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Transparency at the heart of Africa’s growth and prosperity

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by Donald Kaberuka

Today, Publish What You Fund is launching their annual Aid Transparency Index (ATI) in Washington, DC. The ATI is currently the only global measure of aid transparency amongst the world’s largest donors. I’m once again pleased to see that the African Development Bank has performed well, ranking eighth out of 68 organisations assessed, and gaining over 10 percentage points from last year.

Transparency is a key priority for us and we have been working hard to ensure that the principles of transparency are embedded in the way we do business.

In 2013, we launched our new disclosure policy, putting greater transparency at the heart of our work. It is based on the principles of good governance; particularly transparency, accountability and the sharing of information on our operations. These principles underlie our ten-year strategy for inclusive economic growth across the continent.

Our decision to publish with the International Aid Transparency Initiative – or IATI – reflects these commitments. The data we publish covers a wide range of information on the Bank’s public and private sector projects. We are proud to say that we were the world’s first multilateral development bank to provide private sector and precise geographical data through IATI.

But why are we investing in transparency? Good economic governance and management are central in the pursuit of growth and prosperity in Africa. Without comprehensive, accessible and timely information on aid, governments cannot take charge of their own development and stakeholders are not empowered with the information they need to follow development spending and drive results. Poor information undermines the ability of countries to integrate aid into planning, budgeting and reporting processes and undermines ownership and domestic accountability.

To unleash Africa’s potential and make sure the benefits of growth accrue to this and future generations, development needs to be managed sustainably.

That is why, in 2011 at the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, we – along with other development partners – agreed to implement IATI. We promised to do this by 2015 and we are making good progress.

One of the keys to IATI’s importance is that the data is in a standard and comparable format. Producing this standardised data is incredibly important. It means that information can be aligned not only with other aid information, but also with data from other economic sectors of activity.

The ability to link different datasets together is crucial if we are really to harness the power of transparency and build a fuller, timelier picture of different resource flows. The UN High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda has called for nothing less than a data revolution. Joining up different datasets and ensuring that they are standardised must be at the core of the data revolution if we are to properly realise the potential of open data.

What we have achieved so far has not been easy.

Our aim is to ensure that transparency is more than a watchword, but that it is truly embedded in the way the Bank does business. We have been working hard to improve the quality of the information we produce and how we present it – not only for our own transparency and accountability purposes, but also so that others can use the information to inform their own work.

For example, at our Annual Meetings this year we launched MapAfrica – a new web-based tool that locates all our projects on a map. It allows everybody to see for themselves where and what we are doing to create economic opportunities for the people of Africa. Just to give you one example out of many, you can find out how we are helping Africa meet its energy needs and where we are building roads.

We are now working to develop a feedback tool which will allow stakeholders to tell us what they think about the work we are doing. This is just one way we are opening up our information to help us become more effective in our activities and learn as we go along.

Last year we launched a new Results Measurement Framework , designed to underpin our Ten Year Strategy 2013-2022 by enabling us to better measure our impact. An each year we publish our results in our Annual Development Effectiveness Review. By bringing together evidence of our strengths and our weaknesses, we learn what is successful and strive for even greater effectiveness.

Greater transparency, however, should not be seen as a silver bullet. It is a means to achieving an end, namely more effective use of public resources and, ultimately, stronger accountability to the people we serve.

This is an area where we have a real opportunity to make tangible progress. IATI truly has the potential to transform the way aid is managed and it is crucial that we continue to work to meet our commitments over the next 15 months and beyond.

We must all invest in this agenda because by investing in better information we are investing in better development.

This post originally appeared here at the Global Partnership's Effective Development Co-operation Blog.


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