The UK’s support to the African Development Bank Group: report from the Sub-Committee on the Work of ICAI Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

1.We heard a range of evidence which bears out ICAI’s generally positive assessment of the alignment of the African Development Bank with the UK’s priorities. It is clear that, over the years, the UK has often used its formal and informal influence with the Bank in ways which have furthered the UK’s development objectives. The Bank’s ability to invest in large infrastructure projects, some of them crossing national borders and promoting regional integration neatly complements the strengths of the UK’s bilateral engagement. (Paragraph 18)

2.There are early signs that recent changes to the institutional and policy context of UK’s approach to development, including the FCO/DFID merger, have not reduced the Government’s commitment to Africa and to fruitful working with the African Development Bank. We welcome these suggestions of continuity, including clear ministerial statements about the priority to be given to the poorest in Africa and elsewhere. (Paragraph 26)

3.The Integrated Review, Global Britain in a Competitive Age, has now been published, but announcements on the reduced aid budget have yet to be made. The jury is still out on whether the Government can successfully combine its new approach to diplomatic, defence, trade and security matters, and necessary budgetary discipline, with delivery of its commitments to the poorest. Africa will be the acid test of the effectiveness of the Government’s new approach, and we will be monitoring its performance there closely. (Paragraph 27)

4.One of the key challenges facing the African Development Bank is in leveraging private finance for its key infrastructure projects. The current financial situation due to the coronavirus pandemic is likely to make that problem worse. (Paragraph 35)

5.One possible action that could improve the prospects for funding of infrastructure is for a faster disbursement of the Bank’s paid-in capital. We urge the Government, through its position as UK Executive Director, to consider encouraging this and other possible routes to maintaining financial support for Africa’s infrastructure. (Paragraph 36)

6.The need for the Bank to recruit good new staff, and to strengthen the skills of existing staff, was a pervasive theme of ICAI’s review and of the evidence we took. We were concerned to hear that expertise in such key areas as safeguarding and development in fragile states is in short supply. We heard several statements about the Bank’s efforts to acquire the skills it needs, and the UK’s support for those efforts, but words need to be matched with effective action. (Paragraph 45)

7.The UK Government should do all in its power to encourage sustained progress towards filling the skills gaps at the Bank. While bearing in mind the need to respect the Bank’s independence and to maintain a multilateral approach, the UK should press the Bank for early action and regular monitoring of progress on recruitment and retention. An update on the staffing situation should be provided to the Committee by the end of October 2021. (Paragraph 46)

8.We are heartened by the evidence of concerted and determined efforts on the part of the African Development Bank to mitigate the worst effects of the covid-19 pandemic and support the response of individual countries. We also welcome what appears to have been wider enhanced coordination between development institutions in the face of the pandemic. (Paragraph 54)

9.However, we are concerned that, as the pandemic continues to spread, and in some cases to worsen, including in African countries, momentum could be lost in the face of the huge challenges posed by the pandemic. (Paragraph 55)

10.The UK’s future support for the African Development Bank should reflect the Bank’s key role in complementing bilateral support. (Paragraph 56)

11.We were concerned to read, in the ICAI review, of problems caused by the unilateral introduction by the UK in 2017 of a Performance Improvement Plan for the African Development Bank. It is clear that there was a failure to balance the need to keep the Bank accountable for its performance with the need to respect the independence of the Bank. This was an unfortunate deviation from what appears to have been a generally positive and sensitively-conducted relationship between the UK and the Bank. We welcome the evidence that the issue was soon addressed and harmony quickly restored. (Paragraph 62)

12.Our evidence suggests that UK engagement with the African Development Bank has been beneficial over many years, and that, partly as a result, the Bank’s performance compares well with that of other development institutions, both in Africa and beyond. According to our evidence, the first months of the new FCDO have seen good engagement between HMG and the Bank. We hope that this will continue to be the case. (Paragraph 65)

13.Based on the findings presented in the review and the evidence we heard during our oral evidence session, we feel that a Green/Amber rating was an appropriate assessment of the UK’s support to the African Development Bank Group. (Paragraph 67)

Published: 5 May 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement