GOVERNANCE IN GUINEA, WEST AFRICA – BY OLIVIA NESBIT

 

The ultimate goal of good governance, and development, is to equip governments with the tools necessary to transform political ambitions into policy, policy into practice and implementation into results for and with citizens. In recent years, many governments have created Delivery Units (DU) to accelerate progress toward creating tangible outcomes. “The establishment of a Delivery Unit (DU) brings together an understanding of the nature of ‘delivery systems’ – the network of organizations that need to work together to achieve service delivery outcomes – and private and public sector leadership and management practices”.

This was the general idea behind the Delivery Unit (DU) (Bureau d’Execution Strategique – BES) that the Guinean Government established within the Prime Minister’s Office. The overarching goal of the DU is to build capacity and bolster the systems necessary to achieve better results more quickly in priority sectors.

The BES team after a training in Conakry for Guinean pineapple producers.

The BES team after a training in Conakry for Guinean pineapple producers.

As a Summer Consultant with Dalberg Global Development Advisors, I have been working as part of the DU team imbedded in the Guinean Prime Minister’s Office. In addition to workstreams focused on developing the pineapple industry and the mining sector, my focus is a bit more abstract: governance and monitoring and evaluation of government projects. “Governance” is one of those terms that is multi-faceted, complex and difficult to define. So, I didn’t have a clear idea of what it would mean to work on governance in Guinea. When I arrived, I found out that I would be working mostly on monitoring and evaluation support, as the Ministerial midterm evaluations happen annually in July.

My government counterpart and I hard at work. She is employed by the Tony Blair Institute here in Guinea.

My government counterpart and I hard at work. She is employed by the Tony Blair Institute here in Guinea.

Having a year of graduate school and several years of field experience under my belt, I was well aware of the rigorous standards most development organizations have for monitoring and evaluation. I was also familiar with programs like Stata that many organizations and governments use to track progress of their initiatives. However, trying to apply these demanding approaches in the field had a profound impact on my perspective on development and M&E. In Guinea, as in many other developing countries, capacity (human, financial and political) are all major constraints to generating and tracking tangible results. Meeting the standards set by some international organizations requires immense resources and expertise that are often difficult to procure.

Evaluation of the Ministry of the Environment.

Evaluation of the Ministry of the Environment.

The Guinean Government’s midterm evaluations measure the progress that the 32 Ministries have made toward achieving the objectives laid out in their annual action plans.  In collaboration with a small team of two Special Advisors, I helped adapt the M&E tools that the government uses to conduct a more rigorous, quantitative midterm evaluation.  After holding several group and individual meetings with Ministry officials to introduce the new format, the evaluation period began this week. This emphasis on M&E is new for many members of the government and can seem complicated and frustrating. However, some Ministries have reported learning from the exercise (of filling out a newly designed and simplified M&E table) and will apply the ideas in program planning and execution in the years to come.

Among the many lessons I have learned in the past month, the most important is that development, and especially governance work, isn’t about moving mountains. These evaluations represent a step toward meeting the demanding standards required by many development actors. “Results-oriented programming” and “demonstrated impact” are buzz-words that have real bearing on how governments create policy, implement programs and eventually make change for citizens in places like Guinea. While the Guinea DU’s goals are ambitious, they will ideally build the government’s capacity by fostering the creation of vital tools for progressive and impactful development. Arriving at “good governance” is an endless process, but my experience working toward this goal has been unbelievably eye-opening, edifying and rewarding.

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