It’s a secret to no one that getting things done in fragile and conflict-affected (FCS) situations is more difficult than in normal, peaceful environments.
A recent World Bank report “The Small Entrepreneur in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations” looked into the motives and challenges of small entrepreneurs in FCS countries and made a number of interesting discoveries. They found that compared to entrepreneurs elsewhere, entrepreneurs in FCS have different characteristics and face significantly different challenges. FCS enterprises tend to be small, informal and to be engaged in sectors that are trade and service oriented.
Three other things they found are illustrated in the charts below. These findings came as quite a surprise to us.
With the call for action issued last month in Dakar, the commitment was clear: Francophone countries in Africa will seek to improve the well-being of their citizens by accelerating the transformation of public financial management systems. They will take this initiative through strong partnership between governments and the accountancy profession with the support of the development partners.
The call was made by 200 high-level delegates from 20 countries: decision-makers and practitioners from both the public sector and professional accounting organizations, and representatives from multilateral development organizations and civil society.
“The effective implementation of these reforms will improve the use of public resources to enhance delivery of services, transparency, accountability, and citizens’ trust in our governments,” said the Honorable Ansoumane Condé, Minister for Budget of the Republic of Guinea, after reading the call on October 29.
This week, officials from finance ministries and leaders of the accounting profession from across Francophone Africa will gather in Dakar, Senegal from Oct 28 to 30 to chart a path forward in their countries’ development. They will focus on an area that is often ignored, but is vital to national success and prosperity: public financial management. They will focus on financial reporting, which is also known as “the way governments keep track of your money.”
This topic is important to you, citizens of the world, of the African continent. How governments manage their taxes, their borrowing, their spending, and the ways they account for these forms of transactions – income, borrowing and expenditure – are essential to economic growth, to poverty-reduction, and to ensuring that the region’s poorest can improve their lives.
In many parts of Francophone Africa, accounting practices have a lot of room to improve. In particular, financial reporting and auditing need reforms, according to ongoing research by the World Bank and others. Policy-makers do not always have accurate information about the money available to provide vital and quality public services, such as school-teachers or the construction of health clinics or roads.
Recently, I participated in an ODI-organized conference on ‘Driving change in challenging contexts’. The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe as well as the adoption of the SDGs is bringing efforts to revive and accelerate development in challenging contexts to the forefront of political attention.
Progress in such contexts is inevitably difficult. But actual practices are also still far from the possibility frontier of what could be done. Four issues stand out:
Last month I met with ministers and local officials in Addis Ababa to explore areas where we, at the World Bank, can help build institutional capability in Ethiopia. The trip was an enriching experience, both personally and professionally. It was gratifying to see first-hand the good work and commitment to development exhibited by our staff in the country.
During my visit, I gave a lecture at Addis Ababa University on Public Investment Management before an audience of faculty, students, civil society organizations and donors. I shared with them how much public infrastructure investment has done for the country. Ethiopia has the third-largest public investment rate in the world and three times the average for Sub Saharan Africa.
This effort has contributed to growth that has averaged 10.9 percent since 2004—a figure higher than that of their neighbors or low-income countries on average. Infrastructure investment has also been helpful in expanding access to services and in gaining competitiveness, being a large landlocked country.
During the Spring Meetings, the Governance Global Practice, the Independent Evaluation Group, and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) co-hosted a lively panel discussion with a provocative title: Why focus on results when no one uses them?
Albert Byamugisha, Commissioner for Monitoring and Evaluation from the Uganda Office of the Prime Minister, kicked off the session with a rebuttal to this question by sharing examples of the Ugandan government’s commitment to using and learning from both positive and negative results. Although this sounds like common sense, it is not always common practice.
Public procurement is a linchpin for good governance and effective public service delivery, both of which are critical to the sustainable development of Africa. In many countries throughout the region, strengthening procurement to address weaknesses in public sector governance has become a priority.