Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Lack of support to regional communities may stifle Africa’s transformation – ACBF/AfDB study


Lack of support to regional communities may stifle Africa’s transformation – ACBF/AfDB study

Lack of support to regional communities may stifle Africa’s transformation – ACBF/AfDB study
Photo credit: ACBF

Africa’s regional economic communities (RECs) have key coordinating roles to play in support of the continent’s industrialization and transformation agenda but they are faced with acute capacity challenges to do this, warns a new report by the African Capacity Building Foundation.

The Report, launched at the 4th African Think Tank Summit, is titled “Survey of the Capacity Needs of Africa’s Regional Economic Communities and Strategies for addressing them.”

It establishes that while notable progress have been recorded in certain areas, capacity interventions over the past years have been largely fragmented and reactive, and have therefore not been as effective as desirable in addressing the Regional Economic Communities’ (RECs’) capacity needs. Training approaches for example, are often ad hoc in nature, without a clear comprehensive understanding of the actual expected impact.

In terms of internal management of RECs, the study notes the lack of coordination with divisions and units tending to operate in silos.

A more worrying finding is the RECs’ over-reliance on external resources for funding not just for capacity building activities, but even for the overall activities of the organizations, making their development coordination interventions precarious.

It is against this backdrop that the report recommends that the Regional Economic Communities pay serious attention to enhancing their internal capacities by devising innovative resource planning, mobilization and utilization strategies. In this regard, the book advises African RECS to establish a trust fund with contributions drawn from member States and development partners – a model which is already working well for ECOWAS, where a levy of 1.5 percent of customs duty is applied for the collection of such funds, resulting in a pot of more than US$630 million a year to finance integration programs in West Africa.

The study also suggests that RECS streamline training for their staff and collaborators in all projects they are implementing, in order to squarely deal with capacity gaps of personnel working on specific projects.

Calls for strategic partnerships

Addressing heads of the Regional Economic Communities in question, members of various think tanks from across Africa as well as Ivorian officials during the launch, ACBF’s Executive Secretary – Prof Emmanuel Nnadozie said “the findings of this study, show a clear need for a well-structured capacity development program for all RECs.”

“This can be best achieved though strategic partnerships among development partners, think tanks, public sector, private sector around coordinated capacity building for the economic communities by institutions such as the ACBF.”

The ACBF, he said, has demonstrated its experience and expertise in assisting States, the RECS and institutions unpack capacity needs previously unperceived by them and in proposing solutions for meeting such challenges.

He urged the Governments from across Africa and their partners to take a careful look at the report and consult with ACBF, AfDB, UNDP, AUC, NEPAD, ECA and the RECs in jointly mobilizing the required political and financial resources to implement the various capacity development programs and initiatives proposed in the book.

With plaudits from the Think Tank and RECs representatives at the launch, Prof. Nnadozie handed copies of the Report (in English and in French) to the Executive Secretary of SADC – Dr Stergomena Tax, who received it on behalf of all AU-recognized RECS in Africa.

Institutions covered/background

The study focuses on the needs of seven of the eight main RECS under the African Union, namely: the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Prepared by ACBF with support from the African Development Bank (AfDB), this report is a second in a series commenced in 2006.


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