Politicians and civil society play a major role in providing services, says a high-level seminar

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The Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) opened in Kigali, Rwanda, on Monday, May 19, 2014 with a series of sessions on the programme bringing together many African personalities from politics, civil society and the private sector.

A session entitled "Delivering Services" was held on Wednesday, May 21 with panellists Mo Ibrahim, President and Founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigerian Minister of Finance and Economic Coordination, Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana, and Richard Konteh, Chief of Staff to the Presidency of Sierra Leone.

The aim of this session was to consider the roles African leaders and governance play in the provision of services, the achievement of tangible results, the sharing of diverse experiences and the pursuit of the transformation of the African continent.

According to Festus Mogae, Africa has made enormous progress in recent years, but much remains to be done, particularly in terms of energy. He stressed the fact that water – essential to health and nutrition – ought to be accessible to all, which is not yet the case in many countries. He added: "Some states tend to make excessive investments in security and the army, at the expense of other priority sectors for their populations."

On African development, Mo Ibrahim emphasised the progress made to date, but pointed out this it has been a little too slow in comparison with Africa’s rapid population growth. "It is undeniable that we are moving forward. We now have data gathered over a 12-year period which demonstrate that things are moving positively in Africa." He also spoke about the role of citizens in development: "Civil society is very important for guaranteeing leaders' honesty and accountability for results. The role of civil society is not only to criticise but also to offer avenues for reflection."

For her part, Okonjo-Iweala warned that these data are sometimes inaccurate and misused. She underlined the importance of economic growth that is not only rapid but also of good quality. "Growth with no impact on the people enriches only businesses and governments," she said.

State House Chief of Staff Richard Konteh cited Sierra Leone as an example of a country that was able to guarantee its reconstruction effort through an effective system of performance contracts. "These contracts, made between each director and the President, are reviewed quarterly and Ministers also have their performance assessed. This assessment process – which involves a system of sanctions and rewards – makes it possible to monitor the effectiveness of different ministries. Moreover, decentralisation and cooperation with the private sector are essential to provide quality services, provided that every level is able to meet demand."

In his concluding statement, former President Mogae talked about African countries' need to work together to bring about a general improvement in services. "Nobody should be turned away from services in our countries, and that is why we must make the maximum effort into providing an efficient service."