July 13, 2006 9:30-11:00 AM
Njongonkulu Ndungane, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa
Namhla Mniki, Project Manager, African Monitor
Katherine Marshall, Director and Counselor to the President, Development Dialogue on Values and Ethics, World Bank.
Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane spoke about the newly created African Monitor, an African body designed to catalyze Africa’s civil society and advocate for African developmental needs. As Archbishop Ndungane pointed out, 2005 was supposed to be the “Year for Africa”. In 2005, many promises were made by the developed world to encourage development in Africa. However, the Archbishop recognizes the need for this momentum to continue into 2006 and beyond. The African Monitor was established to maintain this momentum, and to bring an African voice to the development agenda.
The African Monitor asks three main questions: Are development promises being kept? What difference does this make on the ground? To what extent to grassroots communities, including the poorest of the poor, benefit from this development? So far, the G8 has pledged to increase foreign aid by $50 billion by 2010, and the Millenium Development Goals seek universal access to primary education and health care, universal treatment for HIV/AIDS, and fair trade opportunities for Africans. One year later, debt relief is benefiting African countries. However, the global community is nowhere near achieving the MDGs, and foreign aid has increased $21 billion, well below the $50 billion promised. Additionally, $16 billion of the $21 billion aid increase is debt relief, not direct aid. The world is not delivering on its promises to Africa.
To help address Africa’s developmental problems, the African Monitor can encourage speedy delivery of promises to Africa, press for active change, and increase accountability of aid agencies and governments to Africa’s poor by monitoring the effectiveness of development donations and expenditures. Additionally, the African Monitor contains an advocacy wing called Togona – meaning wisdom in Mali – that can harness local and diaspora communities to advocate for African needs. As Africa’s first monitoring agency based in Africa, the African Monitor can work with political organizations like the African Progress Panel to effectively advocate for African needs. The African Monitor is also partnering with NGOs and grassroots groups within and outside of Africa to bring African efforts together and increase leverage with the donor community. The African Monitor seeks to “partner with everybody but be the agent of none”.
Despite the benefits the African Monitor can potentially bring to Africa, the group faces many challenges. Most significantly, the group needs to put its ideas into practice. As Namhla Mniki explained, African Monitor has established four pilot programs to develop models to measure how donor and government expenditures are affecting communities. Ideally, these case studies can be used to show donors and governments what works, and create an “African voice for Africa’s development”. However, the African Monitor’s efforts are hindered by a lack of institutional capacity. The organization is extremely new, and only has one full-time staff member. The organization will need more money to expand its capacity in both the short and long terms.
Finally, Katherine Marshall discussed three main topics: how the African Monitor fits into global efforts to maintain momentum on the MDGs, lessons learned in the developmental field that the African Monitor has taken into account, and the faith dimension of development. First, the African Monitor will help maintain momentum on the MDGs by increasing transparency and governmental accountability, while also keeping the public eye focused on development. Next, Ms. Marshall discussed lessons that the African Monitor has already considered when it was formed earlier this year: the recipients of developmental aid must claim “ownership” of development efforts in order for those efforts to succeed, government is essential but never sufficient in development, a clear focus on implementation over a sustained period is critical, and organizations need flexibility. Last, Ms. Marshall commented on the “faith-blind” stance of many multilateral development agencies. In Africa, faith-based organizations can have an enormous impact on the developmental process because these organizations are often granted “moral authority”. People trust these organizations, even if they do not trust their neighbors. As a result, faith-based organizations can facilitate cooperation on common developmental goals. Yet, development organizations know very little about the nature of faith-based developmental assistance. The African Monitor’s work with faith-based organizations is an important step in fully understanding the impacts of the developmental process.
by Adam Perry