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         The Special Program of Assistance for Africa (SPA): An Independent Evaluation
  

1. The Special Program of Assistance for Africa (SPA) was established in 1987 as a response to the economic crises of the debt-distressed countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. An informal association of donors, the SPA was intended to support the countries' structural adjustment programs with the International Development Association and the International Monetary Fund.

2. The SP A did respond to the challenge. Free of the restrictive formality of other fora, donors were able to test ideas and develop a mutual understanding. High-level donor representation provided the opportunity for meaningful interactions with World Bank and IMF policymakers. The SPA helped to channel substantial quick-disbursing aid. Through peer pressure, it improved donor procedures. It broadened its agenda to address structural impediments to broad-based development. It provided a platform for frank and open exchanges on Africa' s economic and social policy issues. It facilitated a convergence of development assistance goals and practices while preserving flexibility.

3. As a result, the SPA partners contributed to arresting Africa's decline. But their efforts to deepen adjustment programs have not yet been effective. The SP A agenda became richer and more complex, requiring closer interaction with African partners. Communications with donor agencies and in the field proved inadequate. Links with country-focused mechanisms for donor coordination remained weak. Monitoring and evaluation of reform and development were not systematic. And most significantly, the SPA association, while open to African participation in its Working Groups and pre-Plenary sessions, did not do enough to foster African partnerships.

4. The Structure and practices of the SPA mechanism did not keep up with its increasingly complex mandate, or with the reorientation of development cooperation articulated in the OECD Development Assistance Committee's Shaping the 21st Century. Moreover, it is apparent that the current paradigms of donor coordination need to change: the immediate threat of continent-wide macroeconomic crises is past, differences and diversities in development patterns are emerging among African countries, and a new generation of leaders is asserting the need for Africans to take responsibility for the future. Thus, the role of the SP A as an aid coordination mechanism needs to be reconsidered. SP A donors need to make clear strategic choices informed by the lessons drawn over a decade of collaborative work, the increasingly diverse needs of SP A recipients, and the weak responses of adjusting countries in generating economic growth and poverty reduction.

The SPA's ten years

5. The Development Committee of the World Bank and IMF endorsed the creation of the SP A as a complement to existing aid coordination mechanisms. The severity of the financ.ial crisis and the burden of debt threatened a downward spiral of economic and social conditions across the region (box I ). The deterioration in support for development assistance to Africa had to be reversed. The extraordinary scale of financial requirements was beyond the resources available to the International Financial Institutions and the need for harmonization of goals and practices among donors was urgent. The response of the SP A partners to the African challenge consisted of a combination of macroeconomic and structural reforms and well-targeted flows of concessional assistance and debt relief and a growing consensus to move further away from isolated projects toward more macroeconomic (including budget support) and sector-oriented approaches.

6. The creation of the SPA aid-coordination mechanism was timely. No other coordination mechanism could have achieved the Scope and intensity of donor collaboration which was needed at the time. Useful as they might have been, available coordination mechanisms did not provide the coherent African focus and cross-recipient country perspective which were urgently called for.

7. Thus, the SP A was established at a time when there was an absolute and urgent need for stronger financial support for adjustment programs in Africa-in quality, in quantity, and in effectiveness. Looking back, donors view the SP A as an exceptionally useful instrument for coordinating assistance to Sub-Saharan governments undertaking macroeconomic and structural reforms. From their joint perspective, the SPA mechanism: focused donor attention on the assistance requirements of the poor, debt-distressed African countries; increased the flow of quick-disbursing assistance in support of World Bank- and IMF-sponsored macroeconomic and structural reform programs for eligible Sub-Saharan countries; sustained a significant level of loan concessionality; improved donor procedures for import support (untying aid and reducing earmarking) and the allocation of resources to performing countries.

  • demonstrated responsiveness to donor views and interests and fostered debate and learning on complex and controversial development issues;
  • provided an opportunity for bilateral donors-particularly small donors-to engage the World Bank, the IMF, and each other on a broad-based agenda of policy reforms addressing economic growth, public sector expenditure allocation and cost recovery , sustainable poverty reduction, and gender equity; and
  • facilitated World Bank and IMF exchanges with bilateral donors on the adjustment policies and resource requirements of individual SP A countries.

