The Accralization of Africa Open Data Revolution

The Accralization of Africa Open Data Revolution

The FTM Team – From Left: Chambers, Celestina, Tunde and Dotun

Imagine when information is accessible to everyone, even those in rural communities that lack mobile phones and internet connectivity. Imagine when data driven innovations and availability is lubricating businesses; proliferating innovation in healthcare, education, agriculture, transportation, gender equality; fostering economic growth; and ultimately, improving the quality of government service through participation, engagement and realization of service delivery.

These are the essence of the continental Open Data Revolution, as well as low hanging fruits and potentials for Africa’s socio-political and economic development. The unpacked possibilities inspired the Second Africa Open Data Conference (#AODC17) in Accra, Ghana, which held from 17 – 21 July, a continuation of the Africa Open Data dialectics whose maiden edition happened in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in the last month of 2016’s third quarter. This time in Accra, the theme was Open Data for Sustainable Development in Africa, lustrated to examine the importance of open data in the continental aspiration to realize the new global goals by 2030.

The #AODC17 convened participants and speakers from the tech industry, journalists, small businesses, academics, civic technologists, entrepreneurs, students, IT solution providers, banks, telecoms, companies, NGOs, donor organizations, and domestic and national governments. It indeed became a platform for networking, information sharing, knowledge transfer and collaborations.

The five – day conference started with various site visits around Accra for participants to meet and connect with organizations and individuals who are working on Open Data in Africa . Through this, participants met with Ghana’s open data initiatives cutting across the fields of journalism, health, education, agriculture, entrepreneurship, etc. I joined the party by visiting the Media Hub Africa and iSpace Ghana where, I empirically learnt, discussed and shared experiences with Ghana’s Open Data change makers in Agriculture and Journalism. On the former, one elemental area of debate was the actual extent technology driven innovations can solve rural agricultural problems based on the fact that many rural farmers lack access to mobile phones, cannot use them, as well as lack the education to interpret some of the data provided to them. A takeaway from this is that, solution providers should mechanize a way to take the solutions down to the ruralists through townhall meetings, local radio etc.

With the Togolese Eklou Amemassovor and his friends who are interested in following the money in Togo

Consequent days were contemporaneous workshops on an avalanche of multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary themes. I attended the ones on Africa Open Data Research, Open Data and Governance, Empowering Communities to Improve Their Lives Using Data and Economic Growth. On Wednesday the 19th, Connected Development in partnership with other wingmen organizations all over the continent superintended and moderated the Follow The Money (FTM) Track session. This was an all-day event, entirely dedicated to Open Government. Several non-profit initiatives from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, Nigeria, etc. all participated to share lessons, experiences and information on tracking the implementation of governmental spending, making different government sectors more transparent and accountable, inspiring citizens to take action, encouraging civic participation in governance, open contracting, etc.

This was the most interesting, regardless that the CODE Follow The Money team shared experiences on how we have impacted thousands of lives across the continent, built the capacity of rural community members to hold their government to account, made the government more responsive to citizenry requests, improved rural access to information and facilitated service delivery over the implementation of projects in rural communities, we were able to inspire the probable establishment of Follow The Money initiatives in Togo and Uganda. In addition, it was an opportunity to get perspicacity on Open Contracting including several intricacies of the Open Contracting Data Standards.

Also, the Track session was an occasion for Open Government change makers to discuss the state of freedom of information/access to information/right to information laws in different African countries. While the adjudication was the slowness in the operationalization of these laws, it was agreed that for better open government outcomes, such law is imperative in the work. For Ghana Open Data change makers, it’s like ministration is on the way, as President Akuffo Addo during his speech the next day, urged the Ghanaian Parliament to quicken the Right To Information Bill passage.

The #AODC17 was a great event. I networked, info-shared and interacted with the leads of several inspiring open government initiatives on the continent including Odekro and Hivos. It was also an opportunity to get a superficial vista of Accra, the Ghanaian way of life, eat local meals, sightsee and make new friends. Keep the http://ifollowthemoney.org platform close as we leverage on different collaborations from the #AODC17 for further impacts in rural communities.

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Senior Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

Nigeria’s 2017 Budget – Is the Country Poor?

Nigeria’s 2017 Budget – Is the Country Poor?

