By Madji Sock, Astou Dia and Charlotte Eddis from Dalberg Global Development Advisors
Africa’s challenge has never been a lack of good ideas. The continent’s growth story and ambitions are often crippled by the misalignment between the existing delivery infrastructure and capacity within state institutions, and the requirements of efficient programme execution.
Guinea has been no exception. The government has increasingly been able to attract donor pledges and interest. It is now in the process of building the capacity to bring proposed projects to fruition.
Against this backdrop and due to the government’s strategic partnership with the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD)*, a Delivery Unit (DU) was founded to accelerate economic growth, increase accountability and build social cohesion in Guinea. Both parties underpinned the planning for the DU which has been fully operational since January 2017.
The Guinea-ADFD partnerships and the strong modes of cooperation, on many fronts, date back decades.
Delivery units are becoming more prominent in Africa
Delivery units in Africa and other developing regions are becoming more prominent as an effective way to work within the government system to accelerate progress through private sector methods of accountability, efficiency and reporting.
These units work in tandem with key stakeholders to deliver on the government’s agenda, ensuring that well-meaning policies and ideas are implemented in a timely fashion and that citizens’ well-being is ensured. Thus, the civil service remains empowered and no parallel government structures are created.
To date, there are over 20 delivery units globally. Drawing on lessons from benchmarking twelve of these and taking into account the local context, there have been some key learnings for the Guinea DU, while considering the specificities of the Guinean environment.
Six core principles
From a global best practices perspective, there are six core principles that govern an effective and successful delivery unit, and these inform the design and decisions of the Guinea DU:
- Delivery units should be close to the seat of power:
In many African countries, decision-making ability still rests with the highest authorities. This is the case with Guinea, too. It ensures that the DU gains legitimacy because it sits directly under the Prime Minister’s office, is part of the President’s vision, and maintains close linkages and reporting with the Office of the President.
- Delivery units should maintain a degree of autonomy:
This practice means that the unit does not get bogged down by the same challenges it is supposed to work around. The Guinea DU collaborates closely with the ministries its work affects – agriculture, commerce, mining, vocational training, higher education and others. Its mandate is not to replace ministries, but to enhance how they work.
- Delivery units must have a clear focus:
Spread too thin, delivery units risk not delivering at all. The Guinea DU undertook a sector prioritisation exercise to determine which sectors to focus on based on factors such as contribution to GDP and employment, opportunities for value addition and sector readiness. It is from this process that mining and agriculture emerged as high-priority sectors.
- Delivery units should customise their approaches based on the local context – a balance between coordination and implementation.
Based on the depth of the challenges that need to be dealt with, the Guinea DU is addressing both. For example, the DU oversees high-level tasks such as bringing together donors and implementers interested in the selected sectors, and also works directly on the ground with beneficiaries as it recently did when it oversaw the delivery of fertilisers to pineapple farmers – including supervising its sale and distribution while working with relevant cooperatives.
- Delivery units need to be flexible to ensure they are not missing out on any emerging opportunities.
In the agriculture sector, the main purpose is to have improvements along the pineapple value chain that completely revolutionize the sector and put Guinea on track to being a pineapple exporter. In mining, the focus is on increasing the employability of local Guineans to work in the sector and increasing the capacity of local SMEs to bid for mining work.
- Finally, delivery units should constantly be working towards an exit plan.
The Guinea DU, initially staffed with strategy consultants, continuously sources, recruits and cultivates top national talent that will progressively constitute 100% of the DU’s staff. Current leadership initiatives include designing and launching an innovative model of civil service leadership. Talented Guinean graduates will be placed within government ministries and agencies through a two-year fellowship.
The transition from a good idea to implementation has often been an obstacle that African governments have found difficult to overcome.
Developing delivery units that are focused on tangible results and leverage global best practices not only ensures a higher rate of success for governments but also puts power in citizens’ hands when they can call their leaders to account.
Governments such as the one in Guinea, which take bold steps to ensure the application of development policies and their measurement in practical terms, are a testimony to Africa’s greatest promise: leadership that delivers for its constituents.
*The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) is the leading United Arab Emirates (UAE) national entity providing development aid to developing countries.
This article was written by Madji Sock, Astou Dia and Charlotte Eddis from Dalberg Global Development Advisors (www.dalberg.com)
The Delivery Unit of the Office of the Prime Minister, which is supported by Mubadala Investment Company, aims to achieve national agendas to boost the Guinean economy primarily in the agriculture and mining sectors. The Delivery Unit works in support of sector ministries. The Unit is also focused on strengthening governance and developing the next generation of Guinean leadership. The Delivery Unit is generously funded by Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), the leading entity in development aid to developing countries (www.adfd.ae), and run by the international advisory firm Dalberg.