8. The evaluation endorses the view that, at its inception, the SP A mechanism was highly relevant to the unique economic circumstances faced by poor Sub-Saharan countries and their urgent requirements for quick-disbursing assistance. But as the need for deeper reforms, social development and capacity building emerged, the SP A mechanism became less focused. How efficient was the process of aligning agendas with objectives, mediating disagreement among members, and coming to a consensus on major issues? At the outset, the overwhelming World Bank and IMF influence on the agenda contributed to lags in achieving consensus. Donors note, however, that this situation has improved and a more collaborative spirit now prevails. But looking ahead, the SP A will again become fully effective only if it can refocus its policy agenda and nurture partnerships with African policymakers.

9. The main lines of SPA activity over the past 10 years were: mobilizing quick-disbursing assistance, improving donor procedures, improving the approaches to reform through its policy debates, and monitoring the results of its work. The efficacy of the SP A mechanism with respect to each of these objectives is reviewed below.

Focusing resources on structural adjustment

10. Between 1988 and 1996, SPA donors, including the World Bank and the IMF, provided almost $28 billion of quick-disbursing adjustment assistance to the eligible countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The level of disbursements increased over the three-year phases from $7.6 billion for SPA I to $8.6 billion for SPA 2 and $11.5 billion for SPA 3. The number of countries covered by the SP A increased from 16 in 1988 to 31 in 1996. SP A allocations and disbursements were made in accord with the financing gaps estimated for eligible countries by the Bretton Woods institutions. They helped prepare the ground for a resumption of growth that would not have been possible in the absence of such support.

11. The SP A aid-coordination mechanism influenced the resource flow to SP A-eligible countries, even speeding the flow when help was urgently needed. It persuaded donors to provide quick-disbursing program assistance, which some had not done before. It sustained the flow of such assistance from donors that were challenged within their administrations to revert to project lending. The share of aid provided as quick-disbursing assistance to adjusting countries in Sub-Saharan Africa rose from 33 percent in 1988-90 to 42 percent in 1991-93 and 47 percent in 1994-96. Recipient countries viewed such quick-disbursing assistance as adequate and additional. SP A donors also exercised more selectivity by directing 80 percent of SP A resources to performing countries.

12. Four other points on resource mobilization:

  • The SP A mechanism managed to keep the debt issue high on the international agenda. But the fact that debt relief remained outside the framework necessarily restrained effectiveness in resource allocation.
  • Unlike project aid, where the grant element of Official Development Assistance increased over the past 10 years, the concessionality of quick-disbursing program aid loans to SPA countries (although significant at 70% for Official Development Assistance program loans) did not increase on average, and the share of grants in total assistance declined between SP A 1 and SP A 3.
  • Disbursements reached 73 percent of allocations during SP A 1, 68 percent during SPA 2, and about 80 percent during SPA 3. Some lags in disbursements (to some extent allowed for in the estimates) were caused by a combination of factors including donors failing to release funds on time and recipient countries failing to meet agreed conditionalities .on schedule.
  • The near-complete untying of quick-disbursing assistance to SP A countries can be attributed to the influence of the SP A. The share of untied assistance rose from 60 percent of the total during SPA I to 93 percent during SPA 3. Recipients have acknowledged this achievement, while noting instances of continued tying by some donors.

Improving donor procedures

13. Work on donor procedures by the SP A partners evolved from an initial focus on internal practices to a focus on complementary actions by recipient countries. Donors have been satisfied with the learning process used to establish guidelines on development assistance procedures.

14. Most progress was achieved in untying and streamlining procurement practices for import support (an important complement to the liberalization measures of the recipient countries), and in ending earmarks of counterpart funds, but almost none in establishing a more consistent approach to the compensation of local staff involved in projects. On import support, there are still procedural difficulties that are being worked out. Portions of counterpart funds are still earmarked, particularly for health and education, although this earmarking is not always viewed negatively by recipients. Some donors have continued to pay salary supplements or have found alternative arrangements to attract competent civil servants-in the process thwarting civil service reform efforts.

