African countries have to tackle long-term development challenges such as undiversified production structures, low levels of human capital, poor service delivery and weak governance.
Through the years, more challenges are also coming into focus. Some of them include:
* Insufficient growth compared to increase in productive employment, especially for young Africans who enter the labor force every year.
* Evenly redistributed growth and productive employment would still remain out of reach for the chronically poor, who suffer from food insecurity and under-nourishment.
* African women, who are both contributors to and beneficiaries from development, still lack legal and property rights, and access to finance and modern business practices.
* Climate change, through its effects on water, threatens Africa’s agriculture.
* Non-traditional solutions must be found for the large number and persistence of fragile states which may be stuck in a low-level equilibrium “trap”.
* The co-existence of a massive infrastructure deficit and the large number of small countries in Africa signals the need for regional solutions.
* Fiscal austerity in developed countries, as well as criticism and political backlash against foreign aid, means that official development assistance may be constrained.
The bank is now seeing its role as a partner first, providing a platform on which development assistance and a country’s own resources can be more effectively used and using its knowledge assistance to nourish an evidence-based debate in countries on policy issues. Accountability is seen as a major constraint in Africa. The high level of corruption in many countries is a symptom of weak accountability. The current state of governance demonstrates negative and positive trends. This is one of the key things that the Bank will emphasize in its new approach. The media has been invited to play a major task of providing and disseminating information with which citizens can hold governments accountable.
The emergence of new development partners, the untapped potential of mobilizing domestic resources, as well as the rise in private capital flows to Africa, calls for a new approach. The bank is therefore seeking to build on news ways to approach governments. The strategy must be transformative for it to realize its’ vision. It will be implemented using the Bank’s traditional instruments – finance, knowledge and partnerships, which will be deployed differently depending on country circumstances.
Photo credit /ILRI/Mann