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Why isn’t tech for accountability working in Africa?

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 03:22
Expanding mobile networks and falling costs could transform communication between African citizens and governments. So far, however, attempts to harness new technologies to improve transparency and accountability in Africa and elsewhere have had disappointing results. What is going wrong? Research suggests that an important reason for this failure is a poor understanding of technologies and limited skills in developing and using them. It seems that civil society organisations (CSOs) and governments often ‘re-invent the flat tyre’: experimenting with new tools without finding out what has been tried (often unsuccessfully) before. They also do not follow best practices in how to source, develop and test technologies to ensure these are ‘fit for purpose’. Decision makers should focus on building an effective innovation ecosystem with better links between technologists and accountability actors in both government and civil society to enable learning from successes – and mistakes. Recommendations:
  • those with responsibilities in creating the innovation ecosystem, including funders, should focus on building a supportive innovation ecosystem
  • funders should shift their focus from supporting short-term pilots to building institutions capable of success over time, and invest in strengthening links between initiatives and disseminating learning resources across the continent
  • those who are leading and managing innovation initiatives – in government and CSOs – should focus on getting better and smarter at managing the innovation cycle
  • research suggests the following ‘rules of thumb’ will lead to better outcomes: acknowledge what you do not know, think twice before building a new tool, get a second opinion, test technologies in the field, plan for failure, budget to iterate, and share what you learn

Community-level perceptions of drivers of change in nutrition: evidence from South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 04:37

Changes in the immediate, underlying and basic determinants of nutritional status at the community- and household-level are a logical and empirical prerequisite to reducing high levels of undernutrition in high burden countries.

This paper considers these factors directly from the perspective of community members and frontline workers interviewed in six countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In each country, in-depth interviews were conducted with mothers, other community members and health workers to understand changes in health and nutrition practices, nutrition-specific interventions, underlying drivers and nutrition-sensitive interventions, and life conditions.

Overall, the need for basic improvements in livelihood opportunities and infrastructure are solidly underscored. Nutrition-specific and -sensitive changes represented in most cases by deliberate government or NGO supported community interventions are rolling out at a mixed and uneven pace, but are having some significant impacts where solidly implemented. The synthesis presented here provides an invaluable source of information for understanding how community-level change occurred against a wider backdrop of national level progress.

Highlights:

  • the community is a critical nexus for the interventions and wider socio-economic changes that drive nutritional change

  • there is a paucity of community level studies of such broad drivers of nutritional change
  • this six country community level synthesis supports wider data (this issue) on changes in underlying and basic determinants.

  • the performance of “nutrition-specific” community interventions is mixed and uneven

 

Rethinking infrastructure in Africa: a governance approach

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 02:57

Infrastructure deficits have long been recognised as being central to Africa’s developmental malaise. This paper looks at the state of the continent’s infrastructure, with a focus on the actions that governments can take to spur its development. In other words, it attempts this analysis from the perspective of governance. By any measure, Africa is on average less well provisioned with infrastructural assets (roads, railways, power grids, communication networks, water and sanitation systems) than any other part of the world. Much of what does exist has been degraded by unsatisfactory maintenance. The most comprehensive estimate is that an amount of some $93 billion annually will be needed until 2020 to achieve the necessary development. Funding continues to fall short of this, although the sums available are growing. Africa’s governments, bilateral and multilateral donors and the private sector are all investing large amounts in infrastructure. Funding is no longer the defining problem in relation to Africa’s infrastructure development, and questions of governance need to be accorded greater recognition.

 

Studies demonstrate that gains are to be had through better project preparation, greater efficiencies and so on. Adequate maintenance is particularly important. These actions would help secure better infrastructure without significantly greater outlays. Achieving them would, however, require sometimes tough and politically unpopular decisions – making appropriate governance choices are therefore critical. Managing infrastructure construction and maintenance across borders is central to Africa’s infrastructure needs. With so many countries landlocked, cross-border links are imperative for their economic fortunes. This is a complex issue, and resolving it demands that governments and regional institutions cooperate with one another, imposing another set of governance choices. The paper concludes by noting the need to shift debate around Africa’s infrastructure to the governance obstacles it needs to confront. It suggests that governance action could be taken in seven areas to help achieve this: finance; policy, planning and project preparation; efficiency; the regulatory environment; private sector involvement; engagement of Africa’s people; and a focus on regional integration.

