AFRICA rightly has big ambitions for the future. Our continent is rich in both natural and human resources. We have a talented and energetic young population which, with the right support, can be a powerful motor for prosperity and progress.
But this progress depends upon our continent having the capacity to turn these resources into the outcomes we want. And here we face a serious challenge. Compared to other more developed regions, Africa lacks the expertise – at both an individual and institutional level – to develop and deliver effective programmes to overcome problems and accelerate progress.
At a technical level, through a study conducted by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) for the African Union, for example, we identified a shortage of 4,3 million engineers and 1,6 million agricultural scientists and researchers needed for successful sustainable development. We can see similar and equally worrying skills gaps at a policy level at continental, regional and national institutions.
Putting this right must be a priority if Africa is to be in control of its own successful development. Capacity constraints are a major brake on our continent maximising our potential and overcoming the serious problems we face such as climate change, high youth unemployment and gender inequality.
It is a challenge that the ACBF is determined to help meet by expanding its role in providing the expertise our continent needs. For the last 25 years, the ABCF had been the leader in building capacity.
Over 50 000 experts in economics, financial management and public administration have been trained on policy formulation and decision-making. Each has returned to their jobs better equipped to contribute to the development of their countries.
We are now determined to draw on this experience and our unique in-depth knowledge of the strengths and weakness across the continent in a new chapter for the ACBF. Under a new five-year strategy, we intend to put a new focus on meeting the shortfall in critical technical skills, strengthening expertise in key institutions and developing leadership capacity.
This will require us to look wider than building up a capacity at a national level, important as that will remain. We will also put a new priority on working with pan-African and regional institutions and also with the private sector and civil society as well as sharing knowledge and expertise as widely as possible. We need to build capacity right across the continent from community level up.
We have identified, through our strategy, five ways we believe we can best meet the continent’s needs for policy-making and technical expertise. First, as we have done for many years, we will continue to provide grants to fund capacity development programmes and projects at all levels across the continent. Second, we will use our long experience, when asked, to identify capacity challenges and to develop specific strategies to address them.
Third, we will put a new emphasis on bringing together expertise on capacity development from across the sector and providing a ‘one-stop shop’ where support and knowledge products can be accessed. Fourth, we will work hard with all our partners to help them mobilise the additional resources they need to implement capacity development programmes. Finally, we will work to design new innovative models to ensure the creation, retention and utilisation of existing capacity.
It is a big agenda which will take the ACBF into new areas of work.
But it also enables us to make maximum use of the insights and partnerships we have built up over 25 years of working successfully across our continent. It is a programme which will go a long way to our aim of an Africa capable of identifying its own development and of turning our continent’s potential into better lives and greater opportunities for all its people.
Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie is the Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF). Prof. Nnadozie is an educator, economist, professor of economics, author and development expert. His work spans over 20 years in the development sector.