After extensive parish-pump, pedestrian and partisan theatrics on the 2017 Appropriation Bill passage and minimal cause célèbre regarding its presidential assent, the 2017 Appropriation Act was finally signed into law on the 12th of June 2017 by the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. Consequently, on 19 June 2017, as a convention, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning (MBNP) organized a public presentation of the Act. In attendance were numerous relevant governmental/non-governmental stakeholders. While I was partly impressed by Sen Udo Udoma’s (Minister of Budget and National Planning) presentation, in which he elementrified several components of the budget, let me start by registering few concerns and remarks:

First, the Budget Process – It is quite despondent that there was no sense of urgency on the part of the National Assembly to expedite the Appropriation Bill’s passage. The theatrics of the delay in the passage was driven my personal and partisan interests with utmost disregard over consequent budget implementation retardation denouement and the concerns of Nigerians. This was exactly an echolalia of what happened with the 2016 budget which affected its implementation. Nothing was learnt from the 2016 retardation. Note that, a financial year starts from 1 January of every year and ends on December 31. However, this budget cycle crisis has persisted over time and will affect the 2017 budget implementation, as well as the economic growth rate assumption of 2.2% by the government as discernible in its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EGRP).

Secondly, Nigeria is really a poor country – While Nigerians dance around the epileptic euphoria of being an oil-rich country, it’s imperative to note that the international energy dynamics have changed with oil losing its worth on a daily basis. While the country’s 2017 budget is at NGN7.44t ($25b), the highest ever, for a country of over 180 million population, this shows Nigeria is poor. The budget per capita is NGN40,000, roughly $100. That is what the government intends to spend on each Nigerian in the year. This is with the endemic poverty, low illiteracy and life expectancy rates, gross infrastructural deficit and low manufacturing capacity. Comparatively, Indonesia’s 2017 budget is at $158b for a population of 257 million putting the budget per capita at $614. Notably, as one of Nigeria’s former economic comparators, it has outperformed Nigeria on an avalanche of macro-economic metrics with far better infrastructure. Furthermore, the budget of the State of California in the United State alone for 2017 is at $179b.

The shocking part is that Nigeria’s $25b budget has a deficit of NGN2.35t (est. of $8b). This really means Nigeria is poor, for her not to be able to fund such nanoscopic deficit. In the 2016 fiscal year, Apple Inc. made revenue of $215b. Nigeria’s expected revenues from oil this year is roughly at $8b. This shows innovation and technology are the future of today’s world. But Nigeria cannot be considered ready for this, as she also appropriated a petty NGN41.7b for capital expenditure in Science and Technology in the budget.

Thirdly, Capital Expenditure – While the government prides itself for raising capital expenditure from 15% in 2015 (which is quite unbelievable) to 31% in 2017 [which is commendable], the country has to do more in this regard. The government cannot basically be using the budget for recurrent costs.

Major MDA Capital Allocations – Source, Budget Office of the Federation

Going back to the Minister’s presentation and further contents of the budget, he commented, “The budget was designed to expand partnership between public and private sectors, including development capital to leverage and springboard resources for growth and restore the economy, all in line with the ERGP’  In sum, the budget intends to focus on:

  1.      Infrastructural expansion – NGN553.7b for Works, Power and Housing and NGN241.7b for Transport. This is to spur growth, improve ease of doing business, facilitate diversification efforts, fund agricultural value chain and provide an enabling environment for businesses.
  2.      NGN 46b for the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in each of the geo-political zones to drive manufacturing and exports – While this is welcoming. It seems it’s at this time Nigeria is really thinking of development. It can also be said that low oil prices is forcing the country to manufacture ideas. Its run-of-the-mill economic sense that if you cannot provide sufficient infrastructure and environment for businesses that you establish SEZs for such to attract foreign and domestic investors. East Asian countries such as Singapore, Indonesia and China all established such zones in the 70s and 80s. Nigeria is late to this party.
  3.      Encouraging the growth of small and medium industries through the recapitalization of the Banks of Industry and Agriculture with NGN15b to increase access to financing.
  4.      And providing a social safety net for poor Nigerians.

Key Assumptions and Macro-Framework of 2017 Budget – Source, Budget Office of the Federation

In furtherance, the NGN7.44t budget has key assumptions such as: oil production at 2.2mbpd, benchmark oil price at US$44.5/b, the exchange rate at N305/US$ and the aforementioned economic growth rate of 2.2%. The budget also envisages total revenue of NGN5.08t, exceeding that of 2016 by 30.2%, with capital expenditure at NGN2.36t.

