According to Frannie Leautier from the African Capacity Building Foundation, regular monitoring of capacity change in Africa could stimulate a lively debate on aid results and capacity in the run-up to Busan and beyond.
As part of its 20th anniversary celebrations, The African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) recently launched its inaugural “Africa Capacity Indicators” Report which monitors the status of capacity development in Africa, using a range of indicators.
These indicators cover three core areas: individual capabilities, organisational performance and institutional change.
The monitoring exercise is carried out using a self-assessment instrument. Although this can lead to some inflated scores, it can help foster ownership of the results.
“When people assess themselves they own the results and they own the implementation,” explained Frannie Leautier, ACBF Executive Secretary.
This year’s report raised some unexpected findings. Traditionally poor development performers like Burkina Faso and Burundi – which both score among the lowest rankings in the world on the United Nation’s Human Development Index – get high marks in ACBF index. Meanwhile, sub-Saharan Africa’s oft cited top development example, South Africa, emerged with a lower capacity ranking.
As Ms. Leautier explains, factors accounting for some of these discrepancies include:
- A disconnect between having capacity and using it, which can be attributed to governance and political context/ space, and
- Uneven distribution of capacity within a country – with pockets of very high but also very low capacity, which can affect the overall ranking.
Besides monitoring the core indicators, each report, which will be published annually, focuses on a specific topic. Thus the inaugural 2011 report focuses on capacity development in fragile contexts while the 2012 report will focus on capacity for agricultural productivity and food security.
The monitoring of capacity results comes at a time when the global development community is increasingly focused on managing for results and this will no doubt be a key issue for Busan. Helping to track changes in capacity across the continent will be warmly received by those who have found capacity to be a hard-to-grasp concept.
At the same time, some concern has been raised that in the pursuit of hard measurable results and quick wins, the long and painful process of institutional development and capacity strengthening, so critical to sustainability, may be cast aside. Yet this need not be the case.
According to Ms Leautier, the important thing is to ensure that the focus on results does not lead to “short-termism”.Nor should donors seek to plan and predict intended results from the outset through over complex and detailed design.
“Some of the biggest results achieved have come about not because they were planned but because space was created for innovation and discovery,” Ms Leautier pointed out.
The implication here is that good design does not mean over-design. Strategic direction, flexibility, and space for learning and empowerment are critical elements. A key role for development partners then is to create the space for local actors to act.
This basic message is borne out by the experience of the Rapid Results initiative which believes that quick results and capacity change can be combined when space is created for local actors to take ownership and exercise leadership in tackling development challenges.
The ACBF’s annual report and their regular monitoring on capacity change in Africa is expected to stimulate a lively debate on capacity, its development and its measurement, and ensure that capacity development rightly remains on the radar for policy makers and the development community at large.