The Nigerian Youth SDGs Forum, Abuja.

The Nigerian Youth SDGs Forum, Abuja.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

The 17 SDGs Goals were built on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities. The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.

The Nigerian Youth SDGS Forum #NGYouthSDGs had a gathering of high-level stakeholders pre-summit in Abuja on July 7, 2017 and I was privileged to represent CODE at this event. The event was hosted by the Ambassador of Denmark, Torben Gettermann at the Switzerland Embassy. The forum brought together Civic Organizations and Youth Networks, working to reach the sustainable  goals.

The Danish Ambassador gave the opening remark and welcomed all stakeholders present. He said “there is no single of the 17 goals that are not related to one another, that it’s only by achieving them all only then we can say our mission is accomplished.  The Ambassador all so stated and I quote  “The SDGs, are they ambitious?  Yes they are.  Are they over-ambitious?  No.  Are they attainable?   Absolutely”

Uche Onyinye of TheirWorld.UK spoke on the Nigeria Future – in relation to achieving the SGDs. She explained the goals for all parties involved is the same toward achieving the goals. She went further to explain that the SDGs are timed based goals and we have few years (13 years) to see these goals come to life. She ended by stating that SDGs and Nigeria’s future are intertwined, they can’t be separated.

It was quite fascinating for me to see that various organisations are already building programs and projects around achieving the SDGs. For instance, Serah Makka, Country director for ONE Campaign added that Accountability is the life of democracy and to achieve SDGs, young people have to be active in civic engagement.  She spoke on ONE Campaign effort in education and eliminating poverty and making health and agriculture a focus of work.  Mr Kingsley from Plan International explained how they work with the  grassroot community to impact the young people on SDGs.  Chibugo Okafor with Wellbeing Africa explained their focus on health awareness using innovative adolescents program e.g teaching them general hygeine etc will promote and improve the SDGs. For most of these organizations, working with young people in achieving the various goal interest was a major strength for example  Ijeoma Idika Okorie of Teenz Global Foundation,who works with teenagers in high schools, stated that ownership of ideas through partnership and dedication towards SDGs is key to success in Nigeria.

 

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.

4 Takeaways from the Global Media Forum in Bonn Germany

4 Takeaways from the Global Media Forum in Bonn Germany

[As a preface, you can read about my expectations before the event here – But Who Are You? The Global Media Forum in 2017 focusing on Identity and Diversity ]

There are 7,000 languages all over the world, with 7,000 cultures and diversities according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Africa has 2,138 living languages with Nigeria hosting a quarter of those. In these diversity lies hope, peace and harmony in which everyone on planet earth yearns for, and it is this hope that spurred me to attend the Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany, the second time in a roll. This time the discussion hinged on Identity and diversity. Do I have an identity? Is where I live my home presently, or where my fore fathers claim they reside? Am I a product of globalization, or am only privileged? So many debates, sessions, workshops and also drinks trailed the GMF, and I was able to capture the following assertions.

1. Technology
Is radio or TV technology? Yes. So when the screen appeared in the 1920s, it became a tool to shape public debate. In the 1940s, radio became a powerful medium for people to get information. Since the rise of the internet and mobile phones in the 1990s, the networked world population has grown from millions to billions. In the same vein, social media has become ubiquitous, and the world has never seen such a companion in its lifetime.This new technology has become a way of life, giving the opportunity to create new networks, giving voices to the voiceless, and ultimately making the world to understand that globalization has left billions of people behind, and as such there must be a rethink of who gets what, and how resources cross borders.

Level of Adoption of Technologies

2. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The clock to 2030 is fast ticking for us to achieve the SDGs. As we would not want to leave more billions behind this time, it is imperative for all 165 countries that signed to the SDGs to tackle corruption. We should not be giving people’s tax money to presidents that are buying jets and investing in castles and mansions all around the world. As a matter of fact, the billions that are left behind do not understand the SDGs, as such, it is pertinent that the elites that are benefiting from globalization should invest most of their time in educating their local people on what these goals mean to them, and their next generation. We cannot achieve SGDs if we cannot reduce corruption in Africa!

