Interview with Martin Bwalya, Head of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), in the NEPAD Agency

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     In a few words, what have been the major successes and key challenges facing CAADP over the last decade? How is ‘CAADP success’ defined?

    We are looking at success in two ways, pointing to what has actually been achieved, and the concrete value behind these results.

    On the surface, you will hear about or see the overall number of countries that have signed compacts or elaborated investments plans. But, through developing the compacts and investment plans, countries are also engaging at the levels that enable some in depth examination and internationalisation of the CAADP principles like inclusiveness, the building of shared visions on agriculture development, prioritisation, inter-sectoral collaboration, evidence-based review of policy and institutional environment. The result is that, emerging “behind” the investment plans is growing capacity and ability to reform planning and working models, including growing entrenchment of mechanisms, systems and tools for accountability

    A lot of these results and value are not tangible per se, i.e. and you will not capture this when you are just counting the number of compacts signed. There is real change emerging in terms of how business is done. African governments and indeed the public are increasingly demanding value and results, ultimately in terms of wealth creation, jobs and incomes, poverty alleviation and food security. In this sense, the focus goes beyond just delivering the “at least 6% annual agricultural productivity”. It clearly and deliberately reflects the focus on strengthening the local/systemic capacity necessary to sustain delivery of the 6% and more. This is a different way of looking at things.

    So you are saying that CAADP’s results are also to be seen in terms of capacity building?

    I am reluctant to use capacity building because it does not seem to reflect the comprehensive and fundamental reforms achieved in the “way we do business”. Yes, capacity development is an integral and central part of the CAADP reform implications. But implementing CAADP also is in very clear ways challenging traditional practices: it is stimulating change in mind-sets, new practices as well as new frameworks for collaboration and partnerships. Countries are embracing this change and learning from it.

    The situation could be in “small doses” and could be fragile, but it is happening and part of the efforts in supporting CAADP implementation is to recognise these changes and support them to strengthen and expand to critical mass. You see countries asking themselves questions in new ways on accountability, synergies, value for money and the general state of policies and institutions.

    In terms of result of the process, we also see several things: compared to some years back, CAADP is stimulating the establishment of strong foundations for accountable institutions, evidence based planning, inclusive dialogue, collective responsibility, synergies and complementarities in determining collaboration and partnerships. What is emerging is real systemic ability to stimulate and sustain a socio-economic growth agenda. Many of these issues are not necessarily new, but the way and context in which they are being asked is innovative.

    These foundations are fragile. They can disappear very rapidly, for example, from interventions maintaining the status quo and undermining reform efforts. NPCA is engaging all concerned players and stakeholders to build up support to “notice”, consolidate and expand these small strides of change – success efforts in policy, institutional reforms, in planning, forms of partnerships, empowerment of communities to participate in national dialogue, etc.

    NPCA is at the moment leading a continental effort to identify the bold set of actions that will be necessary to ‘sustaining the CAADP momentum’ over the next 5, 10, 30 years. It is clear that the interest and commitment of countries on CAADP will be enhanced when the CAADP implementation process is demonstrating tangible results. This brings to the fore issue of implementation capacity for effective and competitively executing and delivering results and impact. The NPCA, in liaison with the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and other stakeholders are also supporting countries to identify and showcase the successes, scale them up to a critical mass and use these experiences for peer learning.

    Is CAADP success happening in a particular country or is it happening in pockets in different countries?

    Our focus is less on trying to find problems to be solved. Rather, we are working with key stakeholders at the national level, to find what is working and how these successes can be scaled up. With this in mind, we do not see one particular pattern across countries. Instead, we find different patterns across countries, across levels, across issues. But while the patterns are different, the trend I have highlighted above is the same. In Rwanda for example, we see evolving remarkable success in developing accountability system running all the way down to the grassroot communities.

    In some countries, an example would be in the form and quality of dialogue taking place. Take fertiliser subsidies, a very sensitive topic in many countries. Before, this would have been off the table; the issue was considered too political. Now, we see it brought to the table by governments themselves, because the public sector is more confident to have an objective evidence-based discussion on the matter.

    What is the Sustaining CAADP Momentum about?

    One of the things we are doing in the sustaining CAADP momentum exercise is coming back to the process side of things. If we are going to go another five years, what is it exactly we want to deliver, and how do we see it in terms of process, tracking, and the result itself? This relates back to accountability systems.

