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Established in March 2009 the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA) was created to combine the best elements of three high-level policy forums which had been previously established (in the 1990s) to promote dialogue on Africa’s development. The three forums were the Global Coalition for Africa (GCA) which brought together African policy makers and their partners to deepen dialogue and build consensus on Africa’s priority development issues; The Big Table which was an initiative designed by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to promote frank, constructive dialogue between African finance ministers and their Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) counterparts; and The African Development Forum, a flagship biennial multi-stakeholder platform for debating, discussing and initiating concrete strategies for Africa’s development. In the same vein, CoDA was established in Addis Ababa (2009) as an independent and international but African-owned forum which identifies and discusses issues of importance to Africa’s development within a global context. It is a think tank that advocates for the continent, brings together a range of stakeholders to promote dialogue and provides a platform for African voices to be heard. It is policy-oriented, and works in collaboration with other African and international organizations addressing issues of Africa’s security, peace, governance and development. CoDA is sponsored by, but is not a program of its three founding Pan-African institutions, the African Union Commission (AUC), the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Following its establishment, it was agreed that the organization should place particular emphasis on promoting dialogue and debate that would bring together the ideas of diverse groups of individuals. CoDA therefore provides a platform for the ongoing engagement in rigorous and candid dialogue on crucial, and at times controversial, questions of vital interest to the future of the continent. It also sets a premium on convening informal and inclusive dialogue on niche issues between diverse and influential groups of stakeholders (including government leaders, policy makers, civil society, the private sector and media) and advocating their recommendations effectively to influence policy. Additionally, the initiative seeks to play the role of a think-tank and change agent, which takes a proactive stand, and helps define new perspectives, on a wide range of issues, including the most sensitive and controversial. In addition to this, the institution aims to build strong partnerships and synergies with leading African research institutions with the objective of grounding its work on solid scientific findings. It aims to place particular attention on bridging the gap between the research and policy making communities in Africa.

2. Governance Structure

CoDA’s work is guided and the institution itself is governed by a Board of eminent African and non-African personalities. The Board Members serve in their personal capacity and are selected among the most eminent, effective and esteemed African and international personalities noted for their professional accomplishments, their national and international leadership experience, and their commitment to Africa’s growth and development. The current Chairperson of the CoDA Board of Directors is H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Prior to this, the Board was led by H.E. Festus Mogae, former President of the Republic of Botswana.

The work of the Board of Directors has always been supported by the CoDA Secretariat which currently has offices at the AUC and ECA. However, reflecting on the various pertinent decisions made by the Board of Directors at its 11th meeting in April, 2015; it was proposed that a technical committee should be formed in support of the Board. This committee would be responsible for reviewing the analytical papers as well as other documents prepared by the CoDA Secretariat and will submit its recommendations to the board accordingly. The committee would also provide guidance to the Secretariat regarding the CoDA annual work program. Finally, the committee would oversee the day-to-day functioning of the secretariat on behalf of the Board. In line with this, the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) for the CoDA Board was established following the approval of the Board itself. The establishment of the TAC was also necessary in order to avoid the unchecked autonomy of the Secretariat and/or its leadership from diligently adhering to the Board’s decisions. In essence, CoDA is led by its Board of Directors with the support of the TAC which also oversees the CoDA Secretariat.

3. CoDA Activities and Priorities

Based on the guidance provided by the Board at its inaugural meeting (March, 2009), CoDA’s substantive activities between 2009 and 2010 focused on the following issues:

  • Challenges to scaling up democratic governance
  • Addressing the impact of climate change
  • Africa’s response to the Global Financial Crisis
  • Advancing Regional Economic Integration