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Reaching development goals by breaking silos in Commonwealth Africa

19 July 2012
Prime Minister of Rwanda addresses Commonwealth African Heads of Public Services on learning from each other’s experiences to achieve development goals

The Prime Minister of Rwanda told leaders responsible for delivering public services in Africa “as Commonwealth member states let us be one another’s trampoline to overcome challenges and remove any barrier to achieving our national development objectives”.

Dr Pierre Damien Habumuremyi was speaking at a forum in Rwanda from 16 to 18 July 2012 where delegates discussed how governments need to break down the barriers between their ministries, departments and agencies, so they can work together to deliver public services and achieve common development goals.

The annual Forums of Commonwealth Heads of African Public Services are guided by themes chosen by the Heads of Public Service. The Governance and Institutional Development Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat co-sponsors the forum with a government, which volunteers to host the forum on a rotational basis.

The 9th Forum of Commonwealth Heads of African Public Services in Kigali, hosted by the Government of Rwanda and the Commonwealth Secretariat, was held under the theme ‘Whole of Government Approach to achieving national development goals in Commonwealth Africa’.

Delivering the keynote address, the Prime Minister stressed that appropriate mechanisms need to be put in place so the limited resources, particularly of developing countries, are used in the interests of the people and satisfy their expectations.

“Afforded this opportunity to review our home strategies and practices, the present gathering offers a spectrum of solutions to unlock anything that has been impeding one or the other in our Commonwealth family to deliver to our citizens who entrust us to serve them,” he said.

Delegates from Commonwealth Africa shared their national experiences on the Whole of Government approach and recommended actions for making it an integral part of their strategies for improving the delivery of services to the public.

Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Ransford Smith said at the meeting: “Africa’s growth, while significant, is still not sufficient at the current rate for many countries to meet the Millennium Development Goals’ targets within the next three years. Key challenges include the need to halve poverty, high unemployment especially for the youth, school drop-out and high child and maternal mortality rates.

“This is where the role of the public service becomes even more critical. The gathering of the Heads of Public Services and other senior public officials at this forum, provides an opportunity to reflect on these and other development challenges and to suggest appropriate remedial actions.”

Delegates recommended strategies to introduce and accelerate the Whole of Government approach, including aligning both financial and human resources to priority areas for efficient public service delivery; improving the delivery of services by investing in information and communication technologies; and supporting training, programmes and research on harnessing the Whole of Government approach.

The Heads of Public Services asked the Commonwealth Secretariat to continue to research and produce publications on countries’ experiences; to help create an online forum for leaders to collaborate through Commonwealth Connects; and to assist countries in strengthening the connection between the political and administrative arms of government.

Countries that attended were: Botswana, Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The 10th Forum will be held in Botswana in 2013 under the theme 'Improving the political-administrative interface to achieve sustainable development'.