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Reform Space to Watch: High-Value Data in Kenya

Joseph Foti|

In 2023, Kenya became the Government Co-chair of OGP. With this role comes an added spotlight on its reforms. Where will the Kenyan government display leadership and innovation? How will civil society groups use the moment to bring attention to difficult issues or to gain traction on harder reforms to achieve? 

In this short blog series, the OGP Support Unit, in collaboration with Transparency International, will zoom in on important anti-corruption and open data issues to capture moments of reform in key OGP countries. In future weeks, the series will also highlight potential reforms in the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, and Brazil. This series was written in consultation with the Transparency International chapters in each country. The reforms described in this series build on priority areas identified in the 2022 Broken Links report, which was written with the support of the Global Data Barometer (GDB) and the Data for Development Network, based on GDB’s survey data.

2024 will be a big year, as Kenya takes the reins of multiple international initiatives, hot off the Africa Climate Leaders Summit. Issues of anti-corruption, democratic reform, and climate – many of them interrelated – are continuing to evolve. Here’s a look at each.

  • Open Contracting: OGP’s 2022 Broken Links report highlighted how Kenya has made significant progress towards open contracting, yet the tender process remains one of the governance areas most prone to corruption. The OGP multi-stakeholder process in Kenya has taken up the work of plugging the gaps in data, most notably around the issue of major public works and infrastructure. With an OGP action plan due at the end of the year, will it move the needle on closing this key data gap?
  • Political party finance: Another key area for reform has been making election finance transparent – for both individuals and their political parties. Always a challenging reform, it seems that, for now, this issue will remain outside of the OGP process as there are other channels for advancing this key reform. Lessons from other OGP countries suggest that political finance reform is often a generational opportunity, where big changes in a cabinet, a parliament, or a presidency bring a sweeping package of reforms. Until then, technical work on the side may be more of a good investment.
  • Land reform: Outside of the OGP action plan as well, Kenya may be taking big steps to make land ownership data more open. Always a high-stakes reform, land ownership transparency can take a long time. (In a conversation with colleagues from TI, Scottish chapter members pointed out that their open land register only goes back to 1999.) Democratizing information around public and private lands is essential to understanding opportunities for climate change mitigation and adaptation; they help understand where emissions come from and where people face the most vulnerability and resilience, as tenure is a major predictor of investment and stability. As Kenya plays a leadership role in climate reforms, will it combine the best benefits of open government with the state of the art in climate action?

We will find out more about the impact and next steps of these reforms in 2024. Have an opinion on how these critical reforms might take place? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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