Economic integration and development partnerships: Southern perspectives

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 05:16
As part of its work programme on capacity-building among developing countries on global and regional economic issues RIS has been conducting its flaghship Capacity-Building Programme on International Economic Issues and Development Policy (IEIDP) under the ITEC/SCAAP programme of the Ministry of External Affairs. The programme is aimed to inculcate in participants enhanced understanding on challenges and opportunities associated with the processes of globalization and development. It is also designed to expose the participants to the growing complexities of global economic issues and negotiations and to build their analytical skills to deal with them. In this year’s programme, conducted from 13 February-10 March 2017, 33 participants from 25 countries took part. The participants enthusiastically engaged in technical sessions and group discussions. They identified critical areas to deliberate upon and eventually come up with status papers highlighting regional and global contexts and country experiences. Based on individual areas of expertise and inclination, they formed five thematic groups. This report comprises of contributions from each group:
  • Drivers and Experience of Regional Integration in Asia and Africa
  • South-South Cooperation: Select Country Experiences
  • Financing for Development: Developing Countries’ Perspectives
  • Economic Growth of Developing Countries in the Globalization Context:  Lessons from some Developing Countries
  • SDGs in Post-Truth: Do SDGs Matter for Developing Countries?
 

Older people in situations of migration In Africa: the untold migration story

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 20:18

Older people in Africa are involved in all aspects of the migration chain: they are voluntary or forced migrants themselves, they shape the migration experience of others by funding youth migration and being involved in the decision-making process, they also benefit from remittances. Yet, they remain invisible in migration policy, as well as aid and development planning.

This briefing tells the untold story of older people in the migration ecosystem in Africa. It highlights the importance of including older people in migration policies and practice – whether they are left behind, on the move, or returning to their country of origin. It identifies the key challenges facing this generation, explores policy options and calls for more thorough research to improve understanding of the capabilities and needs of older people in situations of migration in Africa.

Mineral governance barometer - Southern Africa

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 03:35

Southern Africa is endowed with lucrative mineral resources such as diamonds, gold, copper, coal, platinum, and uranium.  This rich endowment can be a major asset in the quest for inclusive and sustainable development, yet mining in Southern Africa has often been criticised as an enclave sector that at best contributes little to economic development and at worst does substantial social and environmental harm.  To avoid such pitfalls emerging international consensus emphasises the importance of good mineral governance. This involves the adoption and implementation of regulatory frameworks that promote deeper linkages between the mining sector and the broader economy, and that protect people and the environment from the potentially harmful consequences of mineral extraction.

This pilot study provides a barometer of mineral governance in ten Southern African countries: Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, South  Africa,  Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The barometer takes stock of mining regulations in place at the end of 2015, the extent to which they are implemented, and features of supporting institutions.  It is based on the observation that while regulations impose obligations on mining companies, in doing so they directly impose obligations on the state to monitor and enforce compliance, and they also indirectly impose obligations for citizens and civil society to hold the state and mining companies accountable.  The barometer includes indicators of mineral governance  across  four  main  issue-areas:  national  economic  and  fiscal  linkages;  community  impact; labour, and the environment, with artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) treated as a special topic.  The barometer also includes indicators of state capacity and state accountability with respect to mineral governance.

A practical agenda to reducing technical barriers to trade in SADC

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 19:19

Technical regulations refer to product and process specifications, whether voluntary (standards) or legally required (compulsory specifications).

This policy brief provides context for technical regulation in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. It then offers some cross-cutting solutions for developing monitoring mechanisms that can allow policymakers to identify problem areas, and some specific interventions for the Standards, Accreditation and Metrology functions that can build capacity at low cost. It provides some recommendations for a practical agenda on reducing Technical Barriers to Trade (TBTs) in the SADC – ones that can be executed with minimal cost, and that improve the institutional capacity of regional organisations to grapple with the complexity inherent to the field. Above all, these regulations will need to be carefully attuned to assure that they provide the maximum protection for the region from dangerous substandard imports, while still allowing for a dynamic, mutually beneficial trading relationship.

