Libraries as tools for capacity building in developing countries.

Author:Ogunsola, L.A.


The two key concepts of this paper are capacity building and development. These concepts are interrelated. Because of the unsettled nature of development, capacity and the ability to develop or build it have become controversial. The concept of "capacity building" is a popular phrase in development discourse. It is one of the most urgent challenges facing sub-Saharan Africa today. It is indeed a challenge of the 21st century as technologies and markets are being revolutionized, compelling Africa to seek for the right kind of professionally competent people and institutions to meet the challenge. It must be realized that governments, non-state actors, and (foreign) donors all tend to invoke capacity problems to explain why policies fail to deliver, or why aid is not generating sustainable impacts. Reports of conferences on every possible subject generally include a host of capacity building recommendations in their conclusions (InfoCotonou, 2003).

The World Bank's study of long-term development prospects for Sub-Saharan Africa "From Crisis to Sustainable Growth, 1989" found that the capacity for sound policy design and policy sustainability is in short supply inmost African countries. "Capacity" can be defined as abilities, skills, understandings, attitudes, values, relationships, behaviors, motivations, resources and conditions that enable individuals, organizations, network/sectors and broader social systems to carry out functions and achieve their development objectives over time (Bolger 2000). According to Umar (2004), a number of professional development activities and programmes have been created; however, nearly all these activities and programmes revolve around continuing professional education. Continuing education plays an important part in professional development. Training and retraining, staff exchanges, links with similar and related professions, etc., are other activities professionals undertake to develop themselves. Professional development helps build confidence through knowledge, experience, and skills necessary to practice effectively. Salisu (2002) regretfully observes that even in developed countries, complete professional preparation is not possible in a formal educational setting.

It is the objective of this paper to clarify the concept of capacity in relation to capacity buildin, and to discuss the roles of librarians and libraries in capacity building in economic development.

Capacity and Capacity Building

The concept of capacity has been defined as the power of something to perform or to produce. From the UNDP"s perspective, it is the ability of individuals and organizations or units to perform functions effectively, efficiently, or sustainably. Alternatively, it can refer to the people, institutions, and practices that enable a country to achieve its development objectives. Capacity has both human and institutional dimensions with the following components:

* skilled human resources

* leadership and vision

* viable institutions

* financial and material resources and

* effective work practices, including systems, procedures and appropriate incentives.

Human capacity refers to the individuals capable of performing the tasks necessary for a country to achieve its developmental goals. Institutional capacity refers to the available organizational structure and processes that facilitate the achievement of developmental goals Adequate capacity engenders self-reliance, and provides a country and its people the ability to make sound economic choices, create sustainable policies, and solve problems.

Capacity is the ability to cope with problems but also to move and transcend the immediate. Practically speaking, it could refer to something like space in the library. Do we have the space to accommodate 10,000 chairs and the readers? What is the capacity in terms of space? Do we have the capacity to organize this "library talk"? Are we able to invite people outside our immediate environment, even from outside the country, in other to host an event like this? Another dimension is the intellectual capacity to think through problems. In this regard, capacity can be attributed to institutions like libraries, individuals, and nations. Anyone reading this paper is able to do so because of capacity of some sort.

In Nigeria and other African countries since attainment of political independence, emphasis in the sphere of human capacity-building has been on formal education and training for building skills. Apart from establishment of tertiary institutions with their functional libraries to provide academic training, there are also a number of post-experience and management development institutions to help further build capacity. Some of these institutions are the National Center for Economic Management and Administration (NCEMA), Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON), Agricultural and Rural Management Institute (ARMTI), Center for Management Development (CMD) and Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM). The last two offer specialized training to private sector officials. According to the World Bank (1998), local training and research institutions transmit the skills required for managing development, by offering specialized training. The significance of research in capacity building is in the advancement of knowledge and creation of ways of doing things. Research institutions contribute to capacity building through their research outputs in various ways (Obadan and Uga, 1997).

In both government and private sectors, capacity constraints exist. Many developing countries like Nigeria can boast of crop of educated personnel in different fields--science and technology, business law, accountancy, economics, engineering, librarianship and other disciplines--but there are still severe constraints as represented by...

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