2024 starts finding CABRI already well underway with executing its diverse work programmes, performed in a manner that gives the best expression to CABRI's new strategic imperatives, and ever-centred on the senior officials in Africa across our rich network of real-world Public Finance Management (PFM) expert practitioners. As noted in the previous CABRI quarterly publication “We are ever mindful of relevance into the future; with the world in crisis, much is at stake when reforming country systems, processes and capabilities.”
In November 2023, the CABRI General Assembly members met in person in Kigali, Rwanda to finalise our strategic planning. One of the main overarching and perennial issues discussed was PFM and its modernisation through digitilisation. Most importantly, the discussion highlighted that digitalisation is undoubtedly to be the way of the future. However, included in this acknowledgement is a fundamental understanding that digitalisation is not, and must not, be seen as the “solution” per se to PFM problems, but more appropriately, it is rather a means to an end. In recent times, internationally this is acknowledged as a lesson well learned.
Of course similarly, in recent times, it is well accepted that any discussion of IT modernisation in the PFM domain goes way beyond merely the provision of an integrated financial management information system (IFMIS) for the public sector. However, worldwide experiences with implementing IFMIS have yielded important lessons. And perhaps the most important lesson is that IT modernisation is not a once-off single project but rather needs systematic implementation and integration that must meet the requirements of PFM, even as these requirements change over time.
So when considering digitalisation, irrespective of whether one is focused on the aspects ranging from automation and digitisation to artificial intelligence, a key imperative is to ensure that digitalisation is managed proactively and that it is not simply the consequence of the IT technology employed in addressing previous PFM problems. The primary focus has to remain on how digitalisation uses modernising technology to enable the public sector to deliver services for the benefit of country citizens and how it enables the public sector to know what citizens view as constituting beneficial services.
The CABRI General Assembly members discussed their respective country PFM priorities and the provision of beneficial/meaningful public services. In academic literature, there is a clear distinction made between public sector and private sector services. However, in the present, characterised by significant innovation and changes in the very nature of goods and services, there is a need for clarity about not only how to deliver public services but also about determining the most beneficial public services to offer within the specific context of each country.
Mindful of this, CABRI’s approach to working on digitalisation is focused differently from most in the broader PFM international community. Generally work on digitalisation has tended to be on the implementation of a particular type of IT solution and how to make that solution most effective. There is also work focused on broader considerations like the principles underpinning IT modernisation, or aspects of citizen empowerment via modernisation and how this can be achieved or advocated for.
As CABRI, we will focus our work on more narrowly defined areas of service delivery which are located within a particular service delivery sector, fully cognisant of the frontline service delivery centres, and specifically consider the past impact of digitalisation and the opportunities for enhancement. This impact being in terms of service delivery to citizens or even in terms of the vantage point of the citizen. Essentially, this means that CABRI work will be crosscutting in respect of the work which has already been undertaken internationally and as such, we will be able to draw from this important work on PFM digitalisation and apply it more specifically within a local country context.
CABRI, the only international organisation formally established to focus solely on the purpose of finding solutions for African country Public Finance challenges, is intrinsically concerned with public sector decision making being most effective and collaborative. Therefore, irrespective of the PFM sector within which challenges are being addressed or that such challenges increasingly need to be viewed through the lens of digitalisation, CABRI is committed to undertaking the work most appropriate within a country context using an iterative and adaptive evidence-based approach. CABRI looks forward to your commitment and your support in shaping PFM of the future – join us, We are CABRI!
African countries that are not yet members of CABRI are eligible and are invited to contact us, so that you may join formally. Other stakeholders within the broader Public Finance Management community are also welcome to make contact with us.