Medium Term Plan for the Period 1998-2001


The Medium-term Plan outlines the programme orientation of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in the period 1998-2001. It serves three essential functions, namely it spells out the objectives which the Commission will strive to achieve during the Plan period; it provides the framework for the formulation of the biennial programme of work and budgets for the period; and it indicates how each subprogramme of the Plan will contribute to the achievement of the Commission's principal objective.

The overall objective of the Commission's programme in the Medium-term Plan is to promote the economic and social development in Africa. ECA will seek to achieve this objective through its analytical, advocacy and advisory work. The present Medium-term Plan is derived from the document "Serving Africa better: Strategic directions for ECA". That document has been the subject of consultations within the secretariat of the Commission, 40 African high-level experts and the Bureau of the Commission as well as international partners.

Reflecting the reform of ECA's programme orientation, the Medium-term Plan has been organized around five subprogrammes. These are: (a) facilitating economic and social policy analysis; (b) ensuring food security and sustainable development; (c) strengthening development management; (d) harnessing information for development; and (e) promoting regional cooperation and integration. Two cross-cutting programme considerations will underpin the five areas. These are promotion of women in Africa's development; and capacity building. Each subprogramme describes the goals which ECA will strive to achieve and identifies indicators of progress.

The subprogrammes are consistent with and broadly reflective of the set of policy issues which African countries are according high priority in their development agenda. Consequently, the composition and focus of each of the five subprogrammes reflect both change and continuity. There is change in terms of addressing new and emerging issues in Africa's development; and continuity, reflecting the commitment to implementing mandated ongoing programme activities.

The subprogrammes have been developed on the basis of the commitment to significantly sharpen the focus of the work of the Commission. As such, the Commission's work in the five subprogrammes will be based on three main criteria: exploiting the comparative advantage of ECA's regional mandate; doing work on issues of long-term nature in Africa's development; and developing niches for increased visibility and impact. These features of the Medium-term Plan will position ECA to play a strong catalytic role in support of the development of member States.

Precisely because the Medium-term Plan represents a framework of support to member States, the Conference of Ministers is required to review and endorse the Plan before it is transmitted to the United Nations Committee for Programme and Coordination for further review. Subsequently, it will be forwarded to the next session of the United Nations General Assembly where it will be adopted. Thereafter, it will define the work programme of the Commission in the period 1998-2001.


(Economic Commission for Africa) Overview of the programme 1. The overall objective of this programme is to promote economic and social development in Africa. ECA, which is responsible for the implementation of the programme, will seek to achieve this objective mainly through advocacy for policy measures and actions which African countries as well as the international community should adopt to achieve sustainable growth and development in the region.

2. The overall direction for the programme derives from the mandate of the Commission as established by Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolution 671 A (XXV) of 29 April 1958 by which the Com-mission was assigned the responsibility, among other things, to "initiate and participate in measures for facilitating concerted actions for the economic development of Africa including its social aspects, with a view to raising the level of economic activity and levels of living in Africa, and for maintaining and strengthening the economic relations of countries and territories of Africa, both among themselves and with other countries of the world". The mandate has been further elaborated in a number of General Assembly, Council and Commission resolutions adopted since. These include: General Assembly resolutions 32/197, 33/203, 44/211, 45/178, 45/199, 46/151, 46/166, 47/149, 47/171, 47/177, 47/197, 48/171, 48/214 and 49/134; Council resolution 1988/66; and various Commission resolutions, the most recent of which include 673 (XXIV), 676 (XXIV), 698 (XXV), 718 (XXVI), 726 (XXVII), 727 (XXVII) and 728 (XXVII), 748 (XXVIII), 771 (XXIX); and Agenda 21, adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, as well as the outcome of the recent United Nations global conferences.

3. During the Plan period, the focus of activities under the programme will be in the following five pro-gramme areas:

(a) Facilitating economic and social policy analysis;

(b) Ensuring food security and sustainable development;

(c) Strengthening development management;

(d) Harnessing information for development; and

(e) Promoting regional cooperation and integration.

4. These programme areas have been developed on the basis of the commitment to significantly sharpen the focus of the work of the Commission and to achieve greater impact. Two cross-cutting programme considerations will underpin the five areas. These are the promotion of women in Africa's development, and capacity building.