I5. Though current import procedures in recipient countries are generally consistent with SP A guidelines, the evaluators found that, with few exceptions, the guidelines were either not received or not identified, in the recipient countries visited, as being the result of the SPA 's work. The evaluators also found that no effort had been made, during the Plenary sessions of SPA 3 and 4, to ascertain whether the guidelines had been implemented by all donors. A key challenge for the SP A mechanism is how to disseminate and monitor future guidelines, especially because of the informality of its operations. Joint Evaluation Missions to the recipient countries were an important and useful instrument for follow-up and implementation, but they have been discontinued because the SP A partners concluded that the Missions were no longer needed.

16. The continuing evolution of the concept of sector investment programs (even though such programs are not financed by SP A) is an interesting example of how the SP A mechanism works to develop a consensus and convert it into operational modalities. SP A deliberations have brought donors closer together on the potential and constraints of this new form of assistance. While field missions to recipient countries brought out several difficulties in implementing sector investment programs, evaluators conclude that sector-wide adaptable aid instruments have considerable potential for better resource use and support further SP A experimentation with the approach, particularly in the more advanced recipient countries.

Debating policy

17. In the 1990s, the scope of SPA consultations evolved considerably. The Working Groups, which served as important instruments for deepening the policy agenda, demonstrated considerable responsiveness to donor views and interests and fostered debate and learning on complex and varied development issues. SPA 2 sought to examine linkages of assistance to public expenditures management and civil service reform. SPA 3 expanded the focus to a broad range of social policies previously identified, to sector investment programs, to local capacity and management, and to comprehensive economic and social monitoring. SPA 4, now under way, highlights sustainable poverty reduction, greater domestic savings, more ambitious goals for economic growth and distribution, consensus building and domestic ownership of reforms in Africa, further improvements to quick disbursing assistance modalities, and a broad sector approach to increase development impact financed through project and non-project assistance or through the SPA countries themselves.

18. Through continuous policy debate, the SP A helped to improve mutual understanding among SP A donors. While many of the design and implementation features of structural adjustment assistance were not debated, donors came to appreciate the importance of sound economic management fundamentals. Conversely, at the urging of bilateral donors, the International Financial Institutions became more conscious of the social policy and poverty ,dimensions of structural adjustment, though concrete collaborative adjustment programs for poverty eradication have been slow to develop. Donors pressed the International Financial Institutions toward greater concern with issues of governance. Progress has also been made on new approaches to public expenditure reviews with greater African participation. But the influence of the SPA mechanism on major development instruments and issues-such as Policy Framework Papers, conditionality, and sequencing-is only gradually emerging.

19. On the effectiveness of the policy debate process, the evaluation points to the following concerns:

  • Further focusing of SP A Working Groups would be desirable. Their mandates do not clearly specify timing, expected outputs, or monitoring requirements.
  • Donor audits, evaluations, and development effectiveness literature are rarely reflected in the policy debates.
  • Operational staff in donor agencies still have little knowledge of the substance and conclusions of SP A policy debates.

20. What has been the SPA's effect on policy changes in the recipient countries? The SPA mechanism was not intended to have direct ties to the recipient countries. Instead, its influence was to be exerted through established channels-such as the Policy Framework Papers, Consultative Groups/Round Tables, and local coordination groups. Linkages with these groups and the impact on recipients have been limited. Despite the preoccupation of the SPA partners with poverty and gender concerns for several years, there was little evidence of well articulated strategies on those issues in the countries visited by the evaluation team. Nevertheless, some areas of interest to the SPA members have been reflected in the work of the World Bank and IMF in the context of ongoing Structural Adjustment Facility/Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility arrangements and Structural Adjustment Credits.

Monitoring results and impacts

21. The performance of SP A-supported African economies over the past 10 years is sobering. Per capita growth has resumed but it is concentrated in a handful of countries and has fallen well short of what is needed to reduce poverty in most countries. Moreover, recent gains may not be sustainable without further changes in policies. Fundamental policy weaknesses remain due to lack of ownership for needed reforms and deficient institutional capacities. The unfinished business of reform includes fiscal and public sector management, financial and private sector development, and the rural and social sectors.

22. Overall, there has been a surprisingly modest effort by the SP A partnership to trace systematically the results of its work and the impact of adjustment through specific, goal-related indicators and feedback into program design and implementation. The follow-through on agreed action and on monitoring and reporting systems to serve donors and recipients with comparative analyses of performance--has been inadequate. Donors essentially relied on the World Bank for progress reporting, mainly through the regular Country Status Reports and the periodic self-evaluations prepared for the different SPA phases.