Technical regulation cannot create jobs, but it is a vital underpinning for the type of policies that drive regional integration and create industrial jobs. As it stands, Southern Africa’s technical regulation is developing too fast, with too few controls to ensure that it is directed towards developmental purposes. Capacity expansion that simply results in ever more standards being churned out increases complexity,
but not quality. Practical interventions that create supporting mechanisms – such as monitoring systems, or assistance for firms seeking accreditation – are essential to creating a development-focused regional technical infrastructure.

Innovative risk finance solutions – Insights for geothermal power development in Kenya and Ethiopia

Wed, 03/01/2017 - 17:44

Geothermal development is on the rise in many regions of the world. However, the high costs of field development, coupled with the high risks associated with resource exploration and drilling, still pose a significant barrier to private sector financing.

Insurance can mitigate the risks to investors and increase flows of private finance to the industry.

A project by Parhelion, a private sector insurance and risk company focused on climate finance, funded by CDKN, aimed to improve the technical capacity of Kenya’s and Ethiopia’s local insurance industries for using geothermal risk mitigation instruments.

A consultative process with relevant stakeholders in these countries yielded insights and recommendations for international, multilateral and bilateral institutions that are looking to support geothermal resource development. The analysis was enriched by E3G’s expertise in analysing climate finance flows.

The study found that international, multilateral and bilateral institutions should:

  • Support technical assistance and capacity building, which takes into account the needs of all relevant stakeholders involved within specific country and market contexts.
  • Provide targeted concessional finance by taking into account all possible risk mitigation instruments during project development, and by envisioning the leverage of private finance as early as possible.
  • Use insurance instruments to target specific, well defined risks: this can offer very high leverage ratios on the use of public funds, and crowd in private sector insurance capital.

Can the APRM be an effective tool to monitor Agenda 2063 and the SDGs?

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 18:20
Monitoring and evaluation has emerged as a central concern in development thinking. Both the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the AU’s Agenda 2063 represent responses to Africa’s developmental deficits, with much overlap between them. They will need a robust mechanism to trace the progress that is being made, and this study explores whether – rather than attempting to construct a new system – Africa’s home-grown governance evaluation system, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), might be able to fulfil this role.
A number of factors make the APRM a natural monitoring tool for the other two initiatives. Each is substantively about governance, and deals with similar subjects. Indeed, the priorities of Agenda 2063 fed into the SDGs, and the APRM has made cooperation between itself, Agenda 2063 and the SDG initiatives a strategic priority. The three initiatives also share broad ideological outlooks, are comprehensive in the scope of their activities, are geared for the long term, envision broad-based participation and seek to engender cross-border cooperation. In broad terms, they are all committed to a democratic, participatory governance framework and developmentally oriented policies. However, there are a number of hindrances to the APRM’s fulfilling this role – at present, these arguably render it incapable of taking on the extensive and ongoing monitoring responsibilities that the other initiatives demand. The APRM has proven larger, more complex and more expensive than its founders realised. It has been slow in conducting reviews, and has not established a consistent set of indicators that would allow for measuring across countries and over time. Nevertheless, the APRM is a recognised brand and is institutionalised as part of the African Governance Architecture. To take on the monitoring of Agenda 2063 and the SDGs it would need to resolve its administrative weaknesses, secure adequate funding and conduct reviews on an ongoing basis. There is also a need to design a continental system of data gathering and analysis to enable precise measurements of progress in meeting the various developmental goals. These are significant challenges, but they describe the necessary rejuvenation of the APRM required for it to become the monitoring tool for the continent’s developmental endeavours.

