund) is eligible to appoint one representative to serve as a governor on the Board and may also appoint an alternate. The Executive Board is made up of eleven voting executive directors. Eight executive directors (at least four of whom are Africans) are appointed in their personal capacity while the other three members represent the Foundation’s sponsoring agencies namely the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program. The Executive Secretary of the Foundation is a non-voting member. The Executive Board is responsible for operational policies, guidelines and strategies and appointment of the Executive Secretary. The Executive directors are appointed for a maximum of two three-year terms while the Executive Secretary is appointed for a maximum of two four-year terms.
The Secretariat carries out activities of the Foundation in accordance with the policies and guidelines set out by the two Boards. The current Secretariat has a staff of 59 from 17 African countries.
ACBF has emerged as a mechanism for fostering consultation, constructive dialogue and understanding among development stakeholders (the public sector, the private sector and civil society through interface projects) and also between the donor community and African stakeholders on channeling resources for economic policy analysis and developing management capacity in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 1999, the Foundation's mandate, objectives as well as scope and scale of operation were considerably broadened by the Board of Governors to integrate a new initiative in capacity building—the Partnership for Capacity Building in Africa (PACT)—into the Foundation. PACT, like ACBF, grew from extensive consultations between African governments and the donor community. The establishment of ACBF and the broadening of its mandate are therefore the direct result of new insights and better understanding by the development community of a need for innovative approaches and enhanced interventions in the continent's capacity needs and its development challenges.
The establishment of the Foundation has afforded African countries a significant opportunity to rethink the effectiveness of external technical assistance vis-à-vis the building of indigenous capacity. It has also provided sub-Saharan Africa an opportunity to step up investment and appropriately channel external funding support into the building and sustenance of indigenous capacity. As the new millennium unfolds, Africa's efforts to achieve reasonably stable levels of growth and development, reduce poverty, improve the quality of governance, tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and participate effectively in the rapid pace of globalization will require a strong and sustained program for capacity building. At this stage of Africa's development, support by African governments and their development partners will need to go far beyond simply creating "enclaves" of capacity building interventions to commitments that make a visible, meaningful, structural and lasting difference.
The Foundation’s interventions have achieved several things. First, the PRIECA/AO project today represents a respected regional forum in West Africa for business leaders, governments, farmers associations and donors for discussing and planning agricultural policies and programs. The project is presently the technical arm supporting the formulation of agricultural strategies for ECOWAS and NEPAD. It made vital contributions to the Continent's position on the issue of farm subsidies by the G-8 countries at the WTO Meeting in Cancún, Mexico.
The knowledge management system has already begun to bear some fruits. Internal project and program operations are benefiting from synthesized best practices from country experiences as well as experiences from outside the continent. The Foundation is establishing knowledge sharing platforms through its Technical Advisory Panels and Networks (TAP-NETs) and the Country Level Knowledge Networks (CLKNETs) program; best practice studies to document, as well as share ideas on policies, programs and capacity building strategies that have worked or that should be avoided; reflections by senior policymakers, which otherwise would end up as tacit knowledge; publications (recently comprised a book on "Better Governance and Public Policy", Occasional Papers on "Africa's Major Development Challenges and their Capacity Building Dimensions" and the "Role of Institutions in Economic, Administrative and Corporate Governance") that provide vital capacity-building and knowledge-based information; and web sites and portals that offer links to knowledge sites and resources.
The outputs produced by the institutions supported by the Foundation have grown significantly over the years, in quantity, quality and utility. Policy studies commissioned through the institutions by governments, the private sector, civil society organizations, the donor community and regional and international development agencies have risen considerably. Courses, workshops, seminars and conferences organized by the institutions continue to benefit an increasing number of participants. In the area of postgraduate economics training, more candidates continue to benefit from the Collaborative Master's Program in Economics by the African Economic Research Consortium and Program de Troisiéme cycle Inter Universitaire, the Economic Policy Management Programs, and the University of Namibia Master's Program in Public Policy and Administration. With the addition of the CESAG Banking and Finance program, the Institut d'Economie et de Finances' specialized training for government financial agencies and the Southern Africa Regional Institute for Policy Studies program, training for skills development are being stepped up considerably. In the area of knowledge generation and sharing, the Foundation's contributions are gradually being felt.