23. To be sure, the Country Status Reports have been useful. They have improved in quality and now provide detailed information on individual countries. But it is questionable that they are the best means of providing SP A partners with a comparative overview of progress in key areas. The Joint Evaluation Missions were appreciated for their careful identification of donor/recipient procedural problems and possible solutions, but were discontinued in 1995. The country monitoring mechanisms lack the kind of analyses that would help to pinpoint the main impediments to increased growth and poverty reduction and thus identify procedural and policy issues for donor attention. Evaluations pertinent to SPA 's work-such as those by the IMF, the World Bank, and other SPA members-have not been systematically shared among SPA partners. Finally, the SPA partnership has failed to promote capacity building for effective auditing, accounting, monitoring and evaluation of SP A programs in recipient countries.

Recommendations

24. This evaluation identifies several areas that would improve the SP A mechanism's relevance, efficacy, and efficiency. They are outlined below.

For improved approaches to resource mobilization

25. The quick-disbursing assistance promoted by the SPA has provided a boost to the scarce foreign exchange of recipient countries. But as the recipient countries moved toward liberalizing their exchange regimes, the balance-of-payment gaps underlying SPA's resource mobilization efforts lost much of their operational relevance. Meanwhile, debt, both external and domestic, continues to be a major constraint to improved growth and it requires continuing donor attention. The on-going Heavily Indebted Poor Countries' Debt Initiative recognized the need for a framework for resolving the debt problems of the heavily indebted poor countries.

26. SPA donors should reorient their approach to determining assistance requirements and focus not just on balance-of-payment gaps but also on budget gaps. This would provide a better association with economic outcomes and reinforce the SPA's focus on public sector reform and public expenditures management. The SP A partners should draw on the Policy Framework . Papers and on the Consultative Groups/Round Tables to determine resource requirements for individual countries within the objectives of the recipient countries' macroeconomic frameworks and to ensure that performing countries receive adequate quick-disbursing assistance. These efforts, explicitly linked to further action on debt relief, would be timely, since the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries' Debt Initiative embodies many of the SPA themes and eligibility criteria.

For improved policy debates

27. Informal topic selection for policy debates was adequate in the initial stages when the concept of structural adjustment was new to the SP A partners and the interest of one or more donors was needed to establish the SP A as a forum for policy debate. But much has changed given the extensive experience of the SP A with adjustment, the complexity of issues related to structural reforms, the differences among countries in terms of responsiveness to reform, and the desire among donors to have a greater development impact. The SP A partners need to rethink how it should refocus its policy agenda to achieve the SP A mechanism's strategic objectives. The partners should reassess and clarify the SPA 's unique mission within the broader aid coordination system and develop an action plan to guide its future policy debates and relations with other coordination mechanisms. Such measures might include:

  • Agreeing on a guide for focusingfuture topic selection. This is especially important for those topics associated with the deepening of structural reform and longer-tenn development issues. The choice of topics would require close partnership with African leaders.
  • Giving more guidance to SP A Working Groups. While avoiding bureaucratization, preparation of an indicative plan for specific Working Group deliberations, covering subject area, the composition of the members, time duration, the Group's expected outputs, and processes for African participation would enhance effectiveness. If a Working Group is expected to produces guidelines, then expectations regarding donor and/or recipient follow-through with the guidelines need to be clarified. The SP A mechanism could coordinate with the Development Assistance Committee to minimize duplication. The publication and dissemination of the guidelines should be explored. In addition to specifying clearly the monitoring mechanism, and organizational responsibilities, "the SPA partners should follow-up to ensure that monitoring reports are prepared.
  • Strengthening SP A IS ties with other aid coordination mechanisms of relevance to African development, such as the Global Coalition for Africa, Consultative Groups/Round Tables, regional and local coordination groups. The SP A is not geared to address the depth of the country level discussions and policies which differentiated performance increasingly requires. Such ties would provide channels for disseminating the work of the SP A and provide important substantive input to the SPA's deliberations and monitoring. SPA conclusions should be more explicitly addressed at the country level through Consultative Groups/Round Tables and local coordination groups.

