Policy Harmonization for Implementation Through Ground Innovations
Policy is the biggest driver of change.
Policy is the biggest driver of change. In Africa, the challenge is not in the absence of relevant policy, but rather in the optimal implementation of these policies. And this implementation gap exists because of policy silos — where while implementation of a given policy may require the input of different other sectorial actions, the policies from these other sectors are not aligned towards prioritizing to provide this input.
A crucial example is in NDCs. While they are policies with over 90% of countries in Africa having ratified for implementation, they are domiciled within the ministry of environment. However, their implementation calls for input from non-environment productive ministries such as energy, agriculture, transport, Trade etc. But these productive ministries do not always have this input prioritized at the same level as done in the NDCs. For example, while NDCs may call for prioritization of clean energy, the energy ministry may be prioritizing bridging the country energy gap using the most accessible and affordable means, even if from unclean sources. Hence, energy policy will focus on incentivizing investments in any energy technologies that can be used to bridge the energy gap, regardless of whether clean or unclean.
Agriculture sector, which is the most important socioeconomic sector in Africa, the continents engine of development, provides another example. While CSA policy is an agriculture policy domiciled in the ministry of agriculture, its implementation requires the input of clean energy to power value addition, trade to drive market linkages, environment to incentivize key actions like agro-forestry etc. While the CSA policy makes mention of all this multi-dimensional input from the different sectors, the policies from these other sectors are not deliberately synchronized to prioritize actions needed to drive CSA, at the same level of prioritization. Rather they focus on achieving their silo sectorial priorities. E.g. energy can focus on creative incentives for electrifying households. But not creating incentives for clean energy solutions that are needed to power value added actions and cut postharvest losses as may be called for in CSA.
But the question is, how can these silos in policy implementation be bridged?
The answer lies in leveraging ground level innovations that practically demonstrate the multi-dimensional benefits of this cross-sectorial synchronization of actions. And how in so doing, it optimally meets the sectorial priorities of the ministries involved, simultaneously with shared bottom-line priorities for accelerated socioeconomic growth that any government has.
Policy is not always established through top-down approaches. Effective policy is established more through bottom-up approaches. Where pockets of success stories from ground actions are leveraged to generate a groundswell of empirical data and knowledge that feeds-back to inform and influence policy prioritization from a more practical and implementable position.
For example, national standards regulators under the ministries of trade, provide standards benchmarks aimed at ensuring that food produced by the country meet certain market benchmarks — e.g. quality safety, health etc., needed to ensure marketability. However, ground actors applying CSA techniques such as use of biofertilizer, minimum tillage, etc., to ensure increased yields of nutrient rich food, provide much needed data that can be used to inform the national standards to integrate these CSA techniques as tools for achieving market food health quality standards. Another example is also in food safety. Aflatoxins are a major threat against which standards benchmarks are set to ensure safe food enters the markets. Application of affordable mechanical solar dryers has been proven capable of effectively, affordably, and efficiently dehydrating agro-produce to below thresholds 10% moisture content needed to prevent growth of aflatoxins. Data shows that application of such solar dryers reduces aflatoxin incidents by up to 58%. This empirical data provides a basis by which national standards benchmarks have integrated use of solar dryers, a clean energy policy issue, to help achieve the standards benchmarks — a trade policy issue. This has been done in Uganda and Nigeria.
Another example is in ICT. Countries e.g. Cameroon, have an ICT policy that calls for digitalization of actions across all sectors. The question becomes, how can ground actions inform implementation of this policy say in the agriculture sector? Youth developing digital marketing systems have shown that cassava farmers using these digital marketing systems to link seamlessly and affordably to markets have cut their marketing costs while expanding market linkages and by this, have increased incomes by up to 150%. This data sends a clear policy signal, that prioritizing to invest in ICT connectivity capability among high potential agro-production areas, will catalyze increased digitization of actions in this sector and drive bottom-line socioeconomic benefits.
