|Home | Current Issue | Previous Issues | Submission Guidelines | Books for Review|
THE AUTONOMOUS DEVELOPMENT FUND MODEL: A REPLY TO OLATUNDE OJO.©
Professor Olatunde Ojo has provided a critique of
my article on the role that autonomous development
funds (ADFs) may play in reforming foreign aid, particularly in
Africa (African Studies Quarterly Volume 2, No 2).
I am grateful for the interest that he and his colleague at the University
of Montana, Professor Peter Koehn, have shown in this project. Together
we share a concern about the problems that foreign aid have generated
on the African continent, but judging from Ojo's article, we also have
different views about how aid may be best salvaged and improved at this
point in Africa's postcolonial development. There is much that could
be said in response to Ojo, but in the interest of time and space, I
shall confine myself to the following points:
Before proceeding to a more detailed discussion of each of these points, however, it may be useful to remind the reader of what the ADF project is all about. The idea of reforming foreign aid so that it becomes more accountable to constituencies in the recipient country is not new but has gained momentum in the 1990s because of the general trend toward strengthening democracy and governance structures in African societies and also because donors are uneasy about the extent to which many African governments have become donor dependent. The ADF is an effort to find a way of responding simultaneously to concerns among reform-minded Africans and friendly donors to improve the prospects that foreign aid will come to better use than it has in the past four decades since independence. Such a call may not seem new given that foreign aid has been subject to various types of reform in the past, but to little avail. The difference now is that the whole future of foreign aid to Africa is at stake and conceptualization of the problem, therefore, has to go beyond what is "business as usual". The ADF model is cast in this perspective. It is meant to provide a demand-driven use of foreign aid that springs from initiatives that are genuinely conceived and owned by African organizations or communities. It caters for both public, private and voluntary sector initiatives on a competitive basis, which gives equal chances of financing to government (central as well as local), voluntary organizations, and possibly--depending on the mandate of the fund-- also private sector enterprises. By encouraging institutions in the three sectors to internally compete for resources, the assumption is that better and more feasible projects will be generated since only the very best would be funded, at least initially. Others would not necessarily be wasted but would have to be resubmitted after revision.
The key to success is joint ownership of the ADF by stakeholders in government, civil society, and among the resource providers in combination with the establishment of a professional board that is independent from control by the political executive. In this respect, the ADF would resemble a bank, judiciary, or research council that is expected to make decisions on grounds of merit and feasibility only. This feature has been deemed particularly salient in this model by both Africans and others who have had reason to comment on it. Patronage politics is a curse all over sub-Saharan Africa and is at the bottom of much of the corruption and inefficiency that characterizes the public sector in these countries. The challenge, therefore, is to insulate the influence of patronage as much as possible and establish rational and procedural policy criteria for governance. The tripartite ownership of the funds is also meant to localize accountability to the recipient country rather than having organizations in these places--whether governmental or non-governmental--responsible primarily to donors instead of their own citizens.
The ADF is not a magic solution to Africa's governance problems but it is potentially as important for the future development of these countries as many other measures that have been recommended by donors or by Africans in the name of "good governance". At a time when so much else has proved unfeasible or unsuccessful in Africa, this model helps to reorder institutional relationships in ways that are radical, yet not beyond what donors and recipient governments may consider acceptable in order to save the foreign aid enterprise.
1. Characterization of the Model:
The second thing about Ojo's characterization of the ADF is that it is not something that only I have invented. There should be no such thing as a "Hyden" model. True, I was instrumental in helping to develop the model, but it is originally an African initiative, and many others, not the least the leadership of the African Association for Public Administration and Management (AAPAM), which is the principal vehicle for promoting it in Africa, has been very important in providing ideas about how the model should be operationalized. In all fairness, therefore, it is wrong for me to accept the identification of the project with my own name.
2. The mandate of the Fund:
The other aspect under this heading concerns the geographical coverage of an ADF. When the project was developed, the emphasis, not the least among Africans, was to stress its national scope or mandate, because if constituted at the regional level, it may be more difficult to insulate the project from parochial political interests. Experience with community development foundations, established at regional or district levels, i.e. at sub-national levels, e.g. by the Ford Foundation, suggests that such a fear may have been exaggerated. An ADF, therefore, could be conceived as a regional or district-based institution provided it is not confined to one or a few such sub-national units only, since it may imply ethnic favoritism and thus brand the fund from the beginning as being parochial rather than professional.
3. Relations to Government:
Given that African governments are increasingly starved of funding by the donors because they do not live up to their political or economic conditionalities, the former stand to gain, not lose, from adopting this model. It provides an opportunity to demonstrate a genuine interest in improving governance, an initiative that donors would appreciate. Their concern is that red-tape and corruption in public institutions at present limit the usefulness of their grants or loans. Unless new forms of realizing a partnership can be found, therefore, foreign aid is likely to dry up and disappear.
Yet another aspect of this issue is that donor funding that goes directly to government has become an albatross around the necks of both donors and African governments. The international community today finances not only parts of the development budget but also a considerable share of the recurrent budget. This means that African states can no longer finance their core administrative and coercive activities. This level of dependence is not only politically embarrassing to African countries, but it is also a source of tension that often paralyzes the uses of these grants or loans. The ADF is aimed at allowing donors to retreat from this role and to enable African governments to become more reliant on revenues from domestic sources to finance recurrent activities. This way, the ADF also provides a method for ensuring that accountability is redirected away from its current focus on the donor community towards constituencies within the country.
4. The Role of the Fund in Relation to Grassroots
5. The Attitude of Donors:
6. The Cost of the Fund:
In conclusion, and as a postscript, I wish to add that the ADF is now being implemented in various places around Africa. It is no longer merely a model on paper. Reference has already been made to the Cultural Development Trust in Tanzania. It is run by a board made up of representatives of the various groups constituting the cultural sector in that country, the Ministry of Education and Culture, and the donors. The latter two have a minority representation on the board, but are strong enough to express their views and draw attention to matters that members of the cultural sector may ignore. An income-generating fund in the same country, funded originally by the European Union, but now attracting other donors as well, operates to every one's satisfaction. Its operative features have been adjusted to reflect the ADF model after discussion on its board. A similar income-generating fund, targeted on marginalized groups, is currently under consideration in Zambia. Also, in Ghana, there are efforts to put in place a funding mechanism like the ADF. The final point to be made here is that as these, and other similar initiatives, are being implemented, more experience will be gained in terms of what works or what does not work. Many of the questions that Ojo and others have, therefore, will be further answered from the evolving practice of implementation.
|Home | Current Issue | Previous Issues | Submission Guidelines | Books for Review|