EAC and AfDB call for closer partnership in the design and delivery of regional projects

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The East African Community (EAC) and the African Development Bank’s Eastern African Regional Resource Center (EARC) have called for closer collaboration in the design, implementation and monitoring of regional projects. They made this undertaking at the joint Regional Project Portfolio Review (RPPR) for East Africa held in Arusha, Tanzania, on Friday, June 12, which was attended by Project Coordinators from the EARC region which covers 13 countries (Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda).

Speaking at the opening of the review, Enos S. Bukuku, Deputy Secretary General for Planning and Infrastructure at the EAC Secretariat, said the EAC was “grateful to the Bank for its generosity towards many of the EAC projects and programmes, top among them the continuing support towards the implementation of the Heads of State infrastructure priorities and directives thereof.” He cited Bank support for the region in terms of road projects, power interconnectors and new standard gauge railways as well as the Lake Victoria Basin Initiative.

Bukuku informed delegates that while implementation of regional projects was beneficial, experience has shown that they are complex and are more difficult to design and deliver than national projects. He further observed that member states on their own cannot coordinate themselves to efficiently realize these projects, hence the importance of providing adequate capacity to REC Secretariats to effectively support member states to coordinate large multinational projects.

He concluded by emphasizing that “another area that I would wish the review to focus on in support of the succeeding RISP is the area of procurement for regional projects and institutional capacity-building of relevant agencies at national level and REC level.” These, he observed, were critical factors to the success of regional projects.

In this remarks, Gabriel Negatu, the AfDB Regional Director, informed the meeting that the regional portfolio performance review is a management tool, aimed at joint assessment of the implementation progress of programmes and projects under the East Africa Regional Integration Strategy Paper (RIS), which was for the period 2011 to 2015 between the Bank and recipients.

He indicated that it is intended to help the Bank achieve two key objectives: (i) to come up with measures to improve the quality of the Bank Group’s regional portfolio in East Africa; and (ii) to provide guidance for programming and design of new operations under the Bank’s new Regional Integration Policy and Strategy (RIPoS) for the 10-year period, 2014 to 2023, which will in turn inform development of the new RISP for the East Africa Region for the next five years, 2016-2020.

Negtau informed delegates that the new RIPoS is focused on two key pillars, (i) Regional infrastructure development with new emphasis on blending hard and soft infrastructure; and (ii) Regional industrialization and trade with a focus on regional and global value chains and industrialization. In turn, the regional strategies are aligned to the Bank’s Ten Year Strategy (TYS), which has a focus on five core operational priorities. These are: (i) Infrastructure; (ii) Regional integration; (iii) Private sector development; (iv) Skills and technology; and (v) Governance and accountability.

Negtau said, “We have taken a critical look at the underlying causes of the challenges being encountered during the implementation of our regional operations, but allow me to highlight two key issues that we need to take a critical look at, which are the need for adequate project preparation and the need to address coordination challenges for regional infrastructure projects.

The workshop came up with a number of key recommendations, among them: (i) capacity-building of RECs to better coordinate regional projects; (ii) capacity-building of key institutions at national level responsible for regional projects; (iii) training of recipients on Bank procurement, financial and fudiciary services and project management in general; (iv) development of manuals and models to facilitate documenting and sharing of best practices; (v) re-engineering of Bank business processes to better respond to the demands and complexity of regional projects; (vi) procurement reforms in member states to be more responsible to regional projects; (vii) enhanced monitoring and reporting on performance of regional projects so as to address challenges in good time; and (viii) enhanced information sharing as well as tracking and reporting on the development impact of regional projects.

Participants welcomed the regional project portfolio performance review and called for closer collaboration between the Bank on the one hand and the RECs and Member States on the other, in the design, delivery, management, monitoring and reporting of regional projects.