For improved monitoring systems

28. SP A partners, in collaboration with African countries, should develop a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation plan that would ensure that they are well informed on the results of their work and the results and impact of the reform measures that they are supporting with their assistance. To develop this monitoring and evaluation plan, the SPA donors should turn to their own central evaluation offices to oversee SP A monitoring and evaluation requirements. The merit of this approach would lie in having a well-structured and independent monitoring and evaluation system to inform the SP A mechanism's continuing work.

29. Such a plan, after taking into account existing monitoring and evaluation reports (by the Bank, IMF and other aid-coordinating bodies) to avoid duplication, should provide for:

  • Annual reporting on resource requirements (both commitments and disbursements) based on estimates for Policy Framework Papers and Consultative Groups/Round Tables.
  • Annual reporting on the financial management of aid flows and the development of accounting and auditing capacity in recipient countries.
  • Annual reporting, based on systematic country coverage by Joint Evaluation Missions (which need to be resumed) of the implementation of SPA guidelines and recommendations. To reduce the burden of large visiting teams, lower donor costs, and broaden country coverage, local coordination groups could be given oversight responsibility for the joint evaluation process.
  • Annual monitoring of economic groWth, agricultural growth, and key intermediate social indicators such as spending on health, education, and rural infrastructure.
  • Periodic comparative evaluations of recipient country performance on key macroeconomic indicators; on progress in reducing poverty and enhancing women's participation; and on structural adjustment refonns whose implementation has been particularly weak.

For better communications

30. A major finding of the evaluation is inadequate communication of the SPA's policy conclusions and guidelines to key operational personnel within the member agencies associated with African financial and development issues, to their representatives in the field, and to the various associated coordination groups (Consultative Groups/Round Tables, the Development Assistance Committee, and other donor coordination groups). The communications should do more than inform. They should make clear the policy to be promoted and the actions to be undertaken to implement SPA guidelines. SPA's voice could be influential as the common view of a group of partners rather than that of a particular agency. Better communication of the SP A agenda could also help strengthen ownership and implementation in the recipient countries.

31. An ad hoc group should develop-within a short period-a communications policy and action program for the SP A. This policy would give particular emphasis to those areas where the SP A has reached a consensus and wishes to speak with one voice to give effect to its guidance and other conclusions. The communications group would develop a strategy to convey the results of the monitoring and evaluation activity referenced above. The major audiences for this outreach would be the African SP A countries and SP A donor agencies and their operational, policy, and field staff that work with SP A countries. Responsibility for communicating SP A findings and guidance within donor institutions and agencies would remain with each SP A partner. Finally, the policy would establish procedures for two-way communications with the other global, regional, sub-regional, national and local coordination mechanisms associated with African development so that these groups and the SP A benefit from shared knowledge and a common view of the African situation.

For more efficient management and processes

32. Overall, the partners view the SPA aid-coordination mechanism as very cost-effective. The time and resources they expend on SP A matters are considered modest in comparison with the benefits gained from opportunities to learn from each other and develop ways to improve the results of their assistance programs. At the same time, given concerns about the frequency of meetings, the proliferation of Working Groups, the lack of systematic prioritization of the agenda, and the frequency of reports, there may be scope for greater efficiency. Increasing efficiency will become more important as workloads increase and SP A ' s agenda and partnership relationships become more complex. An important step was recently taken with the consolidation of the Working Groups.

33. Some approaches the SPA partners should consider for improving the administration and management of the SPA include:

  • Further consolidating SPA meetings by reducing the number of country meetings held in conjunction with Plenary sessions to those specifically requested by donors, e.g., where there are important issues affecting donor coordination that need to be worked on and resolved.
  • Facilitating speedier Working Group deliberations, by having Working Group schedules spelled out by the SP A partners, having their work monitored, and making greater use of preparatory expertise.
  • Strengthening the Secretariat's capacity to ensure that the results of SP A deliberations are disseminated to its members and to administer the improved communication, reporting, monitoring and liaison functions recommended above.

F or more African participation and partnership-essential for better results and impacts

34. African government and civil society commitment to policy reform is essential for achieving growth and poverty reduction objectives. SP A donors have repeatedly expressed their recognition of the importance of ownership by African governments and societies of policy reform measures. Yet this commitment has not been nurtured through meaningful African partnership and participation in SPA-supported initiatives. Until the launch of the Burkina Faso pilot in 1997 and the Higher Impact Adjustment Lending initiative, the SPA had not taken meaningful action toward supporting more participatory adjustment processes. Given that issues of ownership, participation, and aid effectiveness are so closely intertwined, the SP A partners need to consider bolder steps for reformulating adjustment programs in ways that more fully recognize the need for genuine ownership and for national leaders who are committed to working through and strengthening local constituencies and institutions in support of the reform agenda.

