Setting targets, measuring results and informing the world
TradeMark East Africa aims to reduce poverty through trade with a budget of about $560 million for around 150 projects targeting poverty reduction through trade development in East Africa. Quantifiable targets are essential when it comes to measuring and communicating results. This is especially so considering that TMEA, a not-for-profit organisation working across six countries, works in partnership with Governments, the private sector and civil society, targeting results through different funding methods, from grants and financial aid, to technical assistance and hard infrastructure.
We support our partners through a private sector approach that assesses their needs and fiduciary risks, to achieve tangible results. We are a facilitator rather than an implementer working through a partnership model. We are proactive, flexible and speedy delivering quicker than traditional aid agencies. TMEA offices in each of the targeted countries - Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan that ensure constant interaction with our partners to guarantee effective delivery. This may be in the form of infrastructure and systems support (hardware) or technical and policy know-how (software). Our experience shows that mixing hardware and software generates greater impact and value for money.
Funding for TMEA projects ranges from $100,000 to over a $1 million across different sectors. We ensure synergy across projects, coordinating and prioritising resources to achieve optimal value for money. Our programme and project cycle management processes are the foundation for setting targets, measuring progress and reporting the results.
Our Theory of Change
TMEA’s work is underpinned by interrelated propositions that guide what we and our partners do. In turn, these propositions are strengthened by knowledge, assumptions, beliefs and hypothesis about how and why actions are expected to trigger intended changes. While propositions do not predict change, they are ‘theories’ of change.
At the higher end of the Theory of Change (TOC), the proposition is that three key ‘trade competitiveness’ elements contribute to increasing trade. These elements, which are TMEA’s current strategic objectives (until Phase 1 concludes at the end of 2016), are: increased access to physical markets; enhanced trade environment and Improved business competitiveness. Our TOC is a simplified linear framework that is underpinned by complex results chains at portfolio and project levels.
The importance of the business plans
Derived from our corporate business plan, the annual portfolio business plans (country, EAC and regional) set out the projects, targets, planned expenditure, plans for new projects, the output and outcome targets for the year, and the key risks to be managed and mitigated.
With a business plan in place, quarterly progress meetings, by the TMEA Board (composed of leading East African stakeholders and the National Oversight Committees) review programme implementation, particularly in meeting quarterly targets in 3 key areas: i) results at outcome and output level ii) actual against planned expenditure and iii) update on risks and challenges.
We meet on a semi-annual basis with our Council, composed of our investors (including the Netherlands) to review outcome and impact progress.
Keeping track of progress
TMEA uses several tools to keep track of the efficiency and effectiveness of its projects:
An independent annual review commissioned by donors, assessing performance and making recommendations;
An evaluation plan covering all projects and portfolios – this includes lessons learned that can be applied to future programmes and projects;
Data sources (both external and internal), methodologies and tools that aggregate and estimate progress towards targets. For example, examining how transport times along East Africa’s trade corridors have been reduced, and by how much, against our target of 15% (worth $17 billion in benefits for stakeholders).
At the project level TMEA designs projects that are results-focused and which have buy-in from all stakeholders. Results chains and a detailed monitoring plan enable results to be tracked against planned outcomes. TMEA also uses cost benefit analyses and project evaluations to measure project results.
TMEA’s external audience is wide ranging, from donors, to governments, to the media, to the general public in investor & East African countries. We thus use a variety of channels to keep people informed. These include traditional newsletters, news briefs and annual reports, through to digital new media: websites with case studies, impact stories and infographics (which package complex information into an easier format) and social media that is right up to date and can point the way to more information. Internally, our intranet ensures that our offices in six countries are also in the loop at all times - essential for a fast moving, efficient, effective and growing organization.
The Rwanda Electronic Single Window - a successful intervention
The Rwanda Electronic Single Window (ReSW) is an example of a successful intervention that has resulted in substantial reduction in customs clearance time and other direct and indirect costs associated with cross border trade in Rwanda. Launched in 2012 with support from TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), the implementation of the ReSW has resulted in, among others, the reduction of time to clear goods through customs from 11 days in 2011, to under a day in 2015. Further, obtaining an exemption from the Rwanda Development Board, which, prior, required four days, can currently be done within half an hour. This has contributed to positive impact for businesses & consumers in Rwanda.
The project was implemented by the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA), in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development as the technical provider. The selection of this approach to improve trade facilitation in Rwanda was subject to a rigorous assessment and decision process. To exercise value for money, upgrading the pre-existing ASYCUDA++ platform to function as the central eSW platform was preferred, instead of the launch of a new one.
A strong project management structure (leadership and project team) has been useful in building capacity of the project to deliver, and ensured an adequate representation of both public and private sectors. Additionally, the establishment of robust project cycle management practices including development of strong monitoring tools to track performance against set targets. A formative evaluation of the design and implementation of the project has also been conducted to assess the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, sustainability and coherence of the intervention.
The results of the independent evaluation are being used to develop a second phase of the project for further development impact.
We highly appreciate the support from the Netherlands to our work across East Africa, which is having a high impact on growing prosperity through trade.
Frank Matsaert, CEO TradeMark East Africa