5. Gender must become a cross-cutting theme in all of the Commission's programme strategies. This is not merely a matter of justice, it is a matter of choosing more effective development strategies. The imperatives of regional cooperation and integration also remain very compelling factors in Africa's develop-ment.

6. The second cross-cutting theme - capacity building - is recognized as an important missing link in Africa's development. Several activities that will be undertaken in the different programme areas will be directed at supporting the efforts of member States in building human, institutional and infrastructural capaci-ties. The renewed emphasis on capacity building and utilization in the Commission's work stems from the recognition that lack of critical capacities is a major contributory factor to Africa's persistent poor economic performance.

7. The programme is expected to contribute significantly to the enhancement of capacity in member States individually and collectively for effective policy formulation and implementation to address the development challenges facing them.

Subprogramme 1:

Facilitating economic and social policy analysis

8. African countries need to develop economic and social policies relevant to and consistent with their national priorities. A major objective of this subprogramme will be to identify and monitor emerging regional and global developments of significance to the economic and social development of member States and assist them with preparing appropriate responses. ECA will, in this regard, undertake research and policy analysis on the performance of the African economy, and on a wide range of micro- and macro-economic as well as international economic policy issues. The findings from the economic analyses and research will provide the basis for policy dialogue with, and advice, to African policy-makers on economic and social trends, with a view to anticipating emerging challenges and prescribing remedial and pro-active measures. In this regard, work will focus particularly on multi-country studies addressing issues that are relevant to several countries or have subregional dimensions. ECA would also serve as a regional clearing-house for spreading "best practices", by undertaking studies that identify and draw lessons from best prac-tices in policies and an action within the region. ECA will also canvas existing capacities within and outside the region to provide intellectual support to member States for pursuing development initiatives. In this regard, it will synthesize analyses and research results on economic and social policy with a view to dis-seminating them effectively to inform public policy in member States.

9. There is now much wider recognition that the true measure of economic development is in the social progress that it generates. Indeed, the strategy that has proved most effective in improving economic and social well-being has consisted of three elements: fostering growth that increases the use of labour - the biggest asset of the poor; investments in education and health; and assistance to the poor. Taking into account the multiplicity of actors in this area, and therefore, the need for selectivity, this subprogramme will focus on three issues, namely improving the social situation of women; higher education; and monitoring and analysis of poverty in Africa.

10. With regard to the advancement of women, the main task will be to assist governments to formulate and implement measures to improve the social situation of women. Particular emphasis will be placed on improving access of women to education, health and employment opportunities. Special attention will be given to facilitating the provision of training for women in science and technology. Emphasis will also be placed through advocacy and awareness raising on the enhancement of women leadership roles in decision- making in both the public and private sectors. This will be achieved by organizing forums for promoting dialogue between policy-makers and community leaders as well as through research, advisory services and technical assistance.

11. Tertiary educational institutions, mainly the universities in Africa are in severe crisis. They are underfunded. The quality of learning has deteriorated. There is a huge outflow of skilled teachers from them to the private sector or to foreign countries. Consequently, these institutions are not able to fulfil their main missions which is to serve as centres of research and training. The subprogramme will accordingly, promote higher education reforms. Special effort will be devoted to exploiting information technology to disseminate ECA's information resources and those of other institutions to alleviate the problem of shortages of instructional materials being experienced in African universities.

12. African countries have committed themselves to taking measures towards reducing poverty, as part of an overall approach to advancing social development. Activities in the area of analysis and monitoring of poverty will aim at reinforcing actions of governments by indicating what is working and not working in the fight against poverty. The secretariat will work with other agencies to assist governments in strengthening their capacity for poverty assessment and monitoring at the national level.

13. ECA has a special responsibility for monitoring and reporting on the implementation of a number of international initiatives and programmes dedicated to or relevant to Africa's development. These special initiatives include the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s (UN-NADAF); the Paris Declaration and Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) for the 1990s; and the Barbados Declaration and Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). To these will be added the United Nations System-wide Special Initiative on Africa, which has been developed under the auspices of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC). Monitoring and reporting on the implementation of these initiatives will be an important objective of the subprogramme.

