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WASHINGTON, January 16, 2014—The AFR Development Effectiveness Seminar Series resumed this week with two half-day, cross regional staff knowledge sharing workshops that drew on Bank experiences in the use of Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS) to address development challenges, especially in situations where the demand for financial aid is diminishing and the need for knowledge services is increasing.
It was highlighted that despite being a late starter, there is growing demand for RAS in the Africa Region. For instance, in FY10 RAS revenue barely surpassed $100K In FY13 it surged to $3.3m with a potential growth of between $8m and $10m in FY14 and FY15 respectively.

“There is no doubt that there is growing demand for knowledge products and services that contribute to Sub Saharan Africa’s potential for growth and poverty reduction,” said Bruce Courtney, AFR Development Effectiveness Sector Manager and organizer of the seminar series. “In the past few years, the World Bank Group has gained the trust of its clients in the ECA, LAC and MENA regions as a knowledge provider through RAS’s.  So this week’s workshop where staff from several regions in the Bank share their experiences with RAS’s to address development challenges is very relevant.”
Client Interaction with the Bank
In day one’s opening presentation, WBCKO Senior Operations Officer Nicolaus Von Der Goltz, the point person for RAS, noted that evidence from the field indicates that clients value the Bank’s ability to address relevant development issues based on its long experience and technical expertise.
He said clients also trust the Bank as an able institution in conveying international best practice and customizing knowledge to the local context.
The Bank, he said, acts as an independent and trusted knowledge broker offering multi-sector development solutions.
“The RAS allows the Bank to do more, stay engaged in countries even when their demand for financial services declines, meet the needs of a more diverse client, gain additional knowledge and transfer this knowledge to our lower-income clients, raise additional revenues in a resource constraint environment and achieve bigger impact,” Von Der Goltz said.
Erik von Uexkull, Country Economist for Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, shared a case in the Africa Region where RAS provided a flexible tool to engage with Gabon and Equatorial Guinea based on their specific needs and characteristics. He said the Bank delivered several important pieces of technical assistance (TAs) and Economic Sector Work (ESW) that responded directly to client needs, and that the clients were in the end satisfied with the Bank’s work, which led to an expansion in their engagement with the Bank, in some cases despite the availability of ‘pro bono’ alternatives.
von Uexkull noted, however, that RAS was not rolled out in these countries without internal and external challenges that included uncertainties in costing and pricing, the ongoing overhaul of RAS procedures, the lack of business development funds and coordination. He also emphasized the need to understand and work with client processes, respond to urgencies and changing demands and managing requests that the Bank may not be able to do.
Lessons from MENA
Sharing the MENA experience, Jamal Al-Kibbi cited three instances during which the need for RAS can be identified: (i) Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) discussions, (ii) regular operational dialogue between government officials and Bank staff, workshops, conferences, visits by the World Bank management and staff to the country, etc. and (iii) programmatic RAS discussions with countries not eligible for financial lending.
“Once the client identifies a program or an individual activity to be implemented through RAS, the client sends an official request to the Bank and the request triggers the following actions on the Bank’s part: (i) identifying a TTL and key team members, (ii) determining whether a scoping mission is needed, preparing a Proposal, (iii) determining the structure of engagement or if possible number of tasks, sectors involved, etc., and (iv) identifying funding for preparation activities,” said Al-Kibbi.
According to Al-Kibbi, RAS has been a unique Analytic and Advisory Activity (AAA) tool undertaken by the Bank but requested and paid for by a client country. The Bank has had long years of experience in using RAS as an aid instrument to address the knowledge needs of client countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), including in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE, which are oil producing countries with high per capita income, thus ineligible for Bank financial aid.
But these countries, although developing, have weak institutional and human capacity; unsatisfactory education and human development capabilities; labor market inefficiencies and infrastructure bottlenecks; etc.
In a similar vein, RAS has been recently used to respond to requests for knowledge aid in two African countries – Gabon and Equatorial Guinea – both small oil rich countries with high income, low capacity, ambitious development agendas and limited previous Bank engagement.
Costing and Billing
The second day of the Seminar was devoted to drawing lessons from RAS experience in ECA and LAC. A Sector Manager and a RAS TTL shared their perspective on how RAS was developed in several countries were lending was decreasing virtually to zero.
In the presentations it was made clear that RAS, despite being a different instrument, has very similar processes to the preparation of other lending instruments and AAA. Staff was able to get a more detailed view of how to go about this new line of business.
The final session was developed to provide staff hands-on experience on how to do costing and billing, how to prepare legal agreements, and enter data in the portal for RAS operations. As the topic has a growing demand in the Africa region, it was agreed that there will be other hands-on clinics on billing and costing and other procedural topics in the coming months.

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