Sector wide approaches: Do they really help the poor?

Sector wide approaches (sector programs, sector investment programs, etc.) have been a major focus of development efforts in Africa. Over the past five years, they have been widely adopted as promising tools for financing and managing of development initiatives in health, education, transport, and the agricultural sector in many countries. Currently, more than 78 sector-wide programs are being implemented, of which 67 are based in Africa.

Africa suffers from an extremely high incidence of poverty. When the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund started the debt relief initiative, which is commonly known as ‘Heavily Indebted Poor Country’ (HIPC) initiative, the reduction of poverty became the main focus of development programs. Since clear strategies to fight poverty became conditionality for debt relief under HIPC, many African countries started to prepare Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP). Up to now, 35 Interim PRSPs have been developed, of which 20 are in African countries, and four “full“ PRSPs have been drafted and are being prepared for implementation.

Key Issues the Forum aimed to address:

  • How can the poor make their voices heard?

  • What is the scope for pro-poor growth strategies?

  • What are the means to unlock the potential of the poor?

  • How can we trace the poverty impact of sector programs?

  • Are different strategies needed to reach the rural vs. the urban poor?

  • What combination of “pillars” (sectoral SWAPs) is essential to achieving poverty-reducing effects?

  • How can SWAPs ensure that benefits actually trickle-down to the poor?