Moving forward, first, the problem has always been implementation crisis as well as the lack of transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in governmental spending. There is a great need for increased transparency and accountability in the budget’s implementation with updates on capital releases for effective public oversight. This is following the Minister of Finance comment at the event that the government already has the first tranche capital release of NGN350b. Secondly, while there are already promises in this respect, both from the Executive and Legislature, something should be done quickly about the budget cycle crisis. Topical commitments to see that the 2018 budget is passed by December this year should be followed with sufficient political will and commitment to have that realized. Ultimately is swift implementation of the budget considering we are already at the half of the year.

I wish the government goodluck with the budget implementation.

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Senior Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

Challenges in The Nigerian Water Sector – If the Problem is not Lack of Comprehensive Regimes, then what is it?

Challenges in The Nigerian Water Sector – If the Problem is not Lack of Comprehensive Regimes, then what is it?

Photo Credit: Water Aid

Water is life and sufficient water supply is central to life and civilization. Water is part of the five basic human needs and plays a key role in the other four. Nigeria is abundantly blessed with water resources. However, as at 2015, only 69% of Nigerians have access to improved water supply with 57% of them being of rural population. During the oil boom days of the 1970s and early 1980s, the country invested hugely in water resources development, primarily in the construction of multipurpose dams which were meant to control flood, provision of water for domestic and industrial uses, the environment, hydro-power generation, control of riparian rights releases and for fishing, inland waterways, livestock and irrigated agriculture amongst others.

The responsibility of water supply in Nigeria is shared between three tiers of government – federal, state and local. While the federal government is in charge of water resources management and state governments have the primary responsibility for urban water supply through state water agencies; local governments together with communities are responsible for rural water supply. To improve manpower supply for the water resources sector, the National Water Resources Institute, Kaduna was established in 1979, running certificate, remedial and National Diploma and Higher National Diploma and professional post graduate courses in water resources. Preceding this was the establishment of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMoWR) in 1976 with the mandate of developing and implementing programs, policies and projects that will lubricate sustainable access to safe and adequate water to meet the cultural, economic development, environmental and social needs of all Nigerians. The FMoWR has 12 River Basin Development Authorities under the Ministry, responsible for developing and planning irrigation work, water resources, and the collection of hydrological, hydro-geological data.

The National Water Supply and Sanitation Policy was approved in 2000, encouraging private-sector participation and provides for institutional and policy reforms at the state level. However, little has happened in both respects. As at 2007, only four of the 36 states and the FCT (Cross River, Kaduna, Lagos and Ogun States) have introduced public-private partnerships in the form of service contracts. While the federal government has a decentralization policy in this regard, little decentralization has happened. In addition, the policy also lays emphasis on rural water and sanitation through community participation. It targeted to increase water coverage from 43% to 80% by 2010 and 100% by 2015. This was not met. In addition, the capacity of local governments to plan and carry out investments, or to operate and maintain systems with respect to rural water management has remained low despite efforts at capacity development. As a result, the FMoWR and the river basin development authorities have been directly carrying off water facilities provision such as boreholes in rural communities.

In 2003, a Presidential Water Initiative: Water for People, Water for Life, was launched by then President Olusegun Obasanjo. The initiative had ambitious targets to increase water access (including a 100 percent target in state capitals), 75% access in other urban areas, and 66% access in rural areas. However, little has been done to implement the initiative and targets have not been met. The National Water and Sanitation Policy was also launched in 2004 with emphasis on water management and conservation. Nigeria was also not able to reach the Millennium Development Goal for water and sanitation. In June 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari approved a Water Resources Roadmap (2016 – 2030) with the goal of reaching 100% water supply to Nigerian citizens by 2030. The roadmap encompasses several priorities including: the establishment of a policy and regulatory framework for the sector; development and implementation of a National Water Supply and Sanitation Programme to attain the Sustainable Development Goals 6; identifying alternative sources for funding the delivery of water supply and sanitation through improved collaboration with development partners, states and local government authorities, communities and the private sector [Partnership for Expanded Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (PEWASH)] etc. It’s hoped that this does not go down history as one of the country’s numerous policies in the sector that was not thoroughly implemented.

There have been enormous contributions of several external partners with respect to water supply in Nigeria, rural water provision especially, and the Nigerian government welcomes such contributions. These partners include the African Development Bank (ADB), the EU, JICA, UNICEF, USAID, WaterAid, Action Against Hunger and the World Bank. The ADB and the World Bank provide loans to the federal government; the EU, JICA and USAID provide grants to the government; the UNICEF and WaterAid receive donations from the public and grants from governments to implement their projects in cooperation with, but not through the government. Even many domestic NGOs all have programs on the provision of rural water supply to counter the water crisis in many of such communities.This is through direct project implementation and advocacy. This is where Connected Development comes in, using its Follow The Money program to track governmental expenditure on rural water provision in rural communities to facilitate service delivery and provision of clean water. The program also advocates for governmental intervention to address the aquatic needs of most of these communities.

