Rationalization of ECA-sponsored Institutions Renewal for Improved Service


The primary reason for the various attempts at rationalizing and harmonizing the activities of the ECA-sponsored institutions stems from the fact that over the years quite a number - some might say too many - of these institutions and IGOs were established in Africa. Increasingly, the member States are unable to provide enough financial support for their continued effectiveness.

Furthermore, with the changing development environment, it is only healthy that regular review of our institutions be carried out in order to ensure their continued relevanve to the development needs of the member States. This is equally true for ECA itself as well as for the institutions.

Consequently, because of:

-> the resource limitations being experienced by the member States;

_> the changes in development environment;

-> coupled with the new strategic directions of ECA;

Some choices have to be made. The rationalization and harmonization measures were called for in order to produce a few but coherent set of regional and subregional institutions that are:

-> effective in performance and relevant to the needs of member States.

-> can be supported by member States

-> and have a potential to graduate into real centres of excellence for Africa.

Over the years, several legislative directives have been given to the secretariat to undertake studies for rationalization of these institutions, notably:


As a result of the actions taken in 1995, the overwhelming support by the countries which responded in writing, and assuming that non-response implies acquiescence, the Secretariat could have proceeded to implement the recommendations of the above studies.

However, it was deemed prudent to reassess the prevailing situation and capacities of these institutions and obtain additional views from member States and partners in order to fine-tune the previous recommendations.

Actions Taken By The Secretariat

Accordingly, and as part of the Commission's restructuring efforts that were initiated since 1995, the Executive Secretary established last year an in-house Task Force to reexamine the rationalization issue and propose possible actions to advance this long-standing activity.

This in-house Task Force also looked into ECA's future relations with these institutions in view of its new strategic directions.

The Secretariat subsequently organized during February and March 1997 consultative missions to the institutions, selected member States (mainly the host countries) and other partners, including the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and UNDP Country offices, in order to obtain their views on the previous recommendations. The missions also took the opportunity to observe current conditions in the institutions.

From the views obtained and the spot assessments made, the missions were expected to draw appropriate conclusions and recommendations both on the future of the institutions as well as on the previous rationalization proposals. The visits were conducted by five teams, each composed of two consultants and staff members of the Secretariat and the teams were organized around the five groups of institutions addressing the same, similar or closely related sectors or issues as follows:

Cartography, Mapping and Remote SensingRECTAS; CRTO; AOCRS; RCSSMRS; ACMAD.
Engineering and Industrial TechnologyARCEDEM; ARCT; ARSO; AIHTTR; ARIPO; ARCSE.
Economic and Social DevelopmentIDEP; ACARTSOD; ESAMI; RIPS; IFORD; UNAFRI.

Findings Of Consultative Missions

(i) Cartography, Mapping and Remote Sensing Group: Previous recommendation to merge RECTAS, CRTO and AOCRS was modified to merging only RECTAS and CRTO and maintaining AOCRS as a separate organization. ACMAD and RCSSMRS would also be maintained as separate organizations as previously recommended.

(ii) Engineering and Industrial Technology Group: The earlier proposal was to merge all the six institutions in this group into a single organization to be named as Regional Organization for Technological Transformation in Africa, to be located in one place. The revised recommendation is either to close down AIHTTR and ARCSE and group ARCT, ARCEDEM, ARSO and ARIPO under a common institutional and policy framework, but maintaining independent identities; or close down AIHTTR and ARCSE, keep ARSO and ARIPO separate, and merge ARCT and ARCEDEM.

(iii) Economic and Social Development Group: There is virtually no change in the past recommendation regarding this group of institutions. IDEP and ACARTSOD are to be merged into Regional Institute for Sustainable Socio-economic Development in Africa to be located in one place; ESAMI is to be converted from a subregional into a regional institute to serve the whole of Africa; RIPS and IFORD will be maintained under their current affiliations with the host Universities, but will keep their regional character; and UNAFRI is to be maintained, but with greater effort to expand its present membership possibly to the whole continent, which will then reflect a truly regional character for such a unique African and United Nations sponsored institute.

(iv) Finance and Trade Group: As previously recommended CACH will remain as a specialized agency of ECCAS; ACMS had been recommended to form part of the merger of IDEP and ACARTSOD to deal with financial and monetary issues at the regional level within the framework of overall socio-economic development and integration. It is now being recommended to be maintained as a separate centre to continue to serve as the technical arm of the AACB and work in close collaboration with WAMA; AATPO will still be maintained, but with refocussed objectives which will include working in close collaboration with the AFREXIM Bank to promote trade and investments in Africa. The future of AATA should be further clarified by the member States during the Conference of Ministers. The mission was not able to visit it to hold consultations on its future as ECA which had served as interim secretariat is in the process of fully transferring the secretariat to Yaounde, Cameroon.