Africa’s climate: helping decision-makers make sense of climate information

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 17:53
African decision-makers need reliable, accessible, and trustworthy information about the continent’s climate, and how this climate might change in future, if they are to plan appropriately to meet the region’s development challenges.
This report is designed as a guide for scientists, policy-makers, and practitioners on the continent. The research in this report, written by leading experts in their fields, presents an overview of climate trends across central, eastern, western, and southern Africa, and is distilled into a series of factsheets that are tailored for specific sub-regions and countries. Some of these capture the current state of knowledge, while others explore the ‘burning scientific questions’ that still need to be answered.

Africa's prospects for enjoying a demographic dividend

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 03:19

While fertility rates and dependency ratios in Africa remain high, they have started to decline. According to United Nations projections, they will fall further in the coming decades such that by the mid-21st century the ratio of the working-age to dependent population will be greater than in Asia, Europe, and Northern America. This projection suggests Africa has considerable potential to enjoy a demographic dividend. Whether and when it actually materialises, and also its magnitude, hinges on policies and institutions in key realms that include macroeconomic management, human capital, trade, governance, and labour and capital markets. Given strong complementarities among these areas, coordinated policies will likely be most effective in generating the momentum needed to pull Africa’s economies out of a development trap.

Conditional cash transfers in Africa: limitations and potentials

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 17:52
Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) are currently amongst the most popular social protection programmes for addressingpoverty, vulnerabilities, and risks of poor individuals, households and communities in developing Latin American, African, and Asian countries. However, the increasing popularity and adoption of CCTs in Africa have remained highly understudied in comparison to CCTs in Latin America where they originated in the late 1990s and early 2000s. For this reason, this policy brief discusses some of the current limitations and potentials of CCTs as social protection programmes for reducing poverty and developing the human capital of poor individuals, households, and communities in African countries.

The brief begins with an overview of CCTs in general with special reference to Africa in particular. It then examines some of the limitations and potentials of CCTs on the continent. Recommendations:
  • African countries seeking to adopt CCTs should design, implement, and adapt such programmes with due consideration to the propriety and much needed institutional training for state and non-state officials
  • provision of adequate supply-side facilities such as quality schools and healthcare centres should be a condition for implementing CCTs and no community should be excluded from participation for lack of such facilities
  • the eligibility period for participating individuals, communities and households in CCTs should reflect the amount of time needed to fulfil basic education and healthcare needs as appropriate. Universal coverage of all those in need within each community must also supersede limited coverage
  • adequate planning and institutionalisation of programmes should be done to ensure ownership and sustainability of CCT programmes, especially in countries where programmes are funded mainly by donors. But appropriate partnership agreements for overall developmental and social protection purposes should be explored as necessary

Invasive plants and food security in Africa:the potential of Earth Observation Data

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 03:50
The spread of invasive plant species has serious consequences for Africa. Toxic weeds and harmful shrubs significantly shrink rangelands and lower the productivity of major grain foods such as maize (in some instances by up to 45%). Toxic weeds suppress the growth of staple crops and take over fields that could otherwise be used for agriculture. The UN Sustainable Development Goals emphasise the need to better manage land degradation and biodiversity loss and develop strategies to combat poverty.

However, the invasion of rangelands and croplands by harmful non-native species is not specifically mentioned in the UN sustainability framework as a significant and emerging environmental issue. Equally, the AU Commission (AUC) sounds the alarm over rising food insecurity in Africa, but there are no tools or coherent strategies on how to address the challenges posed by invasive species in the context of enhancing food security. This briefing highlights the significance of earth observation (EO) data for the development of tools and strategies to curb the increasing spread of invasive species. Recommendations:
  • amendments to existing and future policy frameworks, such as the CBD and the AUC strategy, are required to emphasise the need to develop more effective and coherent protocols for the management of invasive species
  • spatial occurrence maps of invasive species should be used by decision-makers to better understand and manage their effects on cropland and rangeland productivity, and ultimately food security in Africa
  • policymakers and decision makers need sound evidence on the local uses and impacts of invasive species in order to become aware of their costs and benefits
  • international bodies that promote the use of EO for societal benefit areas (such as GEOSS and UN SPIDER) must include invasive species mapping in their outreach and training agendas. This should be facilitated by country- or region-specific case studies that help to show the potential of EO products to more effectively manage invasive species across borders

