African Soccer and a Country’s Capabilities to Compete

written by Matt Andrews

I wrote a blog post earlier this week asking if an African country has what it takes to win soccer’s World Cup. Some people asked why I chose that topic—and especially why I took the time to write this longer paper about it! 

The reason is simple. I work on public policy, mostly in developing countries, where many governments try to improve their peoples’ well-being by helping their economies compete better in the world, especially for things like talent, capital, and market access (for exports). These governments are trying to develop the capabilities to compete and I am constantly asking what those capabilities are. 

Soccer gives us a window into identifying the capabilities needed to compete. Like economic policy, sport has a public good feel to it, brings nations into regular competition, and is the subject of many officials’ promises to win. So, I wondered if a view on how well African countries have been competing in soccer could help shed light on the capabilities needed to compete (in any international competition). 

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Will an African country win the soccer World Cup?

written by Matt Andrews

The Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament began in Cameroon this week. It has already provided the excitement fans were hoping for. While watching, I wonder how African countries will perform in the World Cup tournament at the end of the year. Is this the tournament where an African team wins, validating those who have predicted such victory for decades?

Predictions of an African world cup win are like the vision statements governments across Africa pen that see their low-income economies becoming competitive high-income ones by 2030, or 2040 in some instances. Such vision statements and predictions engender hope. But is this hope warranted? Is there really a chance that these amazing things will happen?

My new working paper tackles this question using African soccer as an example. I posit that African countries will only win the World Cup if they can compete with the world’s best countries (Hence the title, ‘Can Africa Compete in World Soccer?’). This requires that they compete as both ‘participants’ and ‘rivals’ in the world context, gaining and retaining access to the most consequential contests and competitions and winning regularly in these engagements.

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Independent Evaluation of PDIA Application in Africa

In April 2017, we began our engagement with the Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI), an intergovernmental organization based in South Africa, to design and launch the Building Public Financial Management Capabilities (BPFMC) Program using the PDIA approach. In this program, CABRI’s member countries could apply for a team of 5-7 members to work on their locally nominated PFM problem for the period of 7-months. The training included online modules, an in-person framing workshop, virtual progress updates, and an experience sharing workshop at the end of the program. Each team was paired with a coach from CABRI who held regular check-ins to motivate and support them.

Teams from Ghana, Liberia, Lesotho, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and The Gambia, participated in the inaugural program from May to December 2017. At the end of the program, the teams made significant progress: they developed a deeper understanding of the root causes of their problems; developed capabilities and confidence; financial reporting rates went up; budgets were prepared faster; and virements and arrears decreased. 

In April 2018, we began a second iteration, this time offering the program in both English and French. Teams from the Central African Republic (CAR), Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Lesotho, Liberia, and Nigeria, participated in the program. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a funder of the program, commissioned an independent evaluation to assess the application of the PDIA approach in the African context.

The evaluation included desk research, baseline and midline surveys of participants, interviews and observations from the framing workshop and experience sharing workshop, field visits to CAR, Lesotho, and Liberia, and interviews and observations from a review seminar, five months after the conclusion of the coaching support from CABRI.

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