(v) Minerals and Transport: The findings from the assessments have led to the recommendation to close down the currently non-operational CAMRDC and set up a new leaner structure within the ECA MULPOC to be supported by the member States. ESAMRDC may become a specialized agency of SADC or COMESA. Further consultations among the parties on the feasibility of this proposal is recommended, especially in light of the current evaluation exercise on ESAMRDC by the Review Committee established by the member States. The three subregional Port Management Associations are to be retained as such in accordance with the previous recommendation to enable them deal more intimately with the port management problems within their respective subregions and their hinterlands.

Proposals On Relations With ECA

In addition to the implementation of the recommendations regarding the rationalization of the ECA-sponsored institutions, consideration should be given to the need to redefine the current relationship between ECA and these institutions. This should especially be seen within the framework of the recent reform at ECA which has resulted in new programme directions which focus on selected areas of priority (i.e the five new ECA programmes) in which ECA has comparative advantage in light of its capacities, experience and potential and can, therefore, bring added-value to the development efforts of African countries and organizations.

To this end, ECA proposes categorization of these institutions into 3. The selection process will be underpinned by three main principles, namely: the relevance of programmes to Africa's development priorities as well as in relation to ECA's new strategic directions and programme areas; functionality in terms of present operational capacity or potential for effectiveness if supported; regular support by member States either through direct payment of assessed contributions or by utilization of the services of the institution.

Regarding the first category of institutions to be identified, ECA could continue to serve on their governing bodies or executive committees as a member, or the Executive Secretary may continue to be chairman of the governing boards of those institutions for which he is currently performing this function, if such institutions happen to fall within the first group. ECA's assistance to this type of institutions will also include the secondment of experts on a short-term basis and other contributions such as technical assistance in devising self-financing mechanisms for them.

ECA would also pursue and join efforts with interested development partners both within and outside the United Nations system with a view to supporting these institutions to become regional centres of excellence.

A second category would involve institutions whose services are still relevant to the needs of member States and for which the member countries may want to maintain and support them. These will be nurtured towards Centres of Excellence. As regards these institutions, though ECA may continue to be represented on their governing boards and provide necessary technical assistance in its areas of competence, the Executive Secretary will not serve as Chairman of the boards.

Institutions whose services are not in great demand and for which there is little support from member States will constitute the third category. Depending on the decisions of the member States concerned, such institutions may be closed down or be transformed into national centres. As national institutions, they may continue to serve other countries of the region on mutually accepted arrangements.

The new partnership concept between ECA and the institutions would, to begin with, imply the necessity to change the nomenclature "ECA-sponsored Institutions" to "Regional Development Institutions". This would better reflect the general stance of the institutions and help avoid observed ambiguity and misunderstanding and even confusion surrounding their ownership and sponsorship. Because of the present designation, ECA is perceived by some people as owner and financial sponsor of these institutions whereas it is the member States who own and support them.

Follow-up Actions

As previously pointed out by the Executive Secretary in his opening remarks, this marks the fifth time that the Commission is considering the issue of rationalization of these institutions. The secretariat feels that in light of the recent further consultations and assessments, the recommendations contained in this report have been greatly informed and should now form the basis for decisive and concrete action by member States. The secretariat is concerned that any further delays in taking concrete actions on this rationalization issue would only contribute to the further lethargy and erosion of the effectiveness of these institutions.


The Conference is, therefore, being called upon to:

(i) Consider the report and endorse the recommendations on the rationalization of the institutions and the proposals regarding the new relationship between ECA and these institutions; and

(ii) Provide guidance to the institutions and their Governing Councils to undertake, in collaboration with ECA, necessary concrete measures towards the implementation of the recommendations. This is particularly important as previous efforts at rationalization and harmonization of the institutions have generally not involved the Governing Councils of the institutions. The Councils need now to be directly involved in the consultations and decision making process as they are the ones primarily responsible to implement the rationalization measures. Accordingly, it is proposed that subsequent to the endorsement in principle of the present report and the recommendations therein by the Conference of Ministers, they should be brought to the attention of the relevant governing boards for necessary action.