35. To facilitate this participation and partnership, the SPA partners should consider:

  • Creating a tripartite partnership, with representation from senior donors, African officials, and African civic and private sector leaders (see strategic options below). Full meetings of the partnership would be convened every eighteen months. The respective constituencies could choose to meet among themselves more frequently. Thus, the donors would continue their own sessions once or twice a year . This arrangement would require strengthening the servicing, networking, and outreach capabilities of the SP A Secretariat.
  • Working more systematically in the Working Groups to include relevant African officials and representatives of apex organizations of African civil society , business and labor as partners in a collaborative process on key SP A agenda topics. In addition, such sessions could be used for informal discussions of issues particularly relevant to those countries recognized as good perfonners and faced with the difficult and more advanced issues of structural and institutional reform for promoting long-term growth and poverty reduction. This would encourage good practices through peer leadership.
  • Promoting reform of the Consultative Groups, Round Tables and local coordination groups to encourage African leadership and transparency in aid coordination and management. Such reforms would include having the host government chair the sessions and frame the agenda to encourage broader participation.
  • Encouraging meaningful consultative processes in recipient countries between the government and their private sector and civil society in the formulation and monitoring ofPolicy Framework Papers and related strategy documents. Nurturing such relations can facilitate greater understanding and more sustained support for the proposed policy reform agenda.

36. The question of African participation and partnerships needs to be viewed in the context of the strategic choices confronting the SPA. These relationships are fundamental in each of the options. A special study-beyond the scope of this evaluation-in collaboration with key African leaders (possibly facilitated by GCA) will be necessary to develop a framework for this partnership.

Strategic choices for the SP A

37. The reform process needs deepening. Fiscal management remains poor. The regulatory environment is inimical to private investment and the state apparatus needs reorientation and reform. Poverty reduction, rural development, environmental protection, social safety nets and economic governance have not received adequate priority in public expenditures programs. Box 2 illustrates the range of conditions and issues outstanding for reform and development in Africa's poor, debt-distressed countries.

38. In light of its strengths and weaknesses, the SP A partners need to reconsider the scope of the SP A agenda and the nature of its linkages with African decision-makers and the broader development community . Above all, the SP A partners need to address a growing mismatch between the mission and practices of a donors' club conceived in a time of crisis and the new paradigm of participatory development and domestic ownership of reform endorsed by SP A members in the context of the Development Assistance Committee's goals in Shaping the 21st Century. A range of options is suggested to initiate deliberations on alternative conceptions of the future SPA partnership. Some selective combination of these options could also be considered.

Option I: Phase out

39. Rationale. The SPA mechanism could be phased out, since the crisis that triggered its creation has abated. Other institutions are available for country-level, regional, and continental aid coordination.

40. Implications. If this option is chosen, arrangements should be made to mainstream SPA functions with other coordination organizations associated with Africa's development and should include support for enhanced African leadership. These country-level coordination groups include Consultative Groups, Round Tables and local coordination groups. In addition, African continental and regional organizations (Global Coalition for Africa, African Development Bank, Economic Commission for Africa, African Capacity Building Foundation, Club du Sahel, Southern Africa Development Cooperation, the International Financial Institutions, and others) would take on greater responsibility for promoting development objectives, standards, and monitoring. The OECD's Development Assistance Committee would take on a special responsibility for coordinating donor assistance policies relevant to Africa's requirements. The risk of choosing Option 1 is that the trust, commitment, and gains realized through 10 years of constructive collaboration could be lost.

Option 2: Deepen the adjustment process

41. Rationale. The SPA aid-coordination mechanism would remain focused on promoting and supporting macroeconomic and structural adjustment policy reforms-the SP A's original mandate. Reform processes are not complete even in the more advanced countries and have to be accelerated in all countries.

