On Tuesday, December 1, the Transition Support Department of the African Development Bank launched a Brainstorming Series on Fragility, Resilience and the High 5s for Africa at the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan. The High 5s are priorities intended to accelerate the implementation of the Bank’s Ten-Year Strategy. Specifically, the goals are to: Light up and power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the quality of life for African people. In the line with the 2014-2019 Strategy for “Addressing Fragility and Building Resilience in Africa”, the objective of the new series is to reflect on impactful ways to apply the “fragility lens” to all levels of the Bank’s engagement in its regional member countries. To this end, each seminar in the series will be organized with key sector departments.
Tuesday’s session, “Harnessing Technological Innovation in Fragile Situations” was a product of collaboration between the Human Development Department (OSHD); the Transport, Information and Communications Department (OITC); and the Chief Economist Complex (ECON). The meeting was “a wonderful example of teamwork and the ‘One-Bank’ in action”, noted Sibry Tapsoba, Director of the Transition Support Department (ORTS), in his opening remarks.
Staff from OITC gave an overview of the Bank’s interventions in infrastructure, as well as softer aspects such as services, policy and institutional capacity-building. At the end of November 2015, 16.8% of the Department’s total portfolio, representing close to US $2 billion in investments, were in fragile environments. Participants at the seminar recognized that it was important to address fragility in all operations, given the catalytic role of transport and ICT in facilitating mobility, accessibility and inclusion across countries, regions and the continent. Representatives from OSHD, for their part, underscored that science, technology and innovation (STI) are identified in the Bank’s Human Capital Strategy (2014-2018) as key factors for promoting productivity, competitiveness and a knowledge economy. As such, the Bank is working closely with several universities and centres of excellence.
The seminar’s guest speaker was Osita Ogbu a professor of Economics and MD/CEO of the African Development Solutions International Ltd. He previously served as Executive Director/CEO of the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS). He agreed with the Bank’s new understanding of fragility as a problem that affects all countries, but in varying degrees of magnitude. Ogbu provided evidence that Africa’s recent economic progress was driven by a commodity boom. He argued that this trajectory was unsustainable, and that a prioritization of STI was essential to engender the much-needed economic transformation across the continent. Finland and Japan, two countries which were fragile in recent history (the former at independence from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1917, and the latter at the end of the Second World War), were cited as examples. Both countries have reaped the rewards of consciously placing STI at the forefront of the national development agenda.
Ogbu challenged the AfDB, the continent’s premier development institution, to do more. He also recommended that the Bank create an Innovation Fund to nurture solutions to local problems – focusing on social needs, rather than commercial interests. Overall, the Bank should partner with specialized networks and play a leadership role in encouraging the redirection of public money to STI. The full presentation and video can be accessed via the following link: http://bit.ly/1HGvrIS.
The second session of the brainstorming series on “Challenges and Opportunities for Enhancing Inclusive Agricultural Value Chains in Fragile Situations” is taking place on Thursday, December 3, at the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan.