Fiifi Oduro-Nyarko – Ghana
The Social Impact Bond
African leaders have in the past immensely supported women empowerment initiatives. In 2015, the African Union with support from African leaders declared 2015 as “The year of women’s empowerment and development towards Africa’s agenda 2063”. Before that, there was the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) and the Maputo Protocol (2003), Just to mention but a few. The issue is, the interest is there. The policies are there. It is the implementation that has proved challenging over the years.
One of the factors hindering implementation efforts is the lack of funding. Promoting the education and wellbeing of girls in Africa will require African leaders to tackle the serious factors preventing girls from accessing education in the first place which include negative traditional practices such as child marriages and cultural norms that favour the education of boys over girls, gender-based violence, early pregnancy, Inaccessible schools, biased teaching and learning methodologies and lack of gender-sensitive amenities such as toilet for girls. All this will cost money. Money most African Leaders cannot afford to raise.
On a recent trip to India, I discovered an organization called Educate Girls, which tackles gender inequality in India’s education system. Educate Girls was pioneering a 3-year development impact bond with the goal of increasing out-of-school girls in primary school and progress of girls (and boys) in English, Hindu and Mathematics. In 2 years, Educate Girls had achieved nearly 88 percent of the enrollment target and 50 percent of the 3-year learning target in a remote rural district in Rajasthan, India. I thought that was amazing and wondered if we tried something like that in Africa whether it will work. I think so.
The idea of Development Impact Bond was adapted from the idea of Social Impact Bond which is a fairly novel financing instrument that brings together government, service providers and funders to implement proven programs designed to accomplish clearly defined outcomes. Here is how it works: A service provider raises the initial capital support from investors who are willing to cover the upfront costs and assume performance risk to expand promising programs. The government only agrees to make payments to the program only when the outcomes are achieved. In other words, government only pays for “success”. It was first used in the UK in 2010 to reduce prisoner recidivism, achieving tremendous success and has since been experimented in the US, Australia, Canada and Germany, raising a combined investment totaling more than £300 million.
Development Impact Bonds come with added benefits: they embed vigorous ongoing evaluation of program impact into program operations, accelerating the rate of learning about which approaches work and which do not whilst promoting transparency. Also, Government only pays for ” what works” thus repositioning government spending to cost-effective preventive programs.
I think African leaders should give it a try. There is no harm in trying after all. The only harm is not trying at all.