42. Implications. Under this option, particular attention would be given to deepening the reforms in areas which are impeding economic growth, poverty reduction, and capacity building for economic management. Quick-disbursing assistance would be coordinated with a greater focus on funding fiscal gaps associated with measures to improve public sector management such as reforms of public finance, civil service, and social policy. Allocations of resources and debt reduction would be based on greater selectivity with priority for quick-disbursing assistance going to those countries with sound and sustainable performance on economic and governance policies. Other countries would be assisted with advice to improve their policy performance. Work on improving donor procedures and adapting assistance instruments would continue. Special steps would be taken to strengthen ownership of policy reforms by African governments and their societies. Closer linkages with other coordination mechanisms would be formed to advance SPA policy interests. Agenda setting and Working Group processes would include full and continuing African participation and, where appropriate, co-leadership. Special partnerships would be formed with the advanced policy performers.

Option 3: Move beyond adjustment

43. Rationale. Long-term development concerns are assuming greater priority as more and more African countries move beyond the essentials of macroeconomic and structural adjustment reforms. Such movement is essential to sustain and accelerate economic growth and poverty reduction. Thus, deeper adjustment must be combined with broad-based development strategies.

44. Implications. SPA's agenda would focus on a limited set of high priority long-term development issues associated with the key social (education and health) and economic (agriculture, financial and private enterprise) sectors. The resource package would encompass the full range of donor assistance combining quick-disbursing assistance with technical assistance and investment projects and the promotion of private foreign investment and debt reduction. Priority would be given to sector programs that integrate multi-donor activity on African development objectives with capacity building, capital and budget support. Sector program assistance would be linked with budget reviews and fiscal gap analyses and other public management reforms. Further improvements in donor procedures would be important to support such sector programs. Stronger operational coordination among bilateral and multilateral donors with global programs for Africa and linkages with other coordination mechanisms would be essential to follow through on sector program initiatives.

45. As in option 2, allocations of resources and debt reduction would be based on greater selectivity with priority for all Official Development Assistance to those countries with sound and sustainable performance on economic and governance policies. African participation and leadership in agenda-setting, Working Groups, sector program design and implementation would be advanced with particular attention to tripartite associations of African leaders, civil society and donor representatives.

Option 4: Foster reciprocal accountability

46. Rationale. Because of a fundamental change in the development agenda and a growing realization that the relaxation of domestic capacity constraints holds the key to faster, sustainable and equitable growth in Africa, the SP A partners may consider going beyond option 3. In so doing, the SP A mechanism should be reconstituted to give full voice to African decision makers in key SP A deliberations and thereby find new ways of developing African institutions. An aid-givers' club, once justified for specific purposes to overcome a crisis situation, has lost much of its relevance at a time when the SP A partners wish to address long-term development issues in a continent that should be empowered to manage its destiny. The time may have come for the SP A association to open itself to flew members, new networks, and new mechanisms.

47. Implications. True partnership is a mutually beneficial relationship between groups with identifiable joint rights, responsibilities, and obligations-characterized by shared values and a willingness to work together toward common shared goals. Under this paradigm, the SP A would be reconstituted as an umbrella organization for tailor-made strategic alliances involving eligible recipient countries, selected aid givers, private sector networks, and voluntary organizations with a variety of mandates and structures. Such an organization would be systematically linked to other regional organizations such as the Economic Commission for Africa, the Global Coalition for Africa, and the Africa Capacity Building Initiative and would rely to the extent feasible on existing fora and ad-hoc groups to explore specific thematic issues.

48. In addition, control would gradually devolve to Africans. Many African leaders are ready to take responsibility for the development of their countries and thanks in part to the SPA the consensus for policy reform has spread and a momentum for intra-regional cooperation exists. With the restructuring of SP A's governance under this option, the donors would cede control over development assistance coordination, at the country level, to Africans as they develop the capacity to live up to this responsibility . As a prerequisite for this option, donors would be prepared to be held accountable for setting transparent performance guidelines, for better coordination, for coherent policies, and for access to aid resources. They would provide capacity-building support to facilitate regional responses to African challenges.

49. The development challenge in Africa remains formidable. Poverty reduction is not being tackled successfully; the domestic savings effort is weak; the external debt burden remains excessive; and sustained growth still uncertain. Furthermore, the SP A countries, like the rest of Africa, appear to have been left behind by the wave of globalization that is sweeping the developing world. The urgency of the problem calls for a reconsideration of SPA's agenda, instruments and modalities for African participation.




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