Where are the Grassroots in Africa’s Development Agenda?

Wednesday, 21 November, 2007 - 14:15

Launch of African Monitor’s Monitoring ToolsAfrican governments and the international development community often position their development interventions as specific responses to the challenges faced

Launch of African Monitor’s Monitoring Tools

African governments and the international development community often position their development interventions as specific responses to the challenges faced by the grassroots on the continent. However, these commitments are often exaggerated and not much more than empty promises, while mechanisms to track their scope and impact have been limited.

In order to provide civil society and other development stakeholders with specific tools to hold governments and the international development community accountable for their actions, African Monitor has launched three monitoring products to evaluate the extent to which the grassroots are targeted and made a priority by decision-makers through policy, programmes, resource allocation and other development activities.

African Monitor is an independent institution which was founded by Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, to act as a catalyst to monitor development funding commitments, delivery and impact on the grassroots, and to bring strong additional African voices to the development agenda.

The three monitoring products include Development Support Monitor 2007, Grassroots - The Missing Link in Aid Delivery and Development Support, and the Grassroots Focus Index.

Development Support Monitor 2007 - this new annual publication, developed as a baseline matrix, catalogues funding commitments by donors and African government to support development in the continent since 2005, tracks the extent to which they have been met, and provides a useful resource for identifying implementation gaps. It also provides civil society stakeholders with a great monitoring resource to track progress being made to attain development objectives in the continent.

Grassroots - The Missing Link in Aid Delivery and Development Support – this report presents the results from a study conducted in Ghana, Rwanda, Mozambique and Chad to comprehensively track donor commitments (aid and debt relief), evaluate the effective use of development resources by African governments and to measure the extent of their impact on the grassroots. The research targeted several focus areas, including the volume of external funding flows from 2000-2006; use of external funding by the country; commitments and use of the country’s own resources for development activities at the grassroots; grassroots involvement and ownership of development activities at their level; and progress on the MDGs.

The Grassroots Focus Index (GFI) - this composite index is being introduced by the African Monitor as an initiative to measure the extent to which African governments and donors prioritise the grassroots in policy, sectoral focus, budget allocations, service delivery and participation. This initiative aims to promote a development policy environment that puts at the centre stage the needs of grassroots populations as they are the most poverty-affected populations in Africa. 

Speaking at the launch, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, raised concerns about the decline in Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa and the failure of G8 countries to make good on the promises they made at the Gleneagles Summit in July 2005 to double aid for Africa by 2010. Furthermore, he raised concerns about the bias in ODA to so called “donor darlings” and the large percentage of ODA earmarked for debt relief and humanitarian assistance, instead of specific development interventions.

In an ever-increasing competitive world, much is at stake for Africa to respond to its development challenges and meet the MDGs by 2015. The introduction of the mentioned monitoring tools is a welcome addition to the development process and discourse in Africa.

However, the success of these mechanisms is ultimately determined by the ability of civil society and other stakeholders to affect change in government policy and service delivery interventions. Africa’s problems are well-documented. Decisive action is required.

The challenge is for African governments and the international development community to demonstrate the necessary political will to respond to this situation, as well as to find the missing link between the continent’s development challenges and available resources.

- David Barnard, Executive Director, SANGONeT.

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