3. Media and Ethics
The Fourth Estate – media organizations, must uphold its objective of checking, double checking, and presenting the truth from the voice of the voiceless. As new technologies have turned everyone into a journalist, what must differentiate originality from pedestrian information carriers, must be the enforcement in ethics, and speaking truth to power. Don’t change your practice. Instruct the public about the freedom of speech. Don’t allow yourself to be divided. Strive for yourself to be good – stand together!. Make pressures transparent – let people know if you are threatened. Make yourself invaluable. Admit mistakes; everyone does that. Don’t be resentful – focus on content. Don’t Exaggerate and Never give up.

4.The Power of Face to Face Conferences
I have spent the first part of the year organizing meeting with leaders of CODE’s Follow The Money Chapters and intending chapters. In my travels, I met with our teams on the ground, asked questions, and listened to their concerns. These face-to-face interactions built trust, understanding, and a real sense of a shared mission, and this has made all the difference in the world. One must not underestimate the power of human interaction and face to face communication, because if the essence of starting a movement, or an organization is about meeting deadlines, scheduling tasks, then an email might be enough.But we are about leadership, and that’s why we take cognizance of face to face meetings, and also because we are diverse, it is important always to share, learn about our differences, so we can accommodate ourselves and make peace.

You cannot leave the Global Media Forum (GMF) without memories of the cruise boat on the Rhine, and this time I had the chance of riding a bike by the Rhine. Also meeting new friends from India and Romania. What more do you want from a forum – but am still wondering why there were just five people at the Digital Security session, I felt that should have been of keen interest to journalists. Anyways, some things are made for those that have the mind, and I think you are one of them.

The Mindset 2.0: How to Initiate Effective Advocacy Campaigns

The Mindset 2.0: How to Initiate Effective Advocacy Campaigns

SACE is a governance project funded by USAID to support civil society to advocate for reforms that improve transparency and accountability and increase inclusive governance in Nigeria.

It was now very apparent why the likes of Oludotun Babayemi, co-Founder of  Connected Development , Omojuwa; Social Media Commentator, Maryam Uwais; Human Rights Lawyer and Activist were representatives of their respective organizations to share thoughts with the group of CSOs present at the event.

Japheth Omojuwa, a Nigerian blogger, public speaker, socio-economic and political commentator and social media expert gave doses of advice for Social Media folks. He said “One of the fastest ways of reaching people is perhaps through Social Media” but, a caveat was labelled on to that “We have to take responsibility for the platforms we consume our news from”.

The 2016 Best Twitter Personality Of The Year said part of what drives our movement towards achieving success with Social Media is that, “the citizens now have the power to drive change via new media but because we are now in the era of masses; Mass media, mass production, mass movement, we have move from the stage where organizations say something and we follow”.

Oludotun Babayemi, shared essential information on how Connected Development’s  FollowTheMoney – the largest grassroots movement  was designed to track and visualize government funds in Africa .

He said “Passion drove us to Zamfara State to link what was happening but we never thought of sustainability; however sustainability is an essential component of building effective public campaign strategy.” Speaking more on how passion drove their activity, he said “the first time we journeyed into Zamfara State, Bagega wasn’t even on Google map“.

He also intensively debated that “No country has been able to move from underdevelopment to development without Education”.

The Stanford University Centre for Development, Democracy and the Rule of Law fellow enthused further that “We decided not to be conventional in our campaign but to leverage heavily on the media, both traditional and the new,  in innovative ways.

We started Follow The Money campaign by tracking government funding on health, education and environment and we constantly leveraged on champions to drive the Bagega Campaign such as Omojuwa as key influencer, as it is always sane and reasonable for long-term sake that “NGOs should focus on their strengths and have one thematic area of work to remain relevant and in sync with the public because originality, people and technology are key to success”.

Babayemi advised that “evidence based advocacy is important in having focused campaign” to be able to have strengthened public awareness, discourse and support for key democratic governance issues such as transparency, accountability and good governance.

As part of the Objectives of the 2.0 Mindset series which is to share lessons learned based on the achievements and challenges of CSOs in TAGG engagement.

Mariam Uwais, Special adviser to the President on Social Protection plan made cases for how we can effectively manage some social vices and curb them, in line with focus. She was quick to relay to the audience that “persistence has reward”.

