Interview with African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) Ag. Executive Secretary: “Our training programs have increased the supply of a critical mass of high-caliber policy analysts and development managers”

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Interview with African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) Ag. Executive Secretary: “Our training programs have increased the supply of a critical mass of high-caliber policy analysts and development managers”

In order to help stem brain drain, there is a need to build credible and sustainable human and institutional capacity. "We need an enabling environment that will encourage beneficiaries to remain on the Continent or to be attracted back to it," African Capacity Building Foundation Executive Secretary Edwin N. Forlemu told AfDB Newsletter, following discussions in Tunis on April 3rd with various Bank Group Officials.

Question: You are currently on a working visit to the AfDB. What are the key objectives of the visit?

Answer: The ACBF Mission to the AfDB is intended to achieve three main objectives: (i) to renew contact with AfDB officials at the highest level in order to exchange ideas and perspectives on possible areas of co-operation germane to the respective mandates and priorities of both institutions; (ii) to identify areas of improvement in the relations between the AfDB and ACBF, which will pave the way for more effective and efficient collaboration on the ground between both institutions; (iii) and to address financing issues, given that the AfDB is not only one of the Foundation’s three sponsoring agencies but is also a founding and major donor to the Foundation.

Question: What is your assessment of the cooperation between the AfDB and ACBF?

Answer: The co-operation between the AfDB and ACBF is in excellent shape. Through its representatives on the ACBF Executive Board and Board of Governors, the AfDB plays a critical role in shaping operational policies at the Foundation and in the approval of projects and programs. The AfDB also co-operates with ACBF in the conduct of capacity profiles in various countries on the Continent such as Benin and Sierra Leone. Obviously, we can do more together – which is why this mission to the Bank is critical.

Question: What more can you do with the AfDB?

Answer: Some departments of the AfDB (such as those dealing with operations, governance, and trade etc.) can exchange information on their work programs with the Foundation. The AfDB and ACBF can share information on their funding priorities and financing windows as this will improve the capacity of potential beneficiaries to leverage additional co-financing. Also, the Bank and the Foundation can work together on the development or refinement of performance management systems in order to better measure and track the results of their interventions – and, ultimately, their development effectiveness. Lastly, we can jointly organize or sponsor workshops dealing with themes and topics of mutual interest.

Question: Capacity building is one of the key planks for the realization of the MDGs. It is also relevant to your institution. What are your views about this?

Answer: This is eminently true. Through its support in the design and financing of policy units or institutes that address PRSP and post-PRSP issues, and through its support to training programs in economic policy analysis and management, ACBF helps to shape public policies that address the MDGs in African countries. In addition, through its interventions in such areas as public administration and management, national statistics, financial management and accountability, strengthening of the policy analysis function of parliaments and enhancement of the voices of the private sector and civil society, ACBF has helped to build sustainable capacity to reduce poverty and foster good governance on the Continent. These efforts have, in turn, helped to take forward national and regional efforts to reach the MDGs.

Question: What is your strategy to address brain drain?

Answer: Our strategy to help stem brain drain is simple: to help build or enhance credible and sustainable human and institutional capacity by providing the requisite financial and non-financial incentives that will enable beneficiaries to remain on the Continent or to be attracted back to it. We accomplish this through the establishment of policy units, the financing of training programs, the reform or restructuring of fragile entities as well as the upgrading of the advocacy function of organizations and networks across sub-Saharan Africa.

Question: Could you cite some concrete success stories from your portfolio of projects and programmes that have helped build capacity in Africa?

Answer: We can cite successful policy units or institutes such as CAPAN in Benin, BIDPA in Botswana, CAPES in Burkina Faso, CIRES-CAPEC in Côte d’Ivoire, CEPA in Ghana, KIPPRA in Kenya, PNRC in Mauritania, CEPOD in Senegal, ESRF in Tanzania, and EPRC in Uganda. We also have training operations such as the EPM training programs in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Uganda, the AERC Collaborative Master’s Degree Program in Economics (a regional program, which is based in Kenya), the AERC Collaborative Ph.D. Program (a regional program, which is also based in Kenya), and the PTCI Program (which is a regional program based in Burkina Faso). The policy units have not only helped to upgrade the quality of evidence-based policy research in Africa and influenced the content and scope of economic policies in the countries which they are based, but have also produced sound analysts and development managers who have gone on to become cabinet ministers, governors of central banks and prime ministers. The training programs have increased the supply of a critical mass of high-caliber policy analysts and development managers who will become captains of development in the years ahead.

Question: Is the ACBF mature enough to graduate from AfDB’s support?

Answer: No, ACBF is not yet mature enough to graduate from AfDB support because it does not yet have an independent source of funding. As you well know, ACBF is in the business of building capacity, which is essentially a public good. However, our vision is that, in the future, the results registered on the ground and the Foundation’s track record will be strong enough to earn it the reputation as Africa’s preeminent capacity-building institution. Accordingly, it will be able to attract traditional funding support from other sources and even build a robust endowment. This will enable it to diversify its funding base – and, thereby, rely increasingly less on support from the AfDB and other donors.

Question: You’ve held discussions with AfDB officials. What are your expectations from these discussions?

Answer: We expect that the discussions with AfDB officials will enable us to identify a few core areas of co-operation that will serve as the focus of our joint work. This will result in the preparation of an Aide Mémoire or similar instrument that will be signed by both institutions. In addition, we hope to clarify or resolve a number of issues relating to the speedy honoring by the AfDB of its financial pledges to the Foundation. Lastly, we hope to improve the communication flow between the AfDB and ACBF in order to preempt or resolve difficulties before they become obstacles to progress.

Question: Given that the AfDB has identified the generation and dissemination of knowledge as a major strategic focus, what kind of cooperation can AfDB develop with ACBF?

Answer: The good news is that ACBF has developed its own knowledge management strategy as part of its vision to become a knowledge broker in the future. Through the sharing of knowledge products and services (including the exchange of publications, the conduct of joint research work, the provision of access and links to our respective knowledge sources online, as well as the co-sponsorship and convening of workshops and other learning forums), the AfDB and ACBF could help to strengthen their collaborative ventures in this domain. In addition, the AfDB and ACBF could become members of the communities of practice and other networks that they have each established for the generation, capture, custody, and dissemination of their knowledge resources.

Interview by: Aristide Ahouassou. Email:, Tel: (+216) 7110-3414 or (+216) 23-24-43-43

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Name: Edwin N. Forlemu Title: African Capacity Building Foundation Executive Secretary
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