At this time, what is key is the provision of financial resources from all concerned parties to finance the Water Supply Section of the PEWASH Phase I (2016 – 2020) of the FMoWR’s which is at the estimate of NGN 108 billion. There are also key challenges with respect to the management of water facilities around the country. In many rural communities, water boreholes are abandoned and cannot be maintained over the lack of a preceding regime for the funding and maintenance of such water facilities. This has continued for sometime and has to be checked. Thus, it is imperative that the government encourages user participation in the management of water facilities especially at the rural level with realistic water tariff structures. In addition, there is a need for proper coordination between the different levels of government and the public. Ultimately, a recurring challenge is the unavailability of adequate and reliable data upon which planning, analysis, and water management can be based. Data on characteristic patterns in hydrological and meteorological changes over time need to be monitored with utmost sense of duty. This is exceedingly important for efficient planning and service delivery.  

Chambers Umezulike is a Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

Enabling Greater Transparency, Accountability and Participation in Nigeria

Enabling Greater Transparency, Accountability and Participation in Nigeria

[The DG of Budget Office, Ben Akabueze making a  presentation during the Budget Transparency and Accountability Workshop]

 

It is widely accepted that transparency in government leads to the generation of government accountability since it allows citizens of a democracy to reduce government corruption, bribery and other malfeasance, and control their government. It is also widely accepted that an open, transparent government allows for the dissemination of information and proceedings of government, which in turn forces government to be accountable, helps to guarantee societal progress and effective public oversight, while ensuring participation.

There have been several transparency, accountability and participation movements all over the world. Such movements in developing countries have more justifications for clamouring for such as a result of poor governance, systemic wrecking of public funds, public records inaccessibility and impecunious citizen participation in governance. As a result, citizens of such countries have found it increasingly difficult to hold their governments to account.

This is the case of Nigeria, where several non-profits and movements have been pushing for greater governmental accountability and transparency. And for the first time since the history of the country, the present administration made a striking commitment by signing unto the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The OGP is a multilateral and multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from national governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, harness new technologies to strengthen governance and fight corruption. Nigeria getting on-board the partnership through President Buhari’s commitment to such resulted in a synthesis of government and civil society efforts to realize open government in the country.

Currently, Nigeria just started implementing the National Action Plan (NAP), a key process of the OGP. The plan has 4 commitments that both the government and civil society have made and are implementing across ensuring fiscal transparency, fighting corruption, improving citizenry access to information and citizen engagement.

In line with these developments, the Budget Office of the Federation (BoF) and the Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative organized a workshop on budget transparency and accountability on 9 May 2017 at Transcorp Hilton Hotels, Abuja. In attendance were several international and domestic stakeholders from the government, civil society and private sector. The workshop was organized to allow the Nigerian government examine how it can bolster transparency and participation outcomes in the country with focus on budget transparency – how budget information can be made more accessible, how to move forward in implementing reforms that improves Nigeria’s Open Budget Index Score (OBIS).

The workshop majorly kicked off through a presentation by the Director-General of BoF on Transparency, Accountability and Participation: Reforms and Why It Matters. He used his presentation to highlight progresses made on open government in the country, detailing the OGP and its NAP Commitments. He also mentioned that an area that requires commitments and attention of all relevant stakeholders is Nigeria’s OBIS which as at 2015 was at number 24 on the ranking under insufficient. He also mentioned that in a bid to counter such embarrassing trend, the BoF is on the verge of commissioning the Citizen’s Budget Portal where citizens would have timely information of budget processes including contracting and implementation. In addition, the portal will have further contents such as the BoF Help Desk and Hot Lines to take questions from the general public on budget issues and implementation.

This was followed by a presentation by Atiku Samuel of BudgIT on the Status of Budget Transparency in Nigeria. He took his time to explain the international standards of budget transparency and how the OBIS is measured. After this was a session on How to Make Budget Data More Accessible by Atzimba Baltazar of COMETA. She emphasised the need for a Citizen’s budget which should be a few paged document on governmental revenues, debts and expenditure in a fiscal year using infographics and cartoons to simplify understanding for the citizenry. She lifted lessons Nigeria could learn from countries such as Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa where citizen’s budgets are already been issued out.

