During a consultation meeting that opened on November 28 in Johannesburg, South Africa, Southern African civil society organizations (CSOs) commended the African Development Bank (AfDB) for seeking their input for better delivery of its operational priorities.
“As CSOs, we would like to commend the Bank for its decision to engage us more closely than before. We welcome this as it demonstrates the Bank’s appreciation of the role CSOs play in supporting and complementing government intervention, as well as its recognition of the CSOs as a key development player that can help in delivering its operational priorities,” said Betty Chinyamunyamu of the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFA). She spoke at the opening ceremony on behalf of the 30 organizations participating in the meeting.
The Bank welcomed the appreciation, but said that more needs to be done to reinforce collaboration between the two sides. Speaking on behalf of AfDB’ s Acting Regional Director of the Southern Africa Resource Center, Ernest Addison, Lead Economist, said, “We need to work together to exploit our comparative advantages for bigger results and effective outcomes. Hence the objective of the Bank is to cooperate with CSOs where appropriate, to integrate NGO experience, knowledge and expertise into Bank operations to ensure more effective achievement of the development agenda.”
Addison added that the Bank “recognized the roles governments play in opening up the playing field to accommodate CSOs in policy development and project implementation where CSOs should be seen as reliable and trusted partners in project implementation, coordination, capacity building and monitoring and evaluation.”
For her part, Maria Mulindi, Senior Advisor to the AfDB President on CSO and Community Based-Organizations, said that the consultations are opportunities for the Bank to learn from CSOs’ vast experience, since they are the one in regular contact with the populations in the most remote rural areas. Paraphrasing AfDB President, Akinwumi Adesina, Mulindi emphasized the necessary collaboration, saying that the Bank cannot do its work well if CSOs don’t do their jobs well and vice versa.
The opening ceremony also saw presentations from the Bank on the following topics: ‘Framework for engagement with CSOs’, ‘AfDB Legal Mandate’, ‘CSOs’ Expectations from the Bank’ and ‘Bank Expectations from CSOs’. The presentations were followed by questions, comments and contributions on issues such as partnerships, agriculture, capacity building and mechanisms for the involvement of CSOs in countries, project design and implementation.
A view of the opening ceremony: the regional consultation is an opportunity to exchange views and best practices.
Antonin Chapita from the NGO ACADIR of Angola said that “CSOs are seen as a good way to reach people on the ground. We now see ourselves as partners of governments in the fight against poverty.”
For her part, Mwape Lubilo of PUSH/WEMCOS in Zambia, said that CSOs “are the voice of the voiceless. They should be accepted as development partners who add value to the Bank’s work.”
The Johannesburg meeting is the third of a series of five regional consultations with African civil society organizations after similar engagements for West Africa in Dakar and for Central Africa in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The meetings with regional CSOs 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.
Through the consultations, the Bank is strengthening dialogue with CSOs on three priority areas: energy and climate change, agriculture, and jobs for the youth. At the end of the process, a roadmap will be elaborated by sub-region to serve as a basis for the Bank’s Civil Society Engagement Action Plan to set up the structure of the enhanced partnership to deliver the High 5s.
After Southern Africa, the East Africa consultations will take place in Nairobi, Kenya on December 7, 8 and 9, while the North Africa segment will take place in Tunis, Tunisia, from December 13 to 15, 2016.