Another example that is a critical economy-wide priority for countries across Africa is in job creation. The African continent needs to create no less than 12million jobs each year, for a growing youthful population currently at 60%, and with up to 60% of these youth being unemployed. To this end, nearly every African country has a jobs strategy, an employment policy, a youth jobs creation policy etc. Implementation of these jobs policies needs enablers in form of incentives that come from across different ministries. For example, the finance ministry may need to put in place fiscal incentives to activate investment in certain sectors that can engage the most youth in job creation. Energy, transport ministries may need to put in place certain infrastructural incentives, to activate optimal job creating investments. And by this, we have diverse sectorial policies being synchronized and harmonized for implementation towards a shared priority of implementing a jobs strategy.
But the question is, how do we know which sectors/sub-sectors to incentivize to have the maximum impact in job creation? This is where empirical data from groundswell of success stories that have demonstrated their potential for engaging the youth in enterprise and jobs becomes a critical input.
And for this, an example of how these groundswells of empirical success data can inform harmonized policy incentives for jobs is in the agriculture sector, Africa’s engine sector of development. Africa experiences up to $48billion in annual postharvest losses, while importing up to $35billion. This is a $83billion gap in losses, that can be turned into incomes. But empirical data from Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, among other countries shows that, convening agro-value chain actors in local cooperatives, to “co-operate around” accessing a solar dryer solution to cut their postharvest losses (PHLs), instead of convening around savings only, will result in them cutting their PHLs, increasing shelf-life, while achieving statutory food safety, health and quality standards benchmarks of their produce through preventing growth of aflatoxin linked to cancer disease burden. And as a result, earn up to 150% more, and in some cases up to 30times more, by being able to sell quality produce during peak demand. As opposed to rushed selling in fearing spoilage and even losing perishables that remain unsold in a day or two. With these savings, they can then put youth to work to start fabricating these accessible solar dryers, and hence create enterprise opportunities for youth.
These empirical results then provide empirical evidence that can be taken up by diverse sectorial ministries, to inform prioritization of their policies towards the shared bottom-line economic aim of creating jobs while meeting their respective sector specific priorities. For example, finance policy needs to offer fiscal incentives. This empirical data will inform them such that they prioritize their fiscal incentives towards this area — e.g. integrate weaver of taxes in imported spare parts needed to make solar dryers. Energy policies need to make technical specifications of different energy technologies imported into a country. They can now prioritize to integrate technical specifications of solar dryer spare parts to ensure only the highest quality parts get into countries. Health policy needs to drive preventative health care. They can now have data to justify integrating use of solar dryers, as an affordable tool to cut aflatoxins and cut risk for cancer caused by unsafe food. Transport polices need to develop roads. They can use this data to prioritize investment in roads linking high potential areas to markets, to ensure this dried produce reaches markets efficiently. Education policy needs to offer bursaries to needy, bright students. They can now leverage this data to offer bursaries to youth to get training and skills in fabricating solar dryers and deploying these to power agro-value addition to ensure their bursaries go to where youth can get jobs for themselves while solving development challenges. This is how we will have coherent policy incentives inputs from across the different ministries towards ensuring optimal implementation of a jobs strategy — all empirically informed by what has been proven to work.
So through innovative operational ground policy implementation actions, data is generated that demonstrates how cross-sectorial policy implementation innovative collaborative actions can be undertaken to drive realization of policy aims of the different sectors involved. And by this, inform the much-needed policy level harmonization to drive implementation from a practical dimension that has proven workable and in doing so results in the implementation of all the policies at one go at the ground implementation point. This reduces duplication of efforts which is the biggest operational risk costing the continent time and money.
Its only through this innovative coherent ground level policy implementation where synergistic coherence is fostered that we can drive impactful policy refinement at the top. This is what is needed, and agriculture need to work with energy, specifically clean energy, to ensure suitable power is available to power processing / preservations to cut postharvest losses and food waste. Agriculture needs to work with transport infrastructure to ensure what is produced can be efficiently linked to markets to maximize incomes. Agriculture needs to work with trade to secure markets for what is produced. Etc. The resultant sustainable agro-industrialization will mean that for instance the over $83billion currently lost through PHLs & avoidable food imports will instead be turned to enterprises, income savings & job opportunities to create market pull factors for bring impact to scale.