Southern African CSOs and AfDB outline expectations for better cooperation

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Noel Kulemeka, AfDB Division Manager for Gender, Women and Civil society: “Capacity building is critical to ensure that when they work with communities they disseminate accurate and correct information”.

At a regional consultation meeting the African Development Bank (AfDB) is organizing with Southern African civil society organizations (CSOs) from November 28 to 30 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Bank and CSOs outlined their expectations so as to provide a better understanding of their respective roles and strengthen cooperation.

Speaking at the meeting, Zeneb Touré, Principal Civil Society Engagement Officer, started her intervention by outlining that the objective of the meeting was to exchange with CSOs on the Bank’s strategic focus in three priority areas: energy and climate change, agriculture, and jobs for youth. She added that the goal of the meetings was to define and identify for each of the three priority areas, contextual actions where CSOs can contribute to deliver the Bank’s development agenda; and to reach a consensus on the implementation modalities.

In addition to Touré’s presentation, those made by other Bank staff focused on environment safeguards, legal aspects of Bank interventions, the Bank’s new business development model, procurement, a framework for engagement with CSOs, as well as presentations on agriculture, the Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa strategy, and energy and climate change. The goal was to provide a better understanding of the Bank’s mandate and rules, its policies and strategies (the High 5 priorities and the Ten Year Strategy) as well as its operations in the regions (portfolio and pipeline of projects).

CSOs’ expectations for the Bank were put forward by Engwase B. Mwale, Executive Director of Non-Governmental Organization Coordination Council (NGOCC) of Zambia. Overall, she said that CSOs expect that the Bank’s strategy will fit within the African countries’ national strategies and specifically refocus the three priority areas – energy and climate change, agriculture, and jobs for youth – around the special emphasis on those countries which are on the path of economic recovery.

On AfDB’s support to governments, she said, “The Bank is to play the role of helping strengthen the governments’ institutional frameworks so as to maximize the use of all sources of development finance. In this regard, it is the CSOs’ expectation that the Bank will clearly articulate and disseminate its monitoring framework to monitor key indicators and whether the same are being monitored within the countries’ national development frameworks.” CSOs also expect the AfDB to “emphasize an Inclusive Growth Model, where economic growth, and the distribution of that growth, determines the rate of poverty reduction.”

In the exchanges that followed the presentations, CSOs underscored the need for strong and continued capacity building in many areas in order to be knowledgeable and credible partners in discussions with governments and the Bank, especially during project design and implementation, and evaluation. 

In the words of Noel Kulemeka, AfDB Division Manager for Gender, Women and Civil Society, “Capacity building is important to ensure that the CSOs working with us understand the specific areas of concern for the Bank within the High 5s. It is also critical to ensure that when they work with communities, CSOs disseminate accurate and correct information”.

Robert Chimambo of Zambia Climate Change Network agreed that capacity building is important for CSOs to understand the challenges of global treaties on gender, human rights and youth. “You need informed CSOs at all levels to avoid conflicts between CSOs and governments and development institutions,” he said.

The Johannesburg meeting is the third of a series of five regional consultations with African civil society organizations. The meetings aim to strengthen mechanisms and grassroots support in the implementation of the Bank’s High 5 priorities (Light up and power Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialize Africa, Integrate Africa, and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa) over the next 10 years.

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