20 June 2011

Tony Blair on improving African Governance

People often say to me “you’ve got to train the civil service of the country in order to be able to do the things they need to do.” I personally think you can spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars doing that and nothing much come out of it (Barder: and we do). What we do is different in 3 crucial respects, the first is we combine a political interaction … the second is we prioritize, this is about delivering programs … people have this view that if you train up the civil service then they can deliver the programs. My view is that if you work on delivering  specific prioritised programs, you will get out of that the capacity that you require and can work on for delivering other things, and that its in the practical prioritization and doing things that makes the difference. The third thing is that our teams live in the country, they work alongside their counterparts in the country, there is a very strong interaction.

[Roughly transcribed] From the essential Development Drums. An interesting hypothesis forcefully made. And the Sierra Leone health service case study provides pretty compelling evidence of success.

Tony Blair. I remember walking to school in the sun on May 2 1997, for the first time in my life in a country with a left-wing government. It was mildly euphoric. And by and large you didn’t disappoint. Except for Iraq. Just one blemish. But oh what a blemish. I still don’t understand it and it still saddens me deeply. I felt almost personally betrayed for having placed so much faith in a politician. Oh Tony. I’m just not sure it is forgivable.

6 comments:

Stephen said...

I haven't listened to this episode yet but intrigued to find out more about what Blair is referring to when he says 'political interaction'.

Roving Bandit said...

He engages personally with the Presidents, and helps them work through political realities and constraints as well as the technical side.

Philip said...

So, I haven't listened yet (internet in Liberia being what it is) but I will comment anyway.

Small sample size (3), but AGI seems somewhat to create executive authoritarianism. Rwanda definitely, Liberia, wait and see, but certainly not impossible.

Roving Bandit said...

I'm not sure if we can credit AGI with creating authoritarianism in Rwanda, but there is certainly a selection process involved in choosing strong and capable leaders to work with. He mentions that he is in talks with a few more countries to expand into, will be interesting to see which ones.

Philip said...

A fair point.

Interesting about expansion plans, though. According to one of the AGI people I know, getting funding for further projects is proving tough even for TB. I have to say, it seems mostly like a mechanism for finding career breaks for New Labourite / Fabian types, but given your original post...

Roving Bandit said...

I'm heavily biased being a thorough believer in ODI fellows - the AGI seems like a higher-level ODI fellow. I think TB makes a strong case, and independently I think long-term in-country technical assistance to governments that is truly responsive to government priorities (and not donor country or multilateral org priorities) is a good thing.

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