African Economic Conference 2013 to Debate Regional Integration

“Regional Integration in Africa”, is the theme of the African Economic Conference (AEC) 2013 which will be jointly organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations Development Program in Johannesburg, South Africa, from October 28 to 30, 2013.

The annual AEC series are designed to promote knowledge product and management as an important driver of development. It is rightly assumed that through these series, Africa today is fast responding to performance-driven development programs, predicated on a culture of exchange of ideas, innovative thinking,policy dialogue, governance, planning and capacity building.

Within the AfDB, this year’s AEC is jointly coordinated by the Chief Economist’s Complex, that brokers knowledge products in the Bank,and NEPAD, Trade and Regional Integration Department, which on the other hand spearheads economic development and policy issues that relate Africa’s integration, national, regional and sub-regional.

From the joint involvement of the above-mentioned complexes arisesthe question of how the conference will promote the continent’s development effectiveness through regional integration. It will be recalled that development effectiveness review process was introduced over the last few years as a framework that measures corporate operational and organizational effectiveness and highlight areas requiring further improvement.

Based on the core issue of capacity building, Victor Murinde, Director of African Development Institute (EADI) explained the Bank’s efforts in the complex link between “development effectiveness,” and “regional integration”. They are all about propagating operations resultsculture and development impact not only in the Bank but also across the region, Murinde said.

Below are the highlights of strategic direction of Murinde’s reasoning on the linkage between the above-mentioned issues.

First, the Bank’s Ten Year Strategy identifies regional integration as one of the core focal areas of the Bank. The African Development Institute recognizes the need for the appropriate capacity development to support operations of the Bank. To ensure success the Office of the Chief Economist, the co-organizer of the African Economic Conference, has to work in tandem with the operations department of the Bank to create the most appropriate knowledge products and capacity development activities that can enable the Bank staff and Regional Member Countries’ officials to deliver on regional integration agenda of the continent.

Secondly, it is worthwhile to note that emphasis shifted from “aid effectiveness” to “development effectiveness,”following the Busan conference in 2010. The central objective of the shift in emphasis is to enhance the degree of development targets the Bank is pursuing. The Bank has a result-based monitoring and evaluation framework which spells out the targets. Development effectiveness hinges on how the Bank will be able to enhance the percentage development it can achieve. It is no longer a debate that integration would be politically and economically beneficial for Africa in the global economy. African countries and regional institutions are strengthening their regional economic programs, streamlining their mandates and orientations. The aim of the African Economic Conference 2013, taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa, will be to identify and address challenges and suggest solutions. If we do well today, we want to do better still tomorrow; this is the role of capacity building of which the Bank envisions to be a leader in Africa.

Thirdly, how do the Bank capacity building efforts cope with changing demands of development effectiveness? We must make sure we design the Bank’s knowledge and capacity development activities on annual basis taking into consideration the following three or four major things in the exercise ensuring quality at entry:

The lessons learnt from the activities of the previous year. This situational review is very crucial for a way forward.
The demand and aspirations of the Bank’s own Field Offices as well as those of Regional Member Countries. In other words our capacity building efforts are situational and demand driven.
Generally, responding to new challenges in capacity building is dictated by the volatile and rapidly changing continent vis à vis the rest of the world. For example if the rest of the world is exploring Islamic financing instruments, the Bank should respond in that domain otherwise the continent will be left behind. It is not a question of value judgment but economic necessity.

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