Strengthened Partnerships with African Think Tanks will Enhance Bank’s Position as Knowledge Broker: ED Tse

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“Partnering with think tanks needs to be part and parcel of the Bank’s effort to become a strong knowledge broker.” – Hau Sing Tse, Executive Director of the African Development Bank for Canada, China, South Korea and Kuwait.

One of the highlights of the 7th African Economic Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, was the networking session with African think tanks for policy dialogue on “Flow of Funds and Africa’s Transformation.”

Participants expressed the need for genuine partnerships. Held one day prior to the conference opening, the meeting emphasized the overarching need to create a synergy with the leading think tanks in Africa. Participants recognized the role of think tanks for the Bank’s effectiveness on the ground, highlighting the need to strengthen partnerships with them to become a strong knowledge broker.

Over 60 participants representing the corporate sector, non-governmental organizations, academic and research institutions participated in the meeting. Among the high-level participants was the AfDB Executive Director for Canada, China, Korea and Kuwait, Hau Sing Tse, who observed that the Bank’s relationships with African think tanks were key: “Our institution’s partnerships with these think tanks needs to be part and parcel of our effort to become a strong knowledge bank.”

Unquestionably, given the fact that the AfDB is a development financing institution that has a keen interest in leveraging its knowledge, Tse also underscored that “these partnerships could perhaps need to have a strong bias towards applied research – either in the form of joint research, or studying the research results generated by these partner institutions that have strong policy implications and contribute to our knowledge work.

“There is also a continued need to help nurture the growth and strengthen the capacity of these think tanks, as African think tanks are best placed to think through African development issues,” he said. “A strong web of African think tanks and collaboration among them can be an effective knowledge driver at the country, regional and sub-regional levels.”

When asked what he had learned from his participation in the discussions on the flow of funds and Africa’s economic transformation, Executive Director Tse said he had “benefitted tremendously from this learning opportunity.”  

The workshop was enriching, he said. “I also learnt about the importance of reforms in the financial sector as integral parts of any structural economic transformation.” In addition, he explained, turning research results into policy recommendations and making them accessible to the policy-makers is something that all think tanks need to improve upon. In other words, he said, the applied side of research and producing research results that drive policy recommendations, while ensuring that those results are easy to understand, is just as important, as the research itself – if not more so.

In the view of the Executive Director, notwithstanding the complexities involved in getting good quality and timely data and the capacity of many developing countries to carry out flow of funds analysis, this is a worthwhile research effort to inform development of policy options. At the same time, he said, the application of some of these concepts could be applied today as demonstrated by the Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda. By tracking the flow of funds of commercial banks, development banks, micro-finance institutions, and cooperatives, the Rwandan Government is better equipped to understand the source and use of funds and to make decisions on, for example, bond issuance or design options in financing infrastructure projects. At the same time, this also speaks to the importance of building capacity to track the fundamental flow of funds to make this possible, as is the case with the Rwandan Central Bank, Tse highlighted.

The African Development Institute also used the opportunity of the pre-conference session to launch a book presenting research findings on the informal sector in Senegal, Benin and Burkina Faso. For Tse, “one important ‘take away’ was the importance of the need to understand the differences between the behaviour of large and small entities in the informal sector.

“The large entities behave pretty closely to the similar size of entities in the formal sector. This suggests that the small entities are the focus in terms of tackling domestic resource mobilization in the informal sector,” said the Executive Director. “I understand that there are best practices out there for governments to do just that in a constructive manner.”