The last session was a group discussion on 3 key questions: 1). Do you have enough information on the budget? 2). Who do you go to access the information and 3). How do you prefer to access this information? The resolutions after the group discussions on the questions, respectively, are:

1). Yes, while we have information on the budget including the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, Budget Proposal, Appropriation Act, Budget Implementation Reports etc. the problem is that accessibility to these documents atimes are not timely. Most of them are not in open source formats. Most of the budget line items are not detailed enough, and ultimately, a lay man would not be able to understand the technicalities on most of these documents. 2). It was generally agreed that this should be from the Budget Office, Ministry of Finance and few other primarily concerned MDAs. 3). In open source format – the citizen’s budget and the citizen’s budget portal will go a long way in assisting in this regard.

While one must applaud the BoF and the present administration on efforts to use open government as a tool in fighting corruption, increasing participation and ensuring effective public oversight, there should be sufficient governmental political will in implementing the NAP, other consequent commitments and responding to Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests. For CODE (Follow The Money), the citizen’s budget portal will be largely utilitarian in accessing key budget information for rural communities which we fail to access on time even through piles of FOI requests. Such will enable us take such details down to rural communities and in building their capacity for effective public oversight, ensuring service delivery and in holding their governments accountable.

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

Broadening Impacts through Strategic Accountability Approaches

Broadening Impacts through Strategic Accountability Approaches

[During one of our townhall meetings at Uratta Umuoha Community, Abia State – a key social accountability strategy through which we have enabled communities organize stakeholder engagements to facilitate the implementation of projects intended for them]

On the 11th of April 2017, the boardroom of MacArthur Foundation Nigeria was filled with several civil society actors on accountability, transparency and civic engagement. In attendance were over 30 representatives from domestic non-profits who are MacArthur grantees. They were there for a conversation with two accountability scholars, John Gaventa, and Walter Flores. An event in which staffers of MacArthur Foundation Headquarters joined virtually from the United States, the aim was to share ideas and have grantees move from tactical accountability approaches to more strategic approaches. As one of the representatives of Connected Development [CODE], I went in with several expectations which were met.

The conversation started with a presentation, Dancing the TAP Dance: Linking Transparency, Accountability and Participation, by Prof John Ganveta who teaches at the Institute of Development Studies, United Kingdom. He started with sharing key governance issues that led to the rise of accountability and transparency movement globally. Most of them encompass accountability deficit, democratic deficit and impecunious active citizen participation in governance. He then went on explaining how several tools such as ensuring service delivery, improving budgetary processes, ensuring open government, aid transparency and NGO accountability can be utilitarian in addressing these challenges. Addressing these challenges would consequently lead to better services through monitoring, improved democracy, reduced public service corruption, empowerment, human rights, greater access to information and challenging inequality.

Another presentation, Citizen-led Accountability: Power, Politics and Strategies, was by Dr Walter Flores of Center for the Study of Equity and Governance in Health Systems (CEGSS) who took time to share his organization’s works on accountability and challenging inequalities in Guatemala. He emphasised that the roles of transparency and accountability in curbing inequalities include turning citizens from passive to active users of services who can demand accountability from the government. According to him, when they started, they first of all started collecting data on how a particular faction of the society was being marginalized in getting services in drug stores and hospitals. The data was collected through sms, audio/visual evidence and they embarked on advocacy and engaged the government with such evidence for appropriate response. They also created channels of engagement for such citizens to discuss problems and implement solutions.

At a time, politics came into play and they were challenged by governmental authorities for not having the legitimacy to advocate for the communities. They then were forced to decentralize their operations to let citizens and communities lead it through their building capacities. Communities were then organized for monitoring. In a presentation in which he shared most of their successes, he finalized by stating that social accountability is crucial for accountability to work. And that in such work, it’s better to start with community organizing and rights literacy, while collective and participatory interventions, strategies and results are imperative.

After the phenomenal presentations were questions, comments and commitments from organizations present. In line with Dr Flores presentation, I made a remark on the effectiveness of his social accountability strategy which we use at CODE. At CODE, in tracking governmental expenditure in rural communities for service delivery, we start with rights literacy in the concerned communities and co-organize town hall meetings with their community leaders for conversation around the particular projects with implementing governmental agencies and contractors. The town hall meetings have helped to embed community ownership in our works and within the chain of our participatory strategies, communities are empowered to ensure these projects are implemented long after we have pulled out. Also in the same line, for sustainability, decentralization of our strategies and community ownership, we activated ifollowthemoney.org to mobilize young people in these communities to ensure governmental accountability themselves.

The conversation was quintessential and more of it are crucial with respect to capacity building of the civil society and sharing of ideas.

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.