Thus far, the fruits of the Foundation's intervention have shown that there is a growing African ownership and leadership of the capacity building process as well as a growing African ownership of an increasing quality of development policies and programs as a result of the emphasis on the building and utilization of indigenous capacity. The Foundation is an African Organization that is staffed by African Professionals and its interventions have added value to capacity building, development management, good governance and poverty reduction through the creation of economies of scale in the capacity building process due to cost effective national and regional projects and programs, the enhancement of strategies, processes and programs as well as ACBF's presence in countries and regions in sub-Saharan Africa, thus contributing to a declining transaction cost for new interventions in capacity building and adherence to an operational principle of neutrality with respect to countries' socio-political and economic dispensation - an orientation that has strengthened the trust of development stakeholders in the Foundation's activities.
The organization has also contributed immensely to research and consultative support for drafting and review of poverty reduction strategies and programs, including PRSPs and the consultative process involved (e.g., Benin, Burundi, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia). For instance, the Namibian economic policy research unit led the preparation of Namibia's national poverty reduction action plan while the directorate of macroeconomic policy analysis [DMPA], Zambia has continued to serve as the secretariat for the consultative process and the preparation of Zambia's PRSP.
The decision by African governments and their development partners to integrate PACT into ACBF indicates the importance attached to the Foundation and its credibility owing to its performance and impact. The Foundation has developed the policy unit concept in the building of macroeconomic policy analysis capacity and the recognition by African governments and other national stakeholders on the importance of policy analytical information and evidence-based research to inform policy debate and the design and evaluation of public policies and programs. Nnational and regional training programs have also been established to provide sustainable high-quality post-graduate economics training programs through the Collaborative Master's and Ph.D. programs at the AERC and PTCI, as well as the EPM programs (economic policy management training programs through universities in Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon and Uganda). There are also specialized training programs (e.g., through NCEMA), and in-service training programs based on short courses, internships, exchange programs and study visits, etc all of which have had enormous impact on core capacity needs in the public sector.
The ACBF was established in response to the severity of Africa's capacity problem and the challenge to invest in indigenous human capital and institutions in sub-Saharan Africa. The challenges of capacity building vary across countries and sectors. The sectoral challenges reflect variations in such factors as the power of interested groups and the labour intensity and decentralization of service provision. While the Foundation is moving to better customize its capacity building approaches to country conditions, it needs to develop sector-specific guidance not only on diagnosing capacity needs and evaluating capacity building measures but also on deriving lessons along sectoral dimensions and fostering country-led capacity building planning within sector programs.
Another factor that weights heavily on Africa’s ability to build capacity, and therefore the Foundation, is the steady out-migration of some of its most talented citizens. There are an estimated ten million Africans living in the diaspora. The number of people leaving doubled in the 1990s, a period of civil strife and economic decline. The outflow continues. Statistics from the United States demonstrate the qualitative aspect of this process.
There is a high demand for scarce skilled African economic researchers. The result is that there has been a very significant turnover of skilled researchers at ACBF. The dilemma is that the skill-enhancing training acquired by researchers has made them more competitive, especially given the meager salaries offered at the organization. High turnover has also been observed in the leadership of the Foundation resulting in a lack of continuity in the research agenda of the institutions. This echoes the need to improve the working conditions of researchers at the Foundation.
An organization can influence policy making only when its work is policy relevant. The Foundation has not been proactive in exploring the demand side for policy research. Soliciting the views of the different policy stakeholders should be a useful input into the policy making dialogue. Admittedly, the Foundation may find it difficult to resolve the conflict between the need for their staff to secure advancement in their careers by working on academic issues and policymakers’ need for policy-oriented research. This conflict is often exacerbated by the limited exposure that most centre staff have with respect to the reality of policymaking.