    One of the things emerging in the “sustaining momentum exercise” is that, while keeping our eyes on the vision as defined in the whole CAADP process, in the next five years, lets do what we say, with clear focus on concrete results. We want process and result indicators so we can check the two as we move. Both for purposes of tracking and assisting progress and performance, as well as building knowledge/information base, the institutional memory, and drawing lessons, understanding why things are happening the way they do. So we are building mechanisms to make decisions, determine actions and track results.

    The sustaining CAADP momentum exercise is about three things: one is wanting to look back in the last ten years and dig out the successes, and what is driving them? And then look at the next 5, 10, years, and ask ourselves how do we scale and deepen them, and build a strategy, a set of action we need to do to achieve that. Then we will set them up in a clear, trackable process indicators.

    Can you give concrete examples of these indicators?

    Well, countries having a defined process for developing and managing capacity for evidence based analysis, for example. Is there an in-country monitoring and evaluation system? How do we strengthen it? How do we align it towards to the vision and objective defined in the CAADP process? And then, how to go about refining it in terms of systems for data generation and analysis, going back to inform policy in situ.

    A prominent example of this is that in any one country there is more than one monitoring/data generation system, and most of these generate massive amounts of data, only a partial amount of which is actually used. How do we make data more purpose-built and more integrated for impact assessment?

    Another side is what is happening to the 6% in terms moving beyond to connect to impact issues including job creation, poverty alleviation and food security. In the public space, 6% is not the matter; the matter is food security and jobs. We should be clear about how our targets translate in jobs and other concrete impacts.

    CAADP has been criticised for turning into a technocratic exercise, where the big political questions surrounding agricultural transformation have sometimes not been addressed openly. How can CAADP confront politics more openly, and secure ‘political will’ from country governments?

    This is a very interesting issue. One of the reasons for how we got to where we are today is that the political space has not just allowed the process to happen but actively stimulated it and actually participated. Countries that are doing well are those where you can see clear political leadership. Leadership is critical and is non-negotiable for success. What you also see, and sometimes not adequately acknowledged, is the transformation in the governance of economic and political systems, which is then providing the enabling environment for a transformation process.

    But, to come back to your question, yes, we have the political will, probably more than ever before. The resolve in the regional and continental fora including the Ministers conference(1) and Africa Union Summit is clear and strong. But can we use this political will better at the technical level? In policy design processes, for example? That is what we need to examine within specific countries or regional bodies.

    We also need to consider that this political will needs to be “fed” in order to sustain it. We have to continually “cultivate it”. This is where CAADP’s flexibility is an asset to address particular issues and move them forward. Delivering tangible results and impact, which also address political objectives, such as job creation and food security, will be the “feeding” to sustain the political will.

    What is being done to ensure that non-state actors, especially farmers’ organisations are involved in investment plans and concrete deliverables?

    The country CAADP implementation process provides an opportunity for engagement, buy-in and internalisation. The more time and energy are spent on this, the better the quality of the engagement and collaboration. It is also important to move away from ‘number of attendants at a workshop’, or ‘numbers of farmers’ at this or that meeting, to looking at the quality of the engagement, involvement and participation, linking to, for instance, the development of a shared vision, a trustworthy relationship, etc…

    Where the quality of engagement is good stakeholders realise that they are, in the end, aiming for the same thing. The question then becomes how to move together.

    CAADP also works at the regional level. This entails a specific way of working with the Regional Economic Communities (RECs). How do you go about that?

    First, what are we trying to pursue at the regional level? There is massive advantage Africa can embrace out of its size, in terms of markets, economies of scale, etc. So there is a clear reason and rationale, economically and socially, for going beyond the national borders. This is a well-known argument. This is why we are working at the regional level with the RECs.

    How do we make it happen and bring it to scale? How do we make it self-sustaining, and systemic? When we talk about the quality of a given national investment plan, we also look at extent to which the investment plan has examined and developed evidence-based thinking on opportunities and related avenues for regional trade engagement. We believe that you are not going to have a quality investment plan if it does not define how that country is going to deal with the “beyond the borders issues”.

    In 2006 in Abuja, the African Union Heads of State and Government endorsed what is described as strategic commodities, according to Africa’s main ecosystems. If my country is more competitive on livestock, why would I invest in crop production? We are talking about this in IGAD for example, an inherently pastoralist region. How do we build from that, and strengthen it, instead of starting something else that is not in line with the local ecosystem and political economy circumstances. The process to develop and implement the investment plans provides the “space” for informed dialogue on such matters. It is not only a regional level discussion: regional markets discussions should initiate nationally.

    Finally, you should also place sovereignty questions side by side with cost effectiveness, efficiency and competitiveness. Regional integration has to be an integral part of national agricultural development plans. And it should not come as a last topic on the agenda.

