Capacity Building in Africa: An IEG Evaluation of World Bank Support

World Bank
World Bank
Year of publication: 

The Bank has made its support for capacity building in Africa more relevant by extending its traditional focus beyond building organizations and individual skills to strengthening institutions and demand for improved public services, and by shifting to programmatic support. Still, most support for capacity building in country programs remains fragmented—designed and managed project by project. This makes it difficult to capture cross-sectoral issues and opportunities, and to learn lessons across operations.

The challenges of capacity building vary markedly across countries and sectors. While the Bank is moving to better customize its capacity building approaches to country conditions, it needs to develop sector-specific guidance on diagnosing capacity needs and evaluating capacity building measures.

The Bank does not apply the same rigorous business practices to its capacity building work that it applies in other areas. Its tools—notably technical assistance and training—are not effectively used, and its range of instruments—notably programmatic support, Economic and Sector Work, and activities of the World Bank Institute—are not fully utilized. Moreover, most activities lack standard quality assurance processes at the design stage, and they are not routinely tracked, monitored, and evaluated.

Major findings

  • Changes in approach have made the Bank’s capacity building support more relevant
  • Most capacity support remains fragmented.
  • Sector-specific capacity building strategies need strengthening.
  • Tools and instruments could be more effectively and fully utilized.
  • Quality assurance is inadequate


These findings underscore the importance of treating capacity building in Africa as a core objective and ensuring that Bank support is country-owned, results-oriented, and evidence-based. The evaluation recommends that:

  • The Bank, at the corporate level, should strengthen its knowledge base and amplify its capacity building framework to help countries a) prioritize capacity building activities and guide donor support; b) link institutional, organizational, and human capacity developments; and c) transform traditional capacity building tools to improve results. It should also ensure that guidelines and processes are in place for self- and independent evaluation of Bank interventions.
  • Sector and thematic leadership should develop sector-specific guidance on diagnosing public sector capacity needs, enhancing incentives for sector performance improvements, and monitoring and evaluating interventions.
  • Regional Senior Management should ensure that CAS processes are used effectively to help countries identify and strengthen the capacities they need to plan, implement, and measure the results of their poverty reduction strategies. They should also ensure that all operations that aim to build public sector capacity are based on adequate assessments of capacity needs and have ways to monitor, and evaluate results.
  • The Bank should reassess what role training should play in its capacity building support, how it should be provided, and what should be the respective roles of a central training unit and Regional programs in any future support for this activity.