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Learning and Leadership: Two Main Ingredients for Africa’s Development

16 November 2010
by Guest author

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Government, civil society and international organisations met in Tunis this month to discuss the priorities for aid and development effectiveness ahead of the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea in November 2011. Misaki Kruger of the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate reports.

What Africa needs is not only cash, but practical and innovative ideas to “put Africa to work”. Kenyan Minister of State for Public Service, Dalmas Anyango Otieno, set the tone of the meeting – looking for ways to build capable and effective states that can maximise all resources and knowledge.

So what are the main ingredients needed to make this happen?

Aid, currently at $120 billion per year globally will continue to be an important source of finance for African countries. However, as African Development Bank  (ADB) President Kaberuka says, “aid is only part of the solution for Africa’s problem”.

The priority ahead of Busan coming out of this meeting is to see how aid can be leveraged to build good financial governance, credible public services and generate internal resources through tax and investments. It is about using aid as a catalyst to build capable states and reduce aid dependency.

This also applies to the increasing engagement of the so-called BRICS countries. With China in mind, Aloysium Ordu from ADB argued that the so-called “Beijing Consensus” is an opportunity for Africa and also complementary to traditional donors, both in terms of increased resources as well as lessons, for example on speed of delivery and flexibility.

One might question the developmental relevance of building “friendship stadiums” or the often cited “no-strings-attached” approach. But participants agreed that the responsibility to manage Africa’s development lies squarely with Africans themselves.  

It is in fact African countries’ responsibility to build capacity and assert accountable and responsible leadership to strategically manage and make choices about how all external resources should be used for developmental objectives. For NEPAD’s CEO Ibrahim Mayaki, that needs “strong, visible and consistent” leadership to build capacity to raise and manage all resources, public or private, domestic or external.

Knowledge is also a key element. Cape Verde’s Finance Minister Cristina Duarte urged her colleagues to “positively spy” on southern neighbours, learning lessons and gathering examples of good (as well as bad) practice from them. Cape Verde has managed to become a middle income country – despite its geographical handicaps and poor natural resource endowments – by making a point of learning from good examples, for instance in e-governance and improving public services.

A number of delegates also emphasized the need to learn from positive stories of economic transformation, such as those of the BRICS and Korea – lessons about increasing the middle class, investing heavily in education and health and exercising consistent leadership to strategically leverage all resources.

While leadership and knowledge can be built up, Africa has a paradoxical problem of scale. As Mr. Kaberuka pointed out, this huge continent has 1 billion people spread across 53 countries, compared to 1 billion in one country in China and India. This makes it a priority for Africa to strategically manage areas where collective action for development is needed, balancing this with individual countries’ needs. Regional integration and south-south exchange play a key role. An honest and hard look at how effective some of these institutions are in addressing Africa’s economic and development challenges will be a key priority for the region.

So, what does this mean for Busan 2011?

As long as aid remains important for Africa, African countries want to push for all stakeholders, including themselves, to meet the commitments of the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action. However, lessons in economic transformation – such as those offered by 2011 Forum host Korea – show that aid is not a silver bullet. It must be strategically managed together with other resources if development is to take off, but without effective state capacities and leadership, this will surely not happen.

Busan will thus be about smart use of aid by transforming the current donor-driven systems into more equitable development partnerships. Learning lessons about how it can be done will be a key task for Busan.

Useful links

OECD Working Party on Aid Effectiveness

OECD Task Team on South-South Cooperation  

Open Doors at the OECD Development Assistance Committee

International Network on Conflict and Fragility


2 Responses leave one →
  1. March 13, 2011

    Completely agree on the capacity building and leadership. Here are some thoughts on the leadership that we hope will prevail in the continent.

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