Increasing relevance also calls for strengthening links with public and private officials and developing a relationship based on trust and reliability in the delivery of quality output that is timely and easily accessible.
However, even with the best of intentions, researchers’ efforts may be stifled by governments’ institutional culture of secrecy and politically motivated distrust of nationals who often play an active role in politics or whose political leanings are not evident. As a result, policymakers may unwillingly deprive themselves of the services of experienced researchers when dealing with critical yet sensitive issues for which they may be ill prepared to tackle alone.
Most times, researchers have difficulty understanding resistance to policy change despite clear and convincing evidence. Policy makers on their part bemoan the inability of many researchers to make their findings accessible and digestible to support policy decisions.
Research is more likely to contribute to evidence based policy if: it fits within the political context and institutional limits and pressures of policy makers, and resonates with their ideological assumptions, or sufficient pressure is exerted to challenge those limits; the evidence is credible and convincing, provides practical solutions to current policy problems and is packaged to attract policy makers interests; and researchers and policy makers share common networks, trust each other, honestly and openly represent the interests of all stakeholders and communicate effectively.
Since most staff of the francophone centers only work in French with limited proficiency in English, they cannot access the most authoritative economic journals that are almost exclusively published in English and often have to wait for the French translation of the reference textbooks to become autonomously familiar with their contents. There has been a recent tendency for world-renowned economists from international financial institutions or universities in the West to work with African researchers on issues of policymaking. However, the majority do not speak French and cannot have a meaningful impact among African Francophone researchers.
In spite of the challenges indicated above, a number of opportunities are evident for ACBF. First, the impetus for domestic-homegrown solutions is growing in importance. At the regional level (SSA), the NEPAD and other similar initiatives indicate attempts for solutions grounded in the prevailing circumstances on the continent. NEPAD emphasizes the need to develop and harness the human resources on the continent, including capacity building initiatives through training and research in Africa on political and economic governance, public sector reform and regional integration among others. The NEPAD initiative also calls for innovative approaches in addressing the brain drain while harnessing African expertise to respond to current challenges in the continent.
Second, the development of PRSPs requires development of nationally owned strategies. The success of these PRSP’s requires local research capacity to provide input into the policy formulation framework and monitoring the implementation process. This process cannot be sustained without developing institutional capacity for research. It is therefore imperative to create strong research institutions like the ACBF so that a critical mass of economists is readily available to sustain the process.
At the global level, reaching the millennium development goals targets requires domestic capacity in economic research to develop sound economic policies. And raise awareness on the MDGs. Various global initiatives such as the Monterrey Consensus, G8 Summit in Karnanaskis, AGOA, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development also reinforce the need to develop and strengthen capacity in Africa.
The integration of PACT into ACBF has provided a new impetus to the Foundation's intervention in sub-Saharan Africa's capacity needs. These priorities have set the pace for consolidating the achievements of the first phase of the Foundation's operation. The successful implementation of the expanded mandate will create a better framework to strengthen the core public sector and provide a more conducive environment for the private sector and the civil society to participate actively in influencing public policies and programs. The focus of activities under the expanded mandate will be on improving public sector capacity for macro and sectoral policy design and management as well as enhancing the effectiveness of institutions, processes, systems and procedures supporting policy and institutional reforms critical for improved transparency, accountability and good governance in the public sector. Thus, activities by key stakeholders in national/regional development geared towards encouraging greater effectiveness of the core public sector, strengthening an inclusive and participatory process in policy formulation and reinforcing the policy environment will largely define the focus of interventions under the expanded mandate.
Another opportunity is the growing recognition that African universities declined over the past twenty years due to a lack of financial support, overcrowding, civil strife and poor governance. Libraries were stripped and journals no longer imported. A number of foundations have made a long term commitment to helping rebuild these institutions. The internet has also eased access to information for African universities and other research institutions without the burden and expense of importing books and journals.