The African Development Bank is a regional multilateral development bank, engaged in promoting the economic development and social progress of its Regional Member Countries (RMCs) in Africa. The Bank, established in 1964, started functioning in 1966 with its Headquarters in Abidjan, Cote d’ lvoire. Its shareholders are the 53 countries in Africa as well as 24 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia.
eLA: Would you please describe the AfDB mission and how it operates?
Alice Hamer: The mandate of the African Development Bank is to contribute to the economic and social development of Africa. The Bank carries out this mission by making resources available to African countries, primarily in the form of loans and grants. The three major financing windows of the Bank are the African Development Fund (ADF), the African Development Bank (ADB) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF). Most countries have access to ADF, the most concessional resource window. The Bank also mobilizes resources from various Trust Funds that it manages for bilateral partners as well as acts as a catalyst to partner with various development agencies to co-finance and/or parallel finance development activities in Africa. These resources are used for investments for economic growth in multiple domains, including macro-economic reform and management, industry, agriculture, and social development.
eLA: You are Director of the Social Development Department (North, South and East Region, AfDB). What is your department’s function?
Alice Hamer: The Department of Social Development, North, South and East Region is responsible for the investments of the Bank in 27 countries in these three sub-regions of Africa. Social development encompasses the domains of health, education, and social protection. The broad goal of investments in social development is to expand the delivery of social services and to create an environment to develop Africa’s human capital for its maximum contribution to economic growth and performance. In each one of these fields, the Bank works with governments and other development partners in determining how the Bank can best support the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
eLA: What are the Bank’s interests in supporting ICT in education?
Alice Hamer: The African Development Bank recognises the important role that information and communication technologies (ICTs) play in development. Widespread access to information and communication technologies offers new possibilities for better social participation; enhancing the capacities of individuals and institutions to create, access, adapt and apply information; facilitating income opportunities and increasing the impact of education and health. Because of this, as well as other cross-cutting roles that ICT plays, the Bank believes that effective deployment of ICTs is central to its strategic priorities, namely agriculture and sustainable rural development; essential infrastructure with focus on rural development and regional economic integration; human capital formation through education and health services; good governance and private-sector development.
eLA: To what extent are you establishing private/public partnerships, and how do you see these having an impact on the projects you support?
Alice Hamer: The African Development Bank recognises that private/public partnerships (PPP) have the potential to augment resources for development purposes in Africa. The Bank seeks to build strong PPPs in all sectors. However the level of engagements with PPPs currently varies across the sectors, with activities in the industrial sector being more advanced than those in the agricultural and the social development sectors. The Bank’s work on establishing PPPs in the social sector commenced in 2005 and is still being developed. The primary area identified for such collaboration is in the domain of ICT. Both high-level meetings and technical workshops have been held in collaboration with two emerging private partners, CISCO and Microsoft. We would hope that our partners can play an increasing role in areas such as the provision of technical knowledge to Bank staff and African countries as well as tangible support to the establishment of project infrastructure. The Bank will support the take up of ICTs in Africa and assist our partners to better understand the contexts in which ICT interventions are designed.
eLA: We understand you are working with NEPAD and in particular with the NEPAD eSchools initiative. Can you describe this collaboration?
Alice Hamer: There are two major areas in which the Bank collaborates with NEPAD. While it plays a leadership role in the areas of infrastructure development, it also works closely with NEPAD on the development of financial standards for Africa. The Bank’s support to NEPAD in these two areas commenced in about 2002. In contrast, its collaboration with NEPAD in the social sector is very recent. During 2005 the Bank organized a number of information sessions between the Social Sector units and the e-Africa Commission on NEPAD’s e-School initiative. One specific outcome was the Bank’s agreement to support the development of the NEPAD e-School Business Plan through the provision of technical assistance to the Country Experts’ Group who will review its development. In addition the Bank hosted the inaugural meeting of the Country Expert Group in Tunis in November 2005 following WSIS and is assisting the e-Commission with the development of a Health Point in the NEPAD Demonstration Schools.
eLA: How do you see this support in relation to your overall approach to supporting education in Africa?
Alice Hamer: The Bank has played a key role in ICT for development. Historically, most ADB assistance to RMCs and the region has focused on informatics – IT and telecommunications. The Bank has spent well over US$1 billion to finance telecommunications projects in over thirty countries over the last three decades. Between 1970 and 2000 the Bank set aside 2.9% of its loan and grant resources to support telecommunications network development and to ICT-related initiatives in RMCs. By contrast the Bank’s financing of ICT activities under education projects is not only relatively new but comparatively small. One of its first ICT projects was Namibia’s completed Human Resources Development Project, approved in 1996, that established an ICT resource center at the University of Namibia and satellites in other parts of the country to, among other things, provide centers for the distance in-service training of teachers. One of the Bank’s more recent interventions has been to assist the scaling up of activities of the African Virtual University approved in 2004.
While the Bank’s education portfolio reflects a variety of approaches, the use of ICT at present is modest, although a welcome innovative approach to education development by the Bank.
eLA: What are you expecting from your involvement in the eLA conference?
Alice Hamer: The Bank is still ‘on a learning curve’ in respect to ICTs in general and in the social sector in particular. We expect that our involvement in the e-LA conference will provide an opportunity to gain knowledge of ICT, its role in learning in Africa, and the potential impact this can have on development in Africa. We also see it as an opportunity to inform our Regional Member Countries of our support to this important area.
eLA: What is the particular focus of your workshop, and why have you chosen this focus?
Alice Hamer: The focus of the proposed workshop is on ‘e-Readiness’. The selection of the theme evolved out of the Bank’s collaboration to date with the NEPAD e-Commission on NEPAD e-Schools. The objective of establishing e-Schools is to ‘impart information and communication skills to young Africans through the establishment of e-schools across Africa.’ The initiative is currently at the demonstration stage in twenty first-phase African countries in which six demonstration schools in each country are being established at the secondary level. The responsibility of rolling out computer labs in six schools per country will be directed by a Country Liaison Person (CLP) nominated by each of the twenty countries.
To date the primary exposure of CLPs in the e-School roll out has been on the hardware requirements of the exercise. Nevertheless several other factors that determine e-readiness are critical to the success of the e-School roll out to ensure that it successfully contributes to the development of education in Africa. Organizing a workshop on e-readiness will enable the Bank to expose CLPs to these important variables and strengthen their technical leadership capacity to manage the NEPAD e-School initiative. We are also opening the workshop to other delegates of the conference so that they can benefit from the inputs, as well as to draw their attention to the African Development Bank’s commitment to support the area of ICT.
eLA: Mrs Hamer, thank you very much indeed for your time.
[callout title=About Alice Hamer]Alice Hamer is the Director of Social Development of the North, East and South Regions at the African Development Bank (AfDB) where she has worked for approximately 20 years. She is responsible for projects financed by the AfDB in three different domains: education, health and social protection. The projects in the education sector on which she has worked include formal education at the primary, secondary, tertiary education as well as technical education. The social protection projects on which she has experience also include adult literacy. The development of human capital has been the central theme to her professional work, and constructing project architecture and its supervision to have a significant impact on development has been her major professional challenge. Alice Hamer holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology and History from the University of Michigan as well as a Masters in Public Health from the same university.[/callout]