Guest Post: Countering Corruption in Nigeria with Results-Based Financing

Lauren Abel and Andrew Blackman, recent graduates of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Masters Program in International Development, contribute the following guest post:

The Ebola virus spreading through West Africa has reached Nigeria. While the number of Ebola cases in Nigeria is small, the highly contagious disease can spread quickly, especially in a country with chronically low-quality health services. One might think that the biggest economy in Africa should have the resources and infrastructure to battle the health threat, but despite billions of dollars in annual oil revenues, Nigeria’s poor health services are putting the country at risk of spreading the epidemic. Unfortunately, the problems with public service delivery in Nigeria do not stop with health. Authorities have recognized that Nigeria is unlikely to achieve any of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 (see the Government’s full review here).

Why the dearth of public services in a booming economy? Corruption. Above all else, pervasive and endemic corruption remains the Achilles Heel of the Nigerian economy. As the Finance Minister recently noted, “Corruption is a serious issue for us because it is destroying our country, eating deep into the fabrics of the economy, we can’t have infrastructure and development with these level of corruption.” In an environment of such endemic corruption, what can be done to help translate huge natural resource revenues into tangible improvements in the lives of the 110 million Nigerians living on less than US$1.25 a day?

In a recent study conducted with the Centre for the Studies of the Economies of Africa – an Abuja-based economic think-tank – we put forward an approach designed to improve the provision of public goods and services that we believe could work within the current Nigerian system. That approach is known as Results-Based Financing (RBF). (For an example of the RBF approach, see this World Bank initiative; the approach is conceptually similar to other ideas such as Pay for Performance, Cash on Delivery Aid and Output-Based Aid.) Continue reading