Engaging Africa’s Parliamentarians Yields Positive Development Outcomes

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This blog was cross-posted from the World Bank's blog.

Story highlights

  • The World Bank office in Burkina Faso hosted a parliamentary workshop aimed to improve the oversight functions of parliaments in public finance.
  • Attended by over 50 members of Parliament, the workshop was also an occasion to present the Bank's $1.2 billion portfolio in Burkina Faso and to discuss more generally the challenges faced by projects in the region.
  • A field visit to the Bagre Pole Project offered participants the opportunity to see first-hand the impact of World Bank-funded projects in Burkina Faso.

Legislators can be powerful partners in monitoring the implementation of development programs. By virtue of their mandate, members of Parliament (MPs) pass laws, debate and review development policies, and hold governments accountable for World Bank-financed programs. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than 60% of countries are required by law to ratify loans and projects supported by international financial institutions like the World Bank.

For over 15 years, the World Bank Group has been reaching out to parliamentarians. While the Bank's mandate designates finance and development ministries as its main counterparts, engagement with parliamentarians has proven to be beneficial to advancing the country’s and the World Bank’s development goals.

The 18th International Development Association (IDA) donor replenishment meeting is critical to helping the World Bank Group and its clients deliver on the pressing global development agenda, marked by challenges such as climate change, the displacement crisis, and disaster risk management.

In donor countries, MPs approve development assistance budgets and often appropriate IDA contributions. In many developing countries, not only do parliamentarians ratify World Bank loans, but the constituencies that elect MPs to office are also IDA's primary beneficiaries.

This is why the Bank has increasingly called upon parliamentarians to participate in consultations to support the design and implementation of Country Partnership Frameworks over the past ten years, and encouraged systematic interactions through field visits, conferences and workshops. There is simply too much at stake not to engage.

The parliamentary workshop held in Burkina Faso from May 24th to 26th 2016 made a compelling case for increased parliamentary engagement. With about 50 MPs in attendance, the two-and-a-half-day workshop in Ouagadougou aimed to improve the oversight functions of parliaments in public finance.

Co-organized by the Burkina Faso country office, the Governance Parliamentary Strengthening program, and the World Bank External Communications Global Engagement team, the workshop was also an occasion to present the Bank's $1.2 billion portfolio in Burkina Faso—and discuss opportunities for further collaboration.  A field visit offered participants the opportunity to see first-hand the impact of World Bank-funded projects, including the Bagre Pole Project which aims to support the government of Burkina Faso in developing the Bagre municipality into an agribusiness growth pole.

"Through our visit, we were in a better position to control the action of the government," said Tibila Kabore, president of the Committee of Finance at the National Assembly. "All loans taken out by the government must be ratified by the National Assembly, so we will review each loan project with careful consideration."

As well as highlighting the impact of Bank-funded projects in Burkina Faso, the field visit was an opportunity to address more generally some of the challenges faced by projects in the region. For instance, the delegation discussed the involuntary resettlement of communities affected by the Bagre Pole Project, and took stock of the Bank's efforts to restore the livelihoods of the population displaced from Biré to the nearby village of Loaba, particularly in regards to the provision of infrastructure and water access.

"The perspective of parliamentarians is very valuable to the success of our projects and programs", noted Cheick F. Kanté, World Bank Country Manager for Burkina Faso. The training laid a solid foundation for an ongoing partnership between the World Bank and the Parliament of Burkina Faso.  In the context of the institution's continued commitment to decentralization and public sector governance, interfacing with the National Assembly has planted the seeds for the next phase of the local government reform project in the pipeline.

Workshops like this one are much more than a simple exercise in cross-cutting institutional collaboration: they are a testament to the strong impact that a targeted training program can have in yielding positive development outcomes. They foster greater understanding of, and local ownership and support for World Bank operations. They also empower MPs and give them the policy tools they need to lift their countries out of poverty: a win-win for MPs and for the World Bank.

This blog is also available in French.