14. It is expected that the activities to be undertaken by this subprogramme will result in the adoption and effective implementation of appropriate policies for economic and social advancement in member States.

Subprogramme 2:

Enhancing food security and sustainable development

15. Africa has been experiencing a decline in food production per person over the past three decades. The trend of dismal performance of Africa's food production and the high population growth rates has revived interest on whether food production can keep pace with population growth. The gravity of the food problem in Africa is compounded by the soil nutrient depletion and soil erosion everywhere in Africa, thus giving rise to interlinking food security with population and environmental sustainability. Such inter-relation-ships are commonly called the "nexus".

16. No cluster of issues has eluded effective public policy in Africa as much as those interlinking food security, population, and environmental degradation. Survival and the quality of life in Africa will only be guaranteed if the forces that shape the food-population-environment equation are properly understood and managed. There is both a need for strong dialogue on these issues in each African country and, strengthen-ing the capacity of African Governments to manage the nexus issues in the various countries.

17. Environmental degradation caused by soil erosion, desertification, rapid deforestation and unwise agricultural practices is seriously undermining the very resources on which many African farmers and their families must depend for increasing their agricultural productivity. The future size of Africa's population will be affected, as demonstrated within Africa and in many other regions, through economic and social service growth. On the other hand, if reasonable progress is to be made, agricultural growth must increase significantly to support the present rate of population growth. Water is increasingly becoming a problematic derivative of the equation in many parts of Africa. Competition for water is also growing with the accelera-tion of urbanization and water quality is increasingly becoming a health issue.

18. Human settlements and the nexus issues are intricately linked. This interconnection has been empha-sized in the various international conventions relating to sustainable development and has been underlined in the negotiations leading to the HABITAT II conference. ECA will assist in strengthening the policy-making capacity of African countries in human settlement issues and, in so doing, help in managing the complex linkages between human settlement and the nexus issues.

19. Action is needed on several fronts simultaneously. There is need, for example, to improve capacities of member States for quality food security and sustainable development policy analysis and planning. ECA will use its convening power - the clout to bring together high level officials in a variety of forums - to raise awareness and foster integrative thinking on the nexus issues. A major objective of this subprogramme will be to enhance locally based analytical capabilities for national policy-making and implementation in the areas of food security, population growth, and environmental management. ECA will undertake research on and advocate the adoption of appropriate macroeconomic measures to promote socially acceptable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable development.

20. There is now much consensus on population policy issues and on the linkages between population and development, thanks to the awareness generated by the regional and global conferences of the past two decades. In the Dakar/Ngor Declaration on Population, Family and Sustainable Development (1992), African Governments, for the first time, adopted quantitative demographic targets to be reached by countries of the region between 2000-2010 in terms of reducing annual population growth rate and mortality rates (infant, child hood and maternal), and increasing life expectancy and contraceptive prevalence rate. Thus, another objective of this subprogramme will be to support African countries to implement measures and actions to strengthen their population policies. The secretariat will contribute to that effort by monitoring and evaluating cross-country trends and, in so doing, highlight best practices.

21. Implementing the commitments made in the various environmental conventions adopted in the past few years is important to the goal of environmentally sustainable development. Hence, a further objective will be to strengthen the analytical, decision-making, legal and institutional capacities of African Govern-ments to facilitate the implementation of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)-related and other conventions on sustainable development. In this regard, the Commission will provide advisory services in support of efforts of member States.

22. Increasing the reliability of water supply is key to increasing food and agricultural production in Africa. The secretariat will play a role in increasing water for food production by providing support to riparian States sharing common water resources in establishing mechanisms for settling disputes and agreeing on rules and regulations for sustainable and equitable management of resources. It will also strengthen arrangements for the development of inter-State lake and river basins in Africa.

23. African women play a very critical role in the issues relating to the nexus of food security, popula-tion and environmental sustainability. Progress in the implementation of population and environmentally sustainable agricultural policies will depend crucially on women's response to policies measures being fostered in these areas. A major objective of the Commission here will be to assist member States in imple-menting measures to increase awareness of and acceptance by women of policy measures in the nexus. The secretariat will organize training and promotional activities for women through its African Centre for Women.

