Difficulties Matching Theory and Practice in Tanzania
“Compliance with financial regulations and disbursement pressure continues to drive the agenda. In this regard, we wonder what room there is to adopt the Backbone Strategy principles,” said Enrico Strampelli Head of Development Cooperation at the EU Delegation in Tanzania, in a recent interview for capacity4dev.
The Tanzania delegation recently hosted a learning event on the ongoing reform of technical cooperation, with participation from delegation staff, government representatives and other development partners.
One of the key challenges that emerged from the event was that there is a contradiction between the spirit and intentions of the Backbone Strategy and the realities of EC procedures and timetables.
“Procedures require specification upfront of expected outputs and corresponding inputs but often we are confronted with many unknowns and changing circumstances,” said Mr Strampelli.
See the full interview with Mr Strampelli below. The interview was made by Anthony Land, who also facilitated the learning event.
Interview with Enrico Strampelli, Head of Development Cooperation, EU Delegation, Tanzania
What messages do you take away from the workshop?
Before the workshop, the backbone strategy (BBS) was a bit of a mystery. We were not sure of its relevance to our situation in Tanzania given the shift towards budget support and relatively small component of TC in current portfolio…. In the end there is nothing radically new in the BBS, it’s a matter of finding ways to make it happen.
Participants said that in an “ideal world” the BBS can work but in reality it’s another thing – what are the main challenges the EC and partners face?
It’s about going beyond symbolic ownership. There needs to be a more critical and open discussion around real demand. In Tanzania very little is refused, dialogue mechanisms are in place but it is not always clear where things go. A major commitment has been made to work through country systems, but we are waiting to see results on the ground.
For us who work at country level, we are still constrained by procedures and timetables that do not allow the flexibility needed to work in tempo with our country partners. Procedures require specification upfront of expected outputs and corresponding inputs but often we are confronted with many unknowns, and changing circumstances. Compliance with financial regulations and disbursement pressure continues to drive the agenda. In this regard, we wonder what room there is to adopt the BBS principles.
What steps are being taken to implement the EU Operational Framework?
Tanzania is regarded to be a front-runner having already developed a road map to implement the Operational Framework based on a meeting of heads of cooperation in February this year that we organised. The Delegation has a coordinating role but it is not an easy process.
Tanzania is generally considered to have made important advances in taking forward the aid effectiveness agenda. There is particular interest on the Government side in making progress on Division of Labour in large part to reduce congestion in dialogue processes. There have also been important advances with respect to expansion of budget support, though some weariness on the part of development partners is now setting in. And the fact remains that the aid environment remains incredibly crowded in Tanzania with a huge number of agencies present in the country pushing different agendas and managing individual projects.
Why is there so little technical cooperation within the EC’s programme in Tanzania?
A major decision was taken to increase the proportion of funding through new aid modalities and in particular through budget support under 10th EDF. We are also focusing on the productive sectors, which tend not to demand as much TC input as the social sectors. Our engagement on the social sectors is done through Germany and the UK with whom we have established memorandums of understanding to track progress through dialogue processes.
Experience is however showing us that engagement in policy dialogue requires short term TC inputs to undertake studies, prepare documents and support monitoring processes, and in this way, the Delegation has itself become a bigger consumer of short term TC services. We are also beginning to realise that there is a strategic role that TC can play to accompany sector budget support and general budget support. Whilst in some situations, such TC can be provided by other development partnerships, in some areas, there can still be a role for the Commission, such as in infrastructure, where we have one technical assistant supporting the transport department.
So all in all, the reduction in TC in our current programme is really a natural consequence of new aid modalities and harmonisation efforts, but there may be reason to increase it a little in the future…but with due regard to the BBS principles!