    How does CAADP bring all aspects of food security together?

    The question is do we have the tools in the framework that allow countries to bring all these aspects together into an integrated and comprehensive manner? If you look back ten years, massive shifts have taken place on key factors that can hinder or drive development. For example, the way that we understand climate change has moved on massively. Advances in ICT are another example impacting on agriculture development.

    Can CAADP help countries pick up these changes? Do we have the knowledge base on the continent that is going to inform the response to these issues? Do we have the institutions that are going to generate knowledge and innovation for agriculture development?

    These are issues CAADP deals with by providing the tools to inform decisions and actions to different, and widely changing, aspects of food security. Then, the response is going to be contextualised, from country to country, from community to community. CAADP is about the instruments informing the response, and then assisting the countries to engage with them and localise the decisions and actions.

    How will the G8 New Alliance on Food security and CAADP be coherently pulled together?

    First, let us consider how this issue comes into the changing scene of development financing. CAADP has an agenda around financing. In fact, the financing aspect is inherent in the whole vision and agenda of CAADP. That is why the 10% mark is one of the key parameters to measure progress in terms of public sector contribution to agriculture. Now, when we talk about results and impact, countries will require appropriate levels of investment financing. It is clear from current trends globally that the future development financing architecture is going to be significantly different. Some of the financing instruments and associated decision-making tools and processes may change dramatically. Africa itself is also asking questions on the quality of the financing partnerships and engaging more at the level of investment financing partnerships. It can be stated that whether we like it or not the volumes in development aid funding to Africa will diminish.

    Within the CAADP framework, Africa is having a dialogue on what this means for Africa. How can we get sustainable financing for development in agriculture? What opportunities do we need to explore to raise funds domestically and move beyond development aid? To what extent can Africa’s agricultural sector generate its own investment financing? What will be the policies to incentivise this?

    For long, we have heard the mantra about the importance of the private sector. It is now finally on the table. We are all convinced that collaborating with the private sector is important, but do we have the enabling environment to make this partnership work? This is where the New Alliance and Grow Africa come in. These initiatives come at an opportune time, when Africa is already trying to engage with the private sector in agricultural development.

    How do these new initiative fit in the CAADP framework? Does CAADP have a structure to engage with the Private Sector?

    Well, we are not building a ‘CAADP structure’ in countries. The value of CAADP is that it works in already existing country systems. It is integral in national systems. The value is that implementing CAADP improves the already existing structures and mechanisms. Where the New Alliance comes in is that it is going to finance investment programmes coming out of the CAADP process. The country CAADP implementation process provides the country-led systems along which initiatives such as the New Alliance should engage.

    The CAADP implementation process is not only about “putting in money”, but also putting it in the right place, in terms of national priorities and quality programmes. CAADP provides the assurances for credible institutions; predictable planning and decision-making processes essential in building the trust that would underline financing public-private partnerships. The private sector can therefore be confident that it will be putting in money in a stable, credible and manageable process where the government is a much stronger partner than before.

    Who are the real beneficiaries when these large private sector companies come in?

    Agriculture in Africa is, by and large, smallholder based. You cannot talk about private sector investment without having an understanding of how it is - or should be - interacting with that smallholder base. This is very clear in our minds.

    Smallholder does not mean unviable. They are a key component of sustainable growth: wealth distribution, employment, etc. The big private sector has to be sensitive to this as an inherent feature of the domestic environment they are coming into.

    What are the mechanisms in place to ensure this?

    The independent technical review of the investment plans is one of these mechanisms, peer review systems another. We have various guidelines for evidence-based dialogue and inclusive consultations, building local knowledge base and analytical capacity, more inclusive policy design processes…

    CAADP and emerging actors: are there opportunities to engage with them, or plans in the pipeline?

    Well, you have to look at Africa as an emerging actor itself in the first place. This strengthens its position when talking with emerging actors. Having said that, we collaborate with emerging actors, but not as a beggar or a charity case. Africa should talk business partnerships with them.

    In NEPAD, we have just been to China to talk about CAADP, looking at opportunities for joint research in agricultural development. We are engaging with Brazil and others, with letters of agreement and memorandum of understandings around shared areas of interest.

    Martin Bwalya is Head of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), in the NEPAD Agency

    (1) The African Union Joint Conference of Ministers of Agriculture and Ministers of Trade scheduled for 29th October – 2nd November 2012 at the AU Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


    This article was published in Great Insights Volume 1, Issue 7 (September 2012)


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