CIPE In Francophone Africa: The Lost Chapters

Participants in CIPE's 2010 program in Cote d'Ivoire. (Photo: CIPE staff)
Participants in CIPE’s 2010 program in Cote d’Ivoire. (Photo: CIPE staff)

Part of my mandate as Program Officer for West and Central Africa is to establish a sustainable CIPE presence in Francophone Africa, a group of countries where CIPE appears to have a light footprint. So, it was with a solid sense of purpose that I embarked on my most recent CIPE mission to Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, only to realize that my CIPE predecessors had already done fantastic work, which accounts for CIPE’s popularity within civil society circles in many Francophone countries.

You can imagine Neil Armstrong and his crew, possessed by that light mix of excitement and apprehension in their underbelly as they headed for the moon, anticipating being the first humans to acquaint themselves with it, only to get there and be welcomed by a bunch of encamped Russians: “Ah, Americans … you finally made it.” — I would be untruthful not to admit that a part of me felt outflanked by my CIPE predecessors.

In Mali, in 1998, CIPE managed a program that began with a wide-ranging diagnostic on Malian private sector associations. The diagnostic was followed by two capacity-building workshops that focused on basic association management.

In 2004, CIPE built on the previous program, by managing a follow-up program whose objective was to provide more intensive capacity-building training in association management to a select number of associations that participated in the previous program. These associations were the most viable from the previous program, selected on the basis of results from CIPE’s diagnostics and the associations’ relative successes in implementing lessons learned from CIPE’s previous program.

Both programs delivered significant impact that was never captured by CIPE: one of the programs’ participants, the Federation Nationale des Artisans du Mali (FNAM) utilized lessons from both programs to institute better internal governance practices and enhance its membership development and retention procedures. Such overall improvement in its organizational capacity gave FNAM credibility with the government of Mali. On the basis of this hard-earned credibility and FNAM’s successive public-private dialogue engagements with the government of Mali, FNAM succeeded in its bid to manufacture and supply uniforms for the Malian military and police forces, and for the Malian customs officers.

As a federation of artisans (micro and small enterprises, mainly in the informal sector), FNAM won the bid on behalf of its member, the Federation of Malian Tailors, who thereby gained access to an additional market that may never have been. Another beneficiary of CIPE’s work in Mali is the Associations de Femmes Rurales du Mali (AFRM), which – like FNAM – utilized CIPE’s training to improve and formalize their organizational capacities over the years.

AFRM has established branches in the cities of Segou, Bamako, and Gao. Its profile is so prominent that other fledgling rural women associations in neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso and Niger are requesting AFRM’s support in developing their organizational capacities. Both associations laud CIPE’s intervention and attribute their achievements to CIPE’s programs.

While in Cote d’Ivoire, I got the chance to have a telephone chat with the founding member of AFRM, Fatoumata Selibara, who has since handed the association’s daily management over to a crop of new leaders and now serves as a non-executive Chairwoman. I found the novelty of her gratitude for CIPE’s programs in Mali to be remarkable, considering that the programs are over a decade old.

The story is not much different in Cote d’Ivoire. At the Abidjan International Airport, CIPE consultants Carmen Stanila and Lex Paulson and I were welcomed by a mini-delegation, which included the President of the Federation des Artisans de la Cote d’Ivoire (FEDACI) — a recent CIPE partner — Jean-Baptiste Any, and the President of the Burkina Faso Federation of Artisans. The latter was present by invitation from FEDACI’s President.

In 2010, CIPE Program Officer Kelly Spence managed a CIPE program in Cote d’Ivoire in partnership with FEDACI. The program’s objective was to enhance FEDACI’s capacity for association management to more effectively represent its members. The program was aborted due to the 2011 post-electoral crises in Cote d’Ivoire, but before then, most of the program activities had been conducted but for monitoring and evaluation of the program’s impact.

The program’s success was therefore never recorded: FEDACI, an association that was completely animated by the personality of a long-serving President, whose home served as the federation’s headquarters, elected a new executive team; drafted a new charter, along with a set of rules and bylaws; instituted an electronic identification system for its members, with digital identification cards; and inaugurated an official headquarters in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

FEDACI’s positive developments have been so impressive that the new President, Jean-Baptiste Any, was elected President of the West African Confederation of Artisan Associations, in March 2013. Additionally, FEDACI has engaged the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and the Informal Sector in successive public-private dialogue sessions on legislation in favor of a Code des Artisans – a legal and regulatory framework that affords legal recognition to the artisan sector (i.e. micro and small entrepreneurs, mainly in the informal sector), eases their access to finance and markets, and provides them with formal recourse to commercial jurisprudence.

Due to FEDACI’s advocacy with the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and the Informal Sector, the Code des Artisans has been adopted by the executive branch of government and now requires parliamentary approval. Presently, FEDACI plans to engage the Parliamentary Committee on the Economy and Commerce in public-private dialogues in favor of the Codes des Artisans, as an initial step towards eventual parliamentary legislation in favor of the code. FEDACI attributes much of its successes to the CIPE program of 2010. It is because of endorsements such as those from FEDACI in Cote d’Ivoire, and FNAM and AFRM in Mali, that CIPE has achieved the sort of reputation that accounted for a multi-country welcoming delegation in Abidjan.

At the round-table forum that CIPE hosted, prior to last week’s capacity-building workshop in Abidjan, the Representative of the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Gabrielle Varlet, revealed to all in attendance that she participated in CIPE’s 2002 program in Mali. She also expressed her appreciation for CIPE’s return in Cote d’Ivoire. As the week unfolded, various program participants inquired about CIPE’s work in Senegal – they had learned about recent notable legislative achievements due to advocacy efforts by CIPE’s partner in Senegal, l’Union National des Commercants et Industriels du Senegal (UNACOIS), and wondered whether CIPE intended for a similar track record in Cote d’Ivoire.

CIPE is present and has notable achievements in Francophone Africa. These achievements should be further consolidated.

Yana Hongla is Program Officer for Africa at CIPE.