Taking AfDB’s development impact to scale in fragile situations

11/01/2016
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It is widely recognized that Africa is the continent most affected by issues of fragility that threaten to slow and even reverse development prospects of countries and entire regions. Prospects for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa seem limited, if we don’t address fragility.

At the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), we have come to recognize that issues of fragility vary across countries, and the costs are not limited to individual countries, but are borne by entire regions. Continuing patterns of exclusion and poverty, unemployment, high migration and refugee flows, rapid urbanization, climate change and poor management of natural resources, all present a risk to overwhelm the capacities of African states.

Against this background, and building on our long-standing experience of working in fragile contexts, the AfDB has been among the first major international development institutions to abandon the practice of using a list of fragile “states” and approach fragility as a “risk” to the development process to which no country is immune. This risk needs to be analysed and mitigated. Under our new Strategy for Addressing Fragility and Building Resilience in Africa (2014-2019), we refer to this process as the application of a “fragility-lens” to our engagement.

In recent years, we have witnessed many cases of political instability that resulted in the advent of transitory governments. This poses challenges to our traditional business model to which we need to adapt, making better use of our country presence and partnerships. We recognize the importance of the private sector in promoting economic growth and generating much-needed jobs in these moments. However, engaging with the private sector in such environments calls for better risk mitigation mechanisms and appropriate instruments.

We know that engaging in fragile situations that are often marked by the presence or a legacy of violent conflict, is particularly challenging and complex for a development partner. It is risky and there is no “silver bullet”, as each situation is different. It demands greater flexibility, increased responsiveness, deeper understanding and tailored instruments to make a difference.

The Bank has been called to play a leading role around issues of fragility in Africa and also think “outside the box” to find solutions. This study analyses constraints and opportunities in the Bank’s business model to deliver in fragile situations.

The report, Taking AfDB’s development impact to scale in fragile situations, identifies seven dimensions that have the potential to significantly strengthen the footprint of the AfDB in these settings:

(i) strengthen response during re-engagement and country turnarounds;

(ii) design country strategies, programs and projects that enable scaling-up;

(iii) strengthen financial instruments for scaling-up;

(iv) enhance the effectiveness of field offices;

(v) strengthen partnerships with the international community;

(vi) deploy the full range of instruments to partner with the private sector;

(vii) strengthen risk management.

We believe that the analysis contained in this report is of relevance not only to the AfDB, but also to other development partners, as we jointly strive to enhance our effectiveness in fragile situations.


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