ABIDJAN — As part of ongoing institutional reforms at the African Union, the implementing arm of its development strategy — formerly known as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Planning and Coordinating Agency, or NEPAD — is transforming into the African Union Development Agency, or AUDA.
“[AUDA’s mandate] will allow us to mobilize more resources and it will bring coherence and interaction between Africa, the African Union, and developing partners.”— Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO, AUDA-NEPAD
AUDA will continue NEPAD’s overall mandate of transforming Africa through enhanced knowledge sharing, partnerships, and resource mobilization, along with promoting high-impact projects that align with the AU’s overall continental development frameworks, but will also expand on this agenda, AUDA-NEPAD CEO Ibrahim Mayaki told Devex.
“Our main focus now as a development agency will be to move to the formulation of development tools that can strengthen the capacity of all African stakeholders to better execute priority development projects,” Mayaki said.
Drafted at the 2018 AU summit as part of larger institutional and financial reforms championed by then-Commissioner Paul Kagame, AUDA officially adopted its mandate and launched at the 2019 AU summit earlier this month. Mayaki said the transformation will allow the Johannesburg-based body to improve its effectiveness and efficiency in delivering AU development policies and programs across its 55 member countries.
Devex spoke with Mayaki to learn more about the ongoing changes.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
How does the establishment of AUDA fit into the larger reforms happening at the AU?
One of the diagnoses from President Kagame’s reform document was the need to accelerate the implementation of decisions related to development. [This is important because of] the transitions which Africa is undergoing: Demographic transitions, technological transitions, human development transitions, governance transitions are happening at a very accelerated pace so our responses, in terms of strategies, need to match this.
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In order to tackle this issue, we have an institutional architecture where you have regional economic communities and member states. AUDA-NEPAD is the critical link that will connect the AU Commission, regional economic communities, and the member states by playing a strategic development role and providing a coherent division of labor.
We will then provide [feedback to the AU Commission] on what progress is being made in the implementation of Agenda 2063 [the AU’s development agenda].
How will AUDA differ from NEPAD?
It is not a question of difference in nature, it is a question of expansion and clarity in mandate. It focuses on our [ability] to deliver at the regional and national level. It will allow us to mobilize more resources and it will bring coherence and interaction between Africa, the African Union, and developing partners.
Our role as a development agency, like all other development agencies in the world, is to gather the necessary knowledge that can feed policy design, to move at regional and national level and make sure that our strategies of integration are well-implemented, and if not, identify the gaps, work on them, strengthen capacity, and make sure that critical regional and continental priority projects are implemented.
This means that we need to work on project preparation tools, public-private partnerships, whether in agriculture or infrastructure, and innovative financing mechanisms. We have, for example, the “5 percent agenda,” where we try to push African pension funds to invest at least five percent of their assets in the management of African development projects. We need to work on risk issues and guarantee facilities so that those who want to invest and think there is risk can have guarantees.
Is there a particular development priority for AUDA in its founding stages?
[The nature of an institution] has an impact on the way you think of priority. If you go to a conference on education, people will say that without education nothing can be done in development. You will hear the same about health, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, energy — that without these elements, development can’t happen. And if you evaluate [sectoral] conferences like this, you won’t know what to think at the end.
The challenges of development are all connected. For example, if you want to increase agriculture yields, you need water for irrigation, you need energy, market access, healthy workers, rural roads, technology to have quicker access to information. The countries that are doing well are doing well in all sectors. Development is not about one priority that knocks out everything else, but rather, it’s about doing relatively well in all sectors.
We took a long time to get where we are in thinking multisectorally but that will be a key to our success.
How does this ongoing transition to AUDA impact the current organizational structure and daily workload at NEPAD?
It is still a work in progress. We don’t want experts isolated in a room, so it needs to have buy-in from the African Union Commission, regional economic communities, etc., so that the structure reflects our function. Evidently, we need more staff because our scope is bigger.
That goes into the realm of the human resources reform of the African Union, too.