Climate change adaption readiness: lessons from the 2015/16 El Niño for climate readiness in Southern Africa

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 01:59
Southern Africa is experiencing its worst drought in at least 35 years. The drought is associated with an acute El Niño cycle, a periodic weather phenomenon that affects weather patterns across large regions of the globe, including Southern Africa. While the El Niño cycle is not linked directly to broader climate change processes, an assessment ofthe region’s responses to the current drought does provide insight into its capacity to respond to severe environmental stresses. Insights drawn from such an assessment allow for a deeper understanding of climate adaptation readiness in the region. This paper concludes that there is a need to expedite the development of regional and national response plans to severe environmental stresses, and in particular to strengthen capacity to effectively implement and co-ordinate appropriate actions. At the national level, response capacity in numerous Southern African states remains low. Even in South Africa, where government capacity is the highest in the region, implementation delays and co-ordination challenges have hampered effective responses to the drought. Yet despite these problems, there have also been successes in regional and national responses to droughts and longer-term climate challenges. Such programmes and innovative responses can be scaled to achieve more far-reaching impacts and thereby further develop the region’s climate adaptation readiness.

Still no alternative? Popular views of the opposition in Southern Africa’s one-party dominant regimes

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 20:39
Dominant party systems in Southern Africa differ widely in the extent and nature of this dominance, in their overall democratic quality, as well as in public attitudes toward the political opposition. But while there is widespread support for multiparty politics, opposition parties clearly face major obstacles to obtaining majority support in the near future. Five Southern African countries have democracies dominated by parties that emerged from liberation movements and have governed since independence: Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. This paper uses Afrobarometer survey data to analyse popular attitudes toward political opposition parties in these countries. Do citizens support multiparty politics? What are the trends in levels of citizen support for the political opposition? Do citizens believe that opposition parties present a viable alternative to the ruling party? Given the importance of public opinion in maintaining party dominance, findings offer important insights for scholars of democracy in Africa as well as for opposition parties in these countries. Key findings:
  • about seven in 10 citizens in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe support multiparty competition, compared to only a slim majority (56%) of Mozambicans. On average across all five countries, this support has increased from 55% in 2002/2003 to 67% in 2014/2015
  • however, only minorities endorse an opposition “watchdog” role in Parliament, ranging from 16% of Batswana to 32% of Mozambicans. Even citizens who self-identify as opposition supporters are more likely to say the opposition should collaborate with the government in order to develop the country
  • on average, trust in opposition parties increased significantly in the five countries between 2002 (16%) and 2015 (38%), although it remains well below the levels of trust in the ruling party (56% on average). Public trust in opposition parties is higher than average among citizens with post-secondary education and those living under secure material conditions (both 43%)
  • the proportion of citizens who feel “close to” an opposition party is highest in Botswana (36%), followed by South Africa (34%), Zimbabwe (28%), Namibia (24%), and Mozambique (20%). Affiliation with opposition parties is higher among urban residents, men, citizens aged under 56 years, and those with at least a secondary education
  • while levels of trust in opposition parties are similar in Southern African countries with dominant party systems and those with competitive party systems, there is a significant difference in trust in the ruling party (56% vs. 40%). And citizens of countries with competitive party systems are significantly less likely to self-identify as ruling-party supporters (16% vs. 44% in dominant party systems)
  • among citizens in the five countries with dominant party systems, Namibians are most likely to believe that the opposition presents a viable alternative vision and plan for the country (52%), followed by Mozambicans (45%), Batswana (44%), South Africans (43%), and Zimbabweans (37%). On average, this perception is higher among urban, male, younger, and better-educated citizens
  • only small minorities of Batswana, Mozambicans, Namibians, South Africans, and Zimbabweans believe that opposition parties are most able to address fighting corruption (24%), creating jobs (18%), controlling prices (16%), and improving health services (15%). And although six in 10 (60%) citizens across the five countries say their government is doing “fairly badly” or “very badly” at handling the most important problems facing their country, only 36% believe that another political party could do a better job of addressing them