Policy matters' "its time Africa develops African policies"

    The management of socio-economic change is a complex process that requires a multiplicity of skills and factor inputs. From the standpoint of development management, the major components involved can be itemized as follows: economic policy decision-making processes and structures, and the interactions that help to shape them; policy research institutions and organizations; the interlinks between economic research and policy decision-making; and, finally, development policy implementation modalities and structures. Policy analysis and formulation is, thus, one element, albeit a key element, of development management.

    The current emphasis placed on competent socio-economic policy analysis is driven by two considerations. First, policy analysis has been a neglected dimension of development management in Africa. This is evidenced by the increasing intellectual role of foreign experts and the multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on African economic issues and the undue influence exercised by the latter on the substance of national economic policy. Thus, improving policy analysis has been listed as one of 10 priorities in development management in Africa in the 1990s.

    Second, competent policy analysis is a requirement for accurate diagnosis of socio-economic problems and articulation of plausible policy options for dealing with identified problems - an essential first step in development. Hence, a critical mass of policy analytic and management capacity is required for managing socio- economic development and transformation.

    Given the nature, content, scope and complexity of the historic challenge facing the African countries, it is more than ever clear that the speed of economic recovery and transformation must per force depend on the effectiveness of indigenous capacity in mastering the strategy of socio-economic policy analysis and development management. Thus, building policy analytic capacity must proceed alongside with building management capacity, for development to be sustained. At the same time, it is important to foster links between policy analysis, on one hand, and management of implementation of development policy on the other. This process is referred to as policy interface, and various institutional mechanisms have been devised for promoting policy interface in various African countries.

    There are three distinct but closely related facets to building capacity for socio-economic policy analysis and management. These are production of the needed skills for policy analysis and management, generating policy analysis and consumption or end-use of policy analysis. The first two may be classified as supply side, while the last one, demand side of policy analysis and management. This categorization is useful in that it helps to determine the type of interventions for building policy analytical capacity and also in ascertaining the institutional framework for developing each of the three facets of capacity on an individual country basis.

    In what follows, an attempt is made, first, to examine the current status of capacities for building for policy analysis and development management in Africa. This is followed by an examination of priorities for capacity building and for socio-economic policy analysis and development management in African countries, and the goal on which capacity building efforts should focus. Finally, a framework agenda is also outlined detailing the strategies and the modalities for effective action on the part of the African Governments and institutions, and their development partners.

    II. Current Status of Capacities for Policy Analysis and Development management in Africa

    The recognition that low supply of, and low and variable demand for, policy analysis are a constraint on Africa’s economic development has not only spurred national actions but also several international initiatives for building policy analytic and management capacities in Africa. The international initiatives have taken either the form of free-standing technical assistance by bilateral agencies and foundations, or loans from multilateral development agencies, or specially designed actions by a consortium of agencies. The African Capacity Building Initiative (ACBI) exemplifies the consortium-type initiative aimed at addressing all three facets of the building of policy analytic and management capacity in Africa.3 At present, the ACBI is focusing its efforts on 10 African countries, namely Botswana, Burundi, Cte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, the Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. It is the case, however, that individual African countries have different levels of policy analytic and management capacity; as such, the nature and scope of interventions for building and sustaining this capacity in each individual country will differ.

    What certainly appears common are the institutional frameworks for supply and demand of policy analytic and management capacities in Africa. The institutional frameworks are designed to respond to each component of the three facets, namely production of the policy analytic and management skills, generation of policy analysis, and use of policy analysis (consumption). Having the right mix of a supporting infrastructure is also essential for effective and efficient use of policy analytic and management capacity. Indeed, the question of developing an appropriate supporting information infrastructure appears to have been neglected or taken for granted in many efforts in capacity building for policy analysis and development management.

    A. The framework of existing institutions for policy analysis and management

    The four main institutional sources for generating policy analysis in Africa are government departments, private sector associations, regional/sub regional institutions and non-governmental organizations. The reason why priority is given to building policy analytic and economic management capacity in government agencies is that governments perform certain critical functions that the other institutions are not entrusted with. To name but a few, only governments manage the macro-economy, coordinate national actions for development, collect and disburse taxes for public services, and promulgate laws to regulate business transactions.

    The dominant roles in policy analysis and economic management in African countries are played by what may be called the “central guidance cluster agencies”. These agencies, which design and implement development polices, coordinate macro-economic actions and allocate resources for development, also tend to be the main source of generating and using policy analysis. These agencies include Ministry of Finance, Central Bank, Ministry of Economic Planning or National Planning Commission and the President’s office. The relative influence of any of these agencies in the process of economic management varies from country to country. It would appear, however, that the influence of planning ministries or commissions is on the decline in many African countries; mainly because pre- occupation with short-term economic crisis management has supplanted long-term economic planning. Even so, the need for long-term strategic planning is widely recognized and being fostered.

    Long term strategic planning is an essential vehicle for integrating discrete short and medium-term programmes into promoting long-term development objectives.