From Beneficiary to Donor: Broad Perspectives an Asset for Capacity Development
Technical assistance plays a key part in projects backed by the European Development Fund (EDF). However, translating the needs of a beneficiary government can be challenging. We hear from Ram-Maria Ouedraogo who has experience of working on both sides of the aid partnership.
Ms Ouedraogo currently works as an Infrastructure Task Manager in the EU Delegation to Burkina Faso. But not so long ago Ms Ouedraogo worked in Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Infrastructures. Her varied experience leads her to believe that it is important for donors and partners to work closely together, agreeing on a project's aims from the outset.
"For us at the Ministry of Infrastructures, technical assistance has always provided an important support mechanism in the implementation of EDF projects, due to the sharing of information and collaboration during the implementation of road projects," said Ms Ouedraogo, a civil engineer with ten years experience at the Ministry of Infrastructures.
Ms Ouedraogo's previous experience is an important asset in her new position within the European Union.
"Today I can better resolve difficulties due to my experience," she said. "I understand more how things work on the ministry's side, how they appreciate things, how they perceive things when the technical and financial partner makes a proposal."
Differences of opinion and not enough communication can lead to beneficiaries misinterpreting financial partners' intentions. At the very least this causes setbacks, if not the failure of a project. However, Ms. Ouedraogo's understanding of the Ministry of Infrastructure's perspective has provided her with an added insight when managing Delegation projects.
According to Paul Riembault, formerly the Head of Infrastructure Section at the EU Delegation to Burkina Faso, "it is always a dilemma to hire people from the national Administration, because we do not want to create a brain drain."
Pour nos lecteurs francophones
Ram-Maria Ouedraogo est ingénieur civil et a travaillé 10 ans à la Direction Générale des Routes du Burkina Faso, au cours desquels elle a eu une riche expérience de coopération technique.
Enfin, de par ses expériences professionnelle et personnelle, Mme Ouedraogo apporte un témoignage personnel sur l'éducation des femmes. Fille d’une grande famille, ses 7 sœurs et une cousine ont comme elle eut la chance de faire des études; elle a ainsi pu être la première femme ingénieur à intégrer la Direction Générale des routes du Burkina Faso.
However the labour market in Burkina Faso is becoming more fluid with more and more skilled professionals. Recently two locally hired workers left the EU Delegation to work in other sectors in Burkina Faso. “It is no longer a one way street,” said Mr Riembault.
In a recent video interview, Ms Ouedraogo offers some advice for her colleagues at the EU. She recommends that fellow project managers work as closely as possible with the benefitting administration. "It is important for both sides to agree on the outcome from the beginning."
"Involving the beneficiary ministry through the early planning stages, and all further steps, allows them to take control of a project and enables them to fulfil the objectives,” she said.
Ms Ouedraogo's personal and educational background is also extremely relevant. At 0.305, Burkina Faso has one of the lowest human development indexes (HDI). Ranking 161st in the world, it is classed among the least developed countries. This statistic is severely reflected in the population's education. Burkina Faso falls among a minority of countries where the adult literacy rate is below 50%. There is also a marked gender disparity in the educational system: in 2007 the adult literacy rate was 21.6% for females, and 36.7% for males.
"In African society it is not given that girls must be sent to school," said Ms Ouedraogo. "There are many projects ongoing in west Africa to encourage sending girls to school." Ms Ouedraogo is the oldest of eight children, all girls. She, her sisters, and one female cousin raised with the family, were fortunate to receive an education; all of them have completed school, with some choosing to pursue university studies.
At university Ms Ouedraogo trained as a civil engineer, before going on to become the Ministry of Infrastructure's first woman engineer. During her time there she personally benefitted from technical cooperation, she was one of seventeen civil engineers sent to France where she studied and trained in both Lyon and Rouen.
Ms Ouedraogo's parents were both educated and she accredits her success to them. "Everything was put into place for us to succeed," she says. "The secret? Simply that our parents instilled in us the desire to learn."