More than 70 representatives of the private sector, governments, multilateral agencies, regional and sub-regional development banks, development institutions, academia, civil society, and the media in Africa met in Pretoria, South Africa from 30 to 31 October 2017 to participate in a knowledge sharing event hosted by the Independent Development Evaluation (IDEV) of the African Development Bank and the Evaluation Department at Norad (NoradDev).
The two-day learning event on the theme, "Financing Private Sector Development: what works, what does not and why" concluded the hosting institutions' three-part knowledge series based on the findings of their synthesis report titled, "Towards Private Sector-Led Growth: Lessons of Experience."
Key issues, such as risks, opportunities and challenges that the African private sector faces, the role of governments and donor support in alleviating major constraints, and how development partners can work with and through the private sector to ensure that it contributes to shared growth and poverty reduction were explored at length within the various panel and Q&A sessions. Special attention was paid to small and medium-sized enterprises as nodes of job creation and growth, the particular challenges they face, and how these can be addressed. The issue of financing private sector development was also examined by a panel of experts including staff of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, the Industrial Development Corporation, and commercial banks.
Mmakgoshi Lekhethe, Executive Director for South Africa at the African Development Bank, in her welcoming remarks noted that with the role of Official Development Assistance declining, support for private sector development needs to be better targeted to address policy and institutional constraints, complemented by policy advice, capacity building, and the development of new and innovative instruments.
Nhlanhla Nene from Thebe Investment Corporation and Wits Business School, and former South African Finance Minister, made the case for a thriving private sector by calling on governments to prioritise investments and public resources directed at industrialization and the development of sub-sectors and their value chains, especially those that can contribute the most to national economic development plans. He also emphasised the importance of strong project preparation to improve their bankability.
Presenting the key findings from the joint IDEV-NoradDev report, Rakesh Nangia, Evaluator General of the African Development Bank, said that Africa needs a successful strategy when it comes to private sector development and not gap-filling. "Regulatory reforms are a good start but often not sufficient. Catalytic effects should be at the heart of program design, with attention for sustainability," he said, emphasizing the importance of knowledge sharing across countries on what works, what does not work, and why, to inform future programs.
Balbir Singh, Senior Adviser at the Evaluation Department of Norad, added: "Private sector assistance is the means and not an end in itself". He emphasised the importance of additionality (both quantity and quality) as well as the challenges of identifying appropriate metrics to measure progress and the growing role of the Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) in promoting private sector growth in Africa.
Other notable panelists and speakers at the forum included Paul Noumba Um, Country Director for South Africa at the World Bank; Alan Mukoki, CEO of the South African Chamber of Commerce & Industry; Lynette Chen, CEO of the NEPAD Business Foundation; Tshokolo Nchoncho, CEO of Land Bank; Thakhani Makuvha, CEO of the Small Enterprise Finance Agency; and Saleem Karimjee, IFC country manager.
The event, which was live-streamed and widely covered by South African media channels, provided a forum for evidence-based discussions on future policy directions for private sector development in Africa. The proceedings and all materials from the event will be made available on IDEV's website.