Capacity development in Africa: new approach motivated by thinking on ‘animal spirits’
Kobena Hanson, George Kararach, Frannie A. Léautier and Robert Nantchouang, African Capacity Building Foundation, Zimbabwe
Abstract: Animal spirits in modern economics has a specific meaning; it refers to the restless and inconsistent element in the economy as well as the peculiar relationship people have with ambiguity and uncertainty, which tends to lead to paralysis or incredible confidence and energy in decision-making and risk taking. Animal spirits have also been used to explain peaceful periods and instability or interpret track records of success and periods of disarray or spectacular failure, high levels of trust and confidence or extreme pessimism and distrust. Willingness to undertake extreme effort or self-sacrifice to get things done is another expression of animal spirits, which can again go in the opposite direction with people shirking responsibilities, and practicing generalized selfishness or individualism. Such behaviours can have visible effects on the performance of public agencies or civil service agencies, in the behaviour of leaders in the public or private sector, or in the economic performance of a country. Differences across agencies and countries over time can also be explained if one is able to distinguish the effect of animal spirits. Using a logistic model, this paper tests for the existence of ‘animal spirits’ in the capacity development interventions spearheaded by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF)-funded institutions. The analysis and findings highlight, amongst others, the importance of non-economic factors in shaping the capacity development sphere. Understanding this nature of animal spirits is critical to designing and implementing effective programs for capacity development in Africa. It is particularly important to focus on issues of leadership and leadership development, including the capacity for leaders to instil confidence and piece together stories that motivate people into a common vision of the future or to achieve common objectives.
Keywords: animal spirits, public/private sector performance, ACBF, capacity development