Leadership for accountable governance in Southern Africa
- Angola Botswana Democratic Republic of the Congo Lesotho Madagascar Malawi Mauritius Mozambique Namibia Seychelles South Africa Swaziland Tanzania, United Republic of Zambia Zimbabwe
Aiming to empower young government and civil society leaders from southern Africa to catalyze transformative change in their home institutions and communities, the project had indeed a positive impact on some participants, both professionally and personally. It comprised of four principal components: training, support to “personal reform” projects developed by the trainees, integration of the trainees into an existing network, and evaluation of the reform projects with a view to identifying good practice and replicable initiatives. Overall, however, it represented poor value for money for UNDEF taking into account the high cost (US$350,000), relatively small number of participants, lack of strategies for broader engagement and inadequate outcomes.
Lessons from Project
There seems to be a lack of clarity and vision for the future of the network and of strategies for achieving sustainability, specifically as an independent African initiative. Although there are documents outlining the vision and conceptual basis of the initiative, there appear to be no concrete strategies for ensuring its future.
The allocation of funds between headquarters’ support costs and project-related staff and activities in-country was unbalanced. In this case, it is likely that the high headquarters costs impacted directly on decisions made relating to project activity and the subsequent compromising of project outcomes.
No attempt was made during the life of the project to draw reliable lessons, positive and negative, and in particular at times when there were clearly challenges facing those implementing the project but still time to re-think plans – for example, relocating later training sessions and the alumni event to a venue where costs would be lower.
Financial planning and management was weak, with a serious negative impact on project activity and the likelihood of the project achieving its objectives in the 11 countries in Southern Africa. Consultants and participants were led to believe that there was a shortage of funds when, in fact, adequate funds had been provided but had not been appropriately allocated. The allocation of funds between headquarters’ support costs and project-related staff and activities in-country was unbalanced.
Insufficient attention was paid to the gender appropriateness of the training materials in Southern Africa Insufficient attention was also paid to political and indeed racial tensions that might reasonably be expected to occur in groups that brought together people from 10 African nations. Some of the training materials exhibited poor judgement in relation to comments about political leaders.
The project was poorly designed. A lack of understanding of the importance of the inter-connectedness of the three core activities (training, reform project support and alumni network) in Southern Africa to achieving the medium- and long-term objectives of the project led to decisions being made early in the project that compromised its likelihood of success.
The training component in across the 11 countries in Southern Africa was generally well received by participants and in some cases clearly had a positive impact. They believed the project provided opportunities to share ideas and contact with “friends for life”. The challenge, obviously, is maintaining the network and the motivation of those who will not engage without ‘prompts’. A participant noted that the network and Freedom House have been very quiet.