Mariam Uwais, Special adviser to the President on Social Protection plan made cases for how we can effectively manage some social menace and able to curb them, in line with focus, she was quick to relay to the audience that “persistence has its own reward”.

“Identify our audience well”  because she said “Working on Child marriage in the North, we targeted the turbaned and bearded.” Because “It’s always important that you stand for something; build network and reach out to people”

The seasoned lawyer and activist also tasked the audience that in carrying out the functions, we must “be kind, be compassionate, put yourself in the others shoes and always keep the bigger picture in view”.

Moreso , as the program also seek to provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to have in-depth discussion on the expectations and way forward in optimizing CSOs role in policy dialogue and reform. She enthused that “We’re enlisting 3rd party monitors to track social investment because it’s important to hear the other party’s’ voice.

“Every beneficiary of social protection program of the Federal Government has BVN and their names in register” she added.

Also as this initiative seeks to complement the project’s subsequent dialogues on fostering and strengthening public discourse and support for key democratic governance issues, e hope to , continue the conversation via http://ifollowthemoney.org  and be part of the people that will drag positive change into the country. Do join us!

Olusegun Olagunju is the Social Media Strategist for Connected Development (Follow The Money), a Sociologist and a non-conformist. He tweets using @mobolsgun

Want to Follow The Money? You can start your own Chapter

Want to Follow The Money? You can start your own Chapter

In global development governance and the development sector more specifically, the question of sustainability has always recurred. Ideally, if a sustainable structure is put in place, projects and programs will still continue to run, long after the initial efforts are not there anymore. In our work through which we use a knowledge-based scientific process to visualize, track and monitor funds spent for development in rural communities by the government and other development partners and ensure such funds are spent for the reason they are budgeted for, we have always thought of sustainability. One of the ways to achieve this is by letting communities own Follow The Money (FTM) process. It was based on this that we have started identifying community activists, who have been working on FTM activities four years ago.with young people, which reside in rural communities and tracks the funds themselves while we provide technical assistance.

As part of our sustainability plan, we initiated the ifollowthemoney.org, a platform that already hosts over 500 people. Furthermore, we developed the idea of creating chapters. A Follow The Money chapter can be made up of individuals, an already existing association, or a non-government organization that carries out Follow The Money activities. We are officially piloting with 4 chapters in Nigeria, which will be led by Ali Isa in Kano State; Muazu Modu in Yobe State; Erdoo Anongo of Kwasi Foundation in Benue State; and these leads, having been completely empowered to follow the money themselves, will lead in following the money in their states, mobilize more community members in the process while the core team in Abuja provides technical support. They are responsible to formalize their chapters for better governance which includes having four principal officers like the lead, a treasurer, community outreach officer, public relations officer

Starting with these pilot chapters, the core team organized an internal 2-day training for these State Chapter Leads from 29th to 30th of June, 2017 at the Ventures Platform in Abuja. The training started by reiterating and broadening some of the things they already know and work with, from Getting Data of Money to Follow, Leveraging and Drafting of Freedom of Information requests, Mapping of Stakeholders (Government Agencies, Media House, Other NGOs), Drafting Short Write-ups on Campaigns, Organizing Community Outreaches/Preparing Questionnaires, Organizing Town Hall Meetings, as well as new trainings on Mobile Journalism, Hostile Environment Reportage, Preparing Budget and Financial Reporting, Making Use of Social Media for Engagement, ifollowthemoney Platform, Management, Theory of Change, Deliverables for Local Chapters etc. These sessions were facilitated by relevant CODE personnel.

 

In the meantime, we want to support more chapters, and not to forget that there are already intending chapters in Gambia, Kenya, Mozambique and Togo. Yes, we say they are intending as for CODE to support an intending chapter, or to recognize it as a chapter, there must be a leader, and the lead must have independently carried out Follow The Money activities within one year, with the assistance of the core team. Anyone can Follow The Money using our methodologies, we only provide guidance to the use of Follow The Money activities, with the hope that the vision of making everyone in every community in Africa to be empowered to engage their various government on funds meant for them. So, if you want to start a chapter, why not join us at http://ifollowthemoney.org and kickstart your activities, and in one year, you become eligible to run a chapter!

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.