The African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), the African Union’s specialised agency for capacity development on the continent, has launched a new business strategy to guide its operations in serving the mission ‘to develop the human capital and institutions required to enable Africa’s inclusive and sustainable development’.
ACBF’s new strategy seeks to build the capacity of central and decentralised governments and the sector practitioners on how to prepare bankable projects and raise those resources they require for their adaptation to invest in technology and infrastructure, says Mamadou Biteye, Executive Secretary of the ACBF.
In the next five years, ACBF seeks to significantly impact millions of Africans through skills and knowledge, build the capacity of institutions and contribute to building a knowledge society to drive innovation for inclusive economic development in Africa.
ACBF also seeks to become the systems integrator in the capacity-building space in Africa by being smarter, more connected and more efficient.
To attain these, the development agency has prioritised a few key “priority issues” identified by member states and seeks to build institutional capacity, people skills, and knowledge.
Among the “priority issues” ACBF’s new business strategy seeks to address is enhancing the capacity for climate adaptation and resilience building in member countries. This is to improve the capacity of countries to develop bankable projects to increase resources for financing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This is specifically building the countries’ capacity of project preparation in how member states have deployed national adaptation plans into bankable projects, and this entails how to translate those NDCs into projects that can raise resources, explains Mr Biteye.
To strengthen agribusiness and food sovereignty, ACBF will support countries’ capacity for regular policy reforms in the agricultural sector to incentivise private sector investment in the agribusiness sector. “We will also support capacities of the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the agribusiness value chain for food processing and value addition with the aim of creating jobs and creating worth for the actors in the value-chain,” explains the Executive Secretary.
To actualise trade as an engine of economic development, ACBF will focus on building capacity for the domestication of regional and continental trade agreements, mainly the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The Foundation will also promote awareness and understanding of these trade agreements by MSMEs. “We will let them know the key provisions that they can use to create access to cross-border trade.”
With the fourth key impact area, economic and social governance, ACBF will prioritise capacities for domestic resource mobilisation to support countries to raise more resources domestically to be able to invest in their priority areas of development. ACBF will also strengthen public finance management capacity, focusing mainly on leadership, purpose-driven and inclusive budgeting.
Women, youth, MSMEs, and data analytics
The strategy also focuses on women and youth, and the first key impact areas of the strategy address the capacity issues of MSMEs. “In that, the cross-cutting theme of women and youth means that any work that we do will prioritise women-led and youth-led MSMEs,” says the Executive Secretary.
ACBF does not necessarily want to push the MSMEs towards formalisation but to build the management skills that will help them grow, create jobs and create more wealth.
“As MSMEs grow, it will become a natural aspiration as their needs grow to access different markets which will require them having a legal personality.”
The second cross-cutting issue is data analytics capacity. To enhance digital capacity, the strategy is looking at digitisation as a means for service provision for the private sector and SMEs to increase their business and strengthen.
“The strategy is a new business model for the institution, which tends to develop and provide very specific demand-driven services to governments and also to civil society and other public institutions and the private sector.”
ACB Academy revamps skills development programme for the continent
In its new strategic plan 2023-2027, the African Capacity Building Foundation’s (ACBF) business model is pegged on three pillars - Africa Capacity Building Academy (ACB–Academy) for skills development, Institutional Accelerator Model (IAM) for institution building, and the Capacity Knowledge Hub (CKH) for knowledge services.
“The ACB-Academy encompasses several schools that are focused on specific areas of expertise,” says Mamadou Biteye, Executive Secretary of the ACBF.
The Academy will provide degree courses, professional training and short-term courses. The Institutional Accelerator opens capacity development for any organisation, wherever they will be in the continent.
The second is to enhance the ACBF institutional accelerator, which will be the main vehicle for strengthening the organisations through capacity needs assessments and capacity development services.
“This is to identify areas where there is an opportunity for improvement for the organisation to be more efficient in carrying out its mandate. This comes with a capacity development programme that could be implemented in four ways: long touch, medium touch, high touch and a bespoke approach to the capacity development plan.”
The CKH envisages producing more demand-driven and action-oriented research to support policy-making and regular rule-making for the organisations. It will also contribute to creating a platform that will link people to knowledge and people with people so they can learn from each other.
Impact on the continent
ACBF has, since its inception, trained over 50,000 Africans from academia, the public sector and civil society. Today, most of these ACBF alumni hold very senior positions in their countries and in different sectors, with some serving as ministers and governors of central banks in Africa. For instance, the deputy chair of the African Union is an ACBF alumnus.
“Many of our alumni are in very strategic roles and they are contributing to shaping development in their countries.”
ACBF has created 35 think-tanks and produced over 500 knowledge products that support governments in bringing the evidence they need for policy, investment, and regular decision-making.
“ACBF is open for business and partnerships with all stakeholders to really dwell on the new strategy, and more importantly, to significantly contribute to addressing those key challenges faced by our countries,” Mr Biteye says.