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A Comparative Study of the OGP National Action Plans in Africa

Vitus Adaboo Azeem|

This is the third in a six blog series written by winners of the IDRC grant for research on OGP

There are several interesting developments on OGP in Africa that have taken place in recent months and others to look forward to – the second-ever Africa Regional Meeting took place in Tanzania this summer, Cape Verde announced its intention to join shortly thereafter, South Africa will take on co-Chairmanship of the OGP Steering Committee in October, and word is out on social media that Nigeria is soon to join OGP too.

In this backdrop, my recent study looks at the lessons learnt from the national action plans of African countries in OGP. Seven of the eight current OGP participating countries in Africa have already developed National Action Plans and are at different stages of implementation. While South Africa, Liberia and Tanzania are in their second cycle of National Action Plans, Ghana, Kenya, Tunisia and Sierra Leone are in their first. Malawi has recently signed onto the OGP and is in the process of developing its first Action Plan. South Africa, Liberia, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania have also gone through the IRM process.  Prior to the OGP, many African countries were already undertaking initiatives to open up their governments by enacting anti-corruption laws, setting up anti-corruption institutions, and establishing government portals and open data initiatives. However, there are some countries such as Uganda, Angola, Namibia, Niger and Nigeria, which meet the OGP eligibility criteria, do not seem eager to join the OGP. A number of interesting findings came out of the study.

Firstly, although all the countries assigned a specific agency to coordinate OGP activities, none of them established a completely new agency with dedicated staff to host the OGP Secretariat. In addition, all the countries set up some form of a Steering Committee, of varying sizes, composition and effectiveness, to be responsible for coordinating the development and monitoring of the implementation of the NAP. However, from the IRM reports for the countries covered, the Secretariats and the Steering Committees have no legal power to compel other agencies to implement OGP commitments, to participate in OGP activities or even attend meetings. They do not have any budgetary allocation for OGP activities. This tends to reduce their effectiveness.

All the participating countries claim that they fulfilled the consultative process requirement of the OGP to develop their NAPs. However, the extent of this consultation varies from country to country, although the consultation process of Sierra Leone has been considered outstanding. From the NAPs and the IRM Reports, a number of countries have made use of technology and social media in their consultations such as WhatsApp, Facebook as well as the traditional websites of the OGP and/or the country’s portals where they exist to solicit views and inputs into the process but all of the countries also focused on physical meetings which cost money and acted to reduce the scope of the consultations.

In terms of commitments, some of the countries committed to already ongoing initiatives, such as the passage of a Right to Information Bill (Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania), a Code of Conduct Bill (Ghana), reviewing the assets disclosure regime (Ghana) and developing government portals, in order not only to achieve early results but also to push them to continue to pursue these ongoing initiatives. All the countries have committed to setting up and/or improving their “Open Data” portals while all the resource-rich countries (e.g Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Tanzania) also committed to improvement in natural resource management.

However, citizen participation and ownership of some of the processes leading to the development and implementation of the National Action Plans were limited to selected capital city-based CSOs and national level state agencies. In fact, many countries found it difficult to disseminate, popularize and domesticate the OGP programme comprehensively to grass root levels. Some countries, such as Tanzania, have tried to remedy this situation by popularizing the approved NAPs and their implementation through media programmes, newspapers, and workshops.

It must be noted that many of the African participating countries appear determined to improve government integrity, enact and modernize freedom of information legislation, increase fiscal transparency, improve public service delivery, and strengthen natural resources management with the use and improvement of open data, use of new technology tools, and public participation measures that expand transparency and accountability.  However, political leadership in some of the countries has not demonstrated commitment to the OGP process and the development and implementation of the NAPs. In some cases, the President signs the OGP but does not follow up to ensure it is domesticated. To address the problems that these countries face, it is important to ensure approval and support from top-level government, including legislative approval.

In conclusion, the increased media and civil society advocacy work, the citizens’ increased demands, in particular, for good governance, improved service delivery, information and accountable governance dictate that governments and indeed public administration embrace the OGP concept. However, the OGP principles are not new to the participating countries and many of these countries had already been working on some of these principles such as efforts to enact Right to Information laws, setting up government portals, etc. There is a need for the building of capacities of government, civil society and even the entire citizenry if African countries are to realize more ambitious goals for transparency and accountability in governments.

The full paper can be downloaded here: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Azeem_Africa%2520Action%2520Plans%5B1%5D.pdf 

The remaining three blogs in this six blog series will be posted following the OGP Global Summit in Mexico.

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