24. Science and technology is a cross-cutting issue in various areas of the nexus. Building an endogenous scientific and technological capability has long been recognized as vital to Africa's development. This recognition has inspired many initiatives in Africa. ECA has supported that effort by, among other things, sponsoring the establishment of regional institutions devoted to science and technology. The subpro-gramme will continue to support measures to revitalize these institutions and maintain an overview on policy and programme developments in science and technology on behalf of member States.

25. It is expected that the activities to be undertaken in this subprogramme will result in better apprecia-tion by African Governments of linkages between the three issues. This should result in improved policies for agricultural productivity, population, environmental management and science and technology for develop-ment.

Subprogramme 3:

Strengthening development management

26. Promoting development involves a partnership among all the sectors of society: the public, the private and the voluntary. Strengthening the managerial and institutional capacity of these sectors is key to enhancing their role in development. The subprogramme will focus on the following areas: public sector management, private sector development, and the promotion of popular participation in Africa.

27. Effective public sector management is key to sustained growth and development. This requires a competent accountable and responsive public service. Strengthening institutions of accountability will be one of the objectives of this component of the subprogramme. This will require the creation of civil society organs in member States which would ensure that public officials - both elected and appointed - uphold and adhere to ethical standards of public service. The second objective is strengthening of the civil service systems. This will involve assisting member States to develop standards and indicators for monitoring civil service performance. The third objective will be promoting the decentralization of administrative power. The aim here will be both to foster greater decentralization and strengthen the leadership and capacity of institutions of local governance.

28. Under private sector development, one area of focus will be on strengthening micro and informal sector enterprises, which are the main sources of employment and income in various African countries. Two major objectives will be pursued here. These are to assist governments to improve incentive frameworks for these enterprises and help them to form associations through which they can articulate their needs and also improve their management capacities. Particular emphasis will be given to improving access of women to credit to develop the enterprises. The African Federation of Women Entrepreneurs (AFWE), which is a network of national associations of business women and entrepreneurs, established at the initiative of ECA would play an important role in reflecting women's concerns in policy dialogue.

29. The second area of focus in private sector development will be enhancing an enabling environment for private sector-led development. The main objective will be to assist governments to reform their regula-tory frameworks that are so vital for private sector operations. Special emphasis will be placed on reforming regulatory policies and measures relating to improving market functioning.

30. Promoting industrial development will be the third area of focus. This reflects the recognition that industrial development in Africa remains slow and weak. Government and private sector have mutually rein-forcing roles to play in accelerating the pace of industrialization in Africa. The General Assembly has pro-claimed two industrial development decades in Africa. The United Nations second Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA-II) is for the period 1993-2002. The secretariat will assist member States in the implementation of the Decade programme. The main tasks, in this regard, will include the enhancement of industrial competitiveness of member States, and the building and strengthening of technical skills at member States' level. Another area of focus will be the development of industrial manpower through assistance to member States in the elaboration of national training programmes and ensuring the viability and sustainability of selected regional technical institutes.

31. South-South cooperation is an important vehicle for strengthening private sector development, includ-ing industrial development. A major objective in this area would be to devise mechanisms that enable African countries to benefit from the experience of, but also attract investments from, other developing regions. Assisting member States to develop their financial and capital markets will be an important element in the effort to attract significant flows of investment resources into Africa.

32. The Commission has contributed to the progress that has been made in fostering the notion of popular participation as articulated in the African Charter on Popular Participation in Development and Transformation. A major objective will be to sustain that effort. As democratic systems of political governance take hold in Africa, there will be need to strengthen the capacity of non-governmental organiza-tions (NGOs) to use advocacy effectively. The subprogramme will concentrate on strengthening capacities of civil society organizations for advocacy. Emphasis will also be placed on enhancing dialogue between governments and these organizations. The objective will be to encourage and assist governments and NGOs to create forums for dialogue.

33. The activities of the subprogramme are expected to result in the improvement of the performance of the public sector, better institutional and policy support for the private sector in Africa, growth in small and medium enterprises, improved standards for Africa's industrial products, increased technical expertise in industry, and strong civil society organizations.

