African Civil Society Bodies Call for People-Oriented Approach for AfDB Long Term Strategy

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Representatives of African civil society organisations (CSOs) ended two days of partnership talks with the African Development Bank (AfDB) on Tuesday in Nairobi, after intensive discussions on the institution’s Long Term Strategy (LTS) for 2013 to 2022, currently being formulated, to which they made considerable inputs.

Guided by Geoffrey Manley from the AfDB’s private sector department, and Ruth Karimi Charo of the East Africa Regional Resource Centre,  the participants analysed the strategy both in a plenary session and in groups.  They made suggestions on what the AfDB needs to do to carry the people along in its interventions.

According to the CSOs, the AfDB should adopt a people-oriented approach in the way it does business, with country-based realities as the guiding principle. They also suggested that the AfDB should engage more with civil society, and promote policy dialogue and partnerships between governments, private sector and civil society.  They added that the AfDB should focus on developing Africa’s private sector, and that it should become more open and transparent in its operations and lending policies.

The CSOs -  from eight countries in east and southern Africa, cited good governance, political and economic stability, regional economic blocs,  and socially conscious citizenry as some of the key drivers with potential opportunities and challenges that the AfDB could capitalize on to achieve more meaningful development.

The other promising areas were climate change and food security, urbanization, gender,  Africa’s vast resources, commodities information technology, mainstreaming of informal sector, and the promotion of South-South cooperation.

They suggested that the AfDB could leverage productivity and economic growth by promoting free movement of people within regions and in the continent.  It could also achieve results by including CSOs in public-private policy dialogue, addressing constraints in international agreements that inhibit African economies, and by promoting indigenous knowledge production and dissemination through studies and generation of statistics, The AfDB should strengthen unity between regional blocs and stop  illicit flow of funds out of Africa.

On policy change, they suggested that the AfDB should include grassroots groups in the design and implementation of its lending strategies and policies.  Inclusive growth should be inclusive at the policy level, they maintained.  Loans and grants should be made to small and medium size enterprises above the USD 10 million minimum, as this does not reflect the prevailing reality of  the local African business environment. Lending policy should engage with the wider public, they said.

On climate change and green economy, the CSOs suggested that the focus should be on adaptation rather than mitigation. More fundamentally, the state should lead the development process in which the private sector would play the crucial role.

According to the CSOs, Africa expects the AfDB to connect with the people and engage with them directly. They expect the institution to establish concrete guidelines to make AfDB projects accountable to the people. Knowledge on social development issues should be increased within the AfDB.  

Investment in agriculture should not just focus on production but also on human resources, agro-industrial ventures and low end income generating agriculture.  The AfDB must also invest in renewable energy, they maintained.

Mr. Manley commended them for the constructive suggestions. He said their inputs would be documented and forwarded to other high-level groups working on the strategy. He presented the webpage, which the AfDB has created for people to post and read comments on the strategy.