Deputy Minister Chikunga with the South African delegation

The Deputy Minister for Public Service and Administration, Ms Sindiswa Chikunga, led the South African delegation to the 40th African Association for Public Administration and Management (AAPAM) that took place in Cairo, Egypt from 03 – 06 December 2019.

The Conference was co-hosted by the Arab Republic of Egypt under the theme, Transforming institutions in Africa for sustainable development, informed by the understanding that effective, accountable and inclusive institutions are essential to achieving Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Deputy Minister facilitated the session under the sub-theme: strengthening decentralized institutions for enhanced effective service delivery.

The objective of the session was to provide a framework that explains both why decentralization can generate substantial improvements in service delivery, and why it often falls short of this aspiration.

Some of the issues calibrated in this session is that while decentralization was in some cases intended to strengthen the political power of lower tiers of government as against the central government, it has, in some cases, increased the possibility of political capture within these lower tiers.

Delegates expressed the view that the process of implementing decentralization can be as important as the design of the system in influencing service delivery outcomes.

The Conference in general resolved that Africa is a young continent and there is a need for strong political will to empower the youth. Governments and the Private sector should sponsor more young people to attend AAPAM Conferences. The Egyptian Presidential Council on Digital Transformation is a good practice that should be replicated around Africa.

Delegates also resolved to ensure participation and responsiveness in policy coordination and implementation. African should create institutions that listen, are adaptive, versatile and that ensure citizen participation to shape policy.

Administrative reforms should be people driven and e-participation is an important communication tool and connecting African people is a shared prosperity hence governments must put people at the centre of digitization.

Digital divide can aggravate the social divide and investment in its use can be a force for positive social change. Informal institutions should be incorporated into digitization projects to ensure sensitivity communities’ cultural dimensions.

Given the massive Youth Unemployment Challenges, the Mauritius model of targeted training is a best practice for replication because innovation is the gateway to institutional transformation for sustainable development.

As we observe this season of violence against women and children, the Zambia model of ending child marriage is a best practice for the many countries still grappling with this social menace. Local to local collaboration should be encourage to create viable economic zones.

Countries should avoid big bang decentralization, stay sequential and shun transposing wholesale one system to another.

The model of eradicating the menace of child marriages in Zambia came out clearly as a definite best practices for African countries still grappling with this insidious cultural yet legally repugnant practice.

The issue of child marriages is not unique to Zambia but is still practiced in many African countries, including South Africa, albeit under the legal radar.

Escalating number of girls being married off at a young age in rural areas, young girls getting pregnant and dropping out of school, perpetuation of harmful traditional practices are practices that are rife in much of Africa.

Protection of children from abuse related to social, traditional and cultural norms that promote child marriages in chiefdoms is urgent and non-negotiable.

In Zambia everyone including the Cabinet were brought on board and the campaign was launched in 2013. The campaign was meant to address human rights violations as well as challenges associated with child marriages. The project won the Gold medal on the Innovative Management Award.

Deliberations at the conference centred on Institutions (formal and informal) in determining how decisions are made, how resources are allocated, how well markets function, how natural resources are governed, how conflicts are managed and how violence and crime are prevented and addressed.

Effective, accountable and inclusive institutions that provide access to justice are based on effective rule of law, respond to the needs of people and provide timely, appropriate and equitable access to services.

The role of digital platforms and the whole range of new technologies came in sharp focus at the Conference. Delegates expressed unanimity in the fact that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is the greatest enabler for innovations.

It was however argued that ICT is a mere tool that require transformational leadership to create an innovative environment for innovative solutions to thrive.

As well, community involvement is critical to sustainable innovation. Delegates appreciated Egypt’s efforts to consolidate its relations with its African counterparts in a myriad of economic development interventions.

It was also recognized that early guidelines on public administration came from ancient Egypt. Whilst acknowledging the trite fact that Africa did not fully benefit from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd industrial revolution, it was agreed that the 4th Industrial Revolution presents expansive opportunities for Africa to realize its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and achieve the 2063 aspirations.

Ethical leadership was once again recognized as being key for policy coordination and implementation in institutions. Once again, the use of new technologies is one significant way to strengthen policy coordination and implementation institutions.

Conference embraced the decentralization project but clarified that decentralization is about improving decision making and service delivery at local level and not to satiate the cravings of local political players.

It was revealed that the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) has the most relevant and updated data on e-government and e-participation which are critical to enhancing the effectiveness of public institutions. Conference conceded that digital and E-government have grown exponentially with advancement of people demands as its key ingredients, however, delegates lamented the disparities that remain within and among countries. Governments were called upon to develop customer-focused service delivery as the best support for persons with disability.

There was a strong recognition at the Conference that the 4th Industrial Revolution presents Africans with a massive opportunity to benefit from related skills like creativity, Innovation and emotional intelligence. All that is required is to create an enabling environment through institutional building and updating the human resource capacities.

The young people will experience the real challenges presented in the course of the implementation of Agenda 2063 and therefore have a right to be put at the centre of all these interventions.

Conference perceived that as the world become automated, employment will need agility to jump between options necessitating skilling and re-skilling to avoid a bloodbath of job losses.

As well, delegates were acutely aware that as we move forward with the SDGs and Agenda 2063 implementation, institutions like AAPAM and Management Development institutes need to sustain the capacity to remain relevant and dependable.

A recollection was made that during the 2019 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) the Member States re-committed to SDGs implementation and the need to a speedy institutional transformation.

A grim reminder was sounded for delegates to be aware that Africa is the richest continent but with the poorest people in the world and building, strong institutions will not happen without first making people great and positive. This is why Africa needs strong institutions as much as it needs strong leaders to nurture and nourish these institutions with necessary transformational agendas.

Delegates were cautioned that if institutions do not mirror the aspirations of the African People, they will not thrive and instead are bound to fail.

There was general recognition that leadership plays at various levels and it is the responsibility of every leader to ensure institutions are creative and effective and this should trickle down through the value chain.

Delegates were reminded that the new generation of citizens has little patience for government failures and unless solutions are found quickly to the increasing societal challenges it will default to guarantee socio-political stability.

Universities were not left out but delegates identified these centers of excellence as key players for building the necessary capacity for the unfolding administrative reforms. It goes without saying that ICT and digital platforms are important for sustainable development and are already transforming lives in significant ways.

Delegates expressed disappointment that in Africa, only three countries, SA, Mauritius, closely followed by Seychelles are in top 50s on e-government and e-participation and urged for more efforts in these important endeavors.

There is also a universal consensus that innovation and creativity are the bedrock of any sustainable political, economic, social, environmental, physical and technical growth. Another disappointment is that most decentralization programmes are focused on securing resources from the central government and creating employment for local people with no focus for local development.

Four finalist organizations received AAPAM Awards in the AAPAM Innovative Management Award (IMA).

This year, the jury received fifty-seven (57) submissions from fourteen (14) countries.  Out of the 57 submissions, 17 were from French and Arabic speaking countries while the rest from Anglo-phone countries. The countries which submitted their innovations were: Algeria (3), Botswana (6), Cameroon (7) Egypt (5), Ghana (1), Kenya (10), Malawi (1), Mauritius (12), Morocco (1), Namibia(1), Senegal (1), South Africa (4),Uganda (1) and Zambia (4).

The winning projects were, Ending Child Marriage, Zambia (Gold), Project A Milestone to Public Services for Egyptian Citizens, Egypt (Silver), National Complaints Management System, Kingdom of Morocco (Bronze), National Skills Development, Mauritius (Glass).