Subprogramme 4:

Harnessing information for development

34. Information is a resource, a commodity with value that can be traded and exploited. Information is becoming as important a resource for production as land, human and financial capital. As with other resources so with information: value added comes from processing which is increasingly harnessed by technology. Information, including data are tools for development. Timely and reliable information and data are needed for economic policy-making in the public sector and for business decisions by private economic agents. By making information and data rapidly accessible, info-technology contributes to growth and development. Lower cost informatics technologies alone could revolutionize education, marketing and hundreds of other applications. Africa will not have to make costly investments in older technologies as did other regions, before investing in lower cost technologies. Similarly, the learning curve for development really is positive and Africa should benefit from this. Africa needs to develop the capacity to tap into the global system of information and knowledge and adapt them to solve its problems, including data manage-ment.

35. The secretariat will assist African countries in two areas: development information system and statis-tical development. It will pursue three objectives in the area of development information system. One objective will be to promote the development of information infrastructure. Member States will be encouraged to enter into policy dialogue to address issues of computer networking, regulatory and pricing policy, including taxes. Another objective will be to organize and disseminate Africa's development information on the internet. The Commission is already contributing to that effort by organizing develop-ment information on Africa in easily retrievable and accessible forms, mainly into the CD-ROM and inten-sify that effort during the Plan period. The third objective will be to disseminate development information on Africa. This will include, among other things, making the resources of ECA library, including all its publications, accessible to African academic community, policy-makers and research institutions through electronic connectivity. This will include transmitting the abstracts of ECA's new acquisitions, publications and other reports through electronic media.

36. In the area of statistical development, the objectives will be to maintain a regional database for economic, social, demographic and environmental statistics; and provide technical assistance to member States to improve their national statistical systems. The latter objective is consistent with the requirements of implementing the Strategy for the implementation of the Addis Ababa Plan of Action for Statistical Development in Africa in the 1990s.

37. It is expected that the activities of this subprogramme will contribute to increased electronic connec-tivity in Africa, increased access to Africa's development information and enhanced statistical capacity at the national level. It should also enhance the possibilities of technological "leapfrogging" for accelerating the pace of development in the region.

Subprogramme 5:

Promoting regional cooperation and integration

38. Fostering regional cooperation and integration is a major mandate of ECA. The entry into force of the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community provides a major impetus for the work of ECA in the area of regional cooperation. ECA's activities in this area will focus on four issues, namely strengthening subregional organizations; increasing support for infrastructural development; mineral and energy development; and science and technology for development.

39. Strengthening of subregional organizations is the main task envisaged in the first five years of the Abuja Treaty. The objectives of the Commission are to enhance the institutional capacities of the subregional organizations in consolidating their integration; rationalizing the myriad or organizations dedicated to integration within each subregion, and accelerating the process of cross-border liberalization and harmonization in trade, investment and monetary and fiscal policies.

40. ECA's support for sectoral activities in the various subregional groupings during the period 1998-2001 will be based on, and consistent with, the priorities that have been defined by member States of the intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). A major, effort is needed to ensure that the subregional organiza-tions have predictable and assured financial resources for their operations. To that end, the subprogramme will undertake studies on self-financing mechanisms for the subregional economic groupings.

41. The development of infrastructures is essential to linking economic spaces in the integration process. The objective in this area will be to assist African countries to implement the second United Nations Transport and Communications Decade in Africa (UNTACDA-II), 1991-2000. The subprogramme will con-centrate on four key areas, namely human resources development; institutional development; regional transport and communications linkages and facilitation; and a transport and communication database.

42. Minerals and energy resources development is one area that is particularly suitable for regional cooperation. Intercountry cooperation in the areas of electric power and gas has began to emerge in Africa. This needs to be more widespread. The objective will be to foster this pattern by facilitating private sector initiatives through necessary government interventions. The Commission will support that effort by under-taking studies that indicate the potentials and mechanisms for intercountry cooperation in minerals and energy development.

43. The activities to be undertaken in this subprogramme are expected to result in consolidation of the subregional economic groupings, accelerate the pace of infrastructure development, extend intercountry cooperation in mineral and energy resources development, and strengthen regional institutions for science and technology development.