Sep 7th, 2011 2:34 PM UTC
By Dr. Sipho Moyo
Reading about Africa in the Western news media can often be a depression-inducing experience. Conflicts, corruption, coups, famine and disease are just a few of the ills singled out in the everyday news coverage of the African continent in Europe and North America. We at ONE are working hard to change that narrative, though. Not by denying the major challenges that certainly exist on my home continent, but by highlighting the successes, the determination and the ingenuous creativity of the African people despite these challenges. There is no good reason why Africa’s positive stories of the major progress that are happening everyday should not be told and be overshadowed disproportionately by short-term, isolated challenges. Africa is rising and the Africa of today is a continent of great optimism and greater consciousness of the need to chart its own destiny. It is a continent of much more empowered citizens when it comes to demanding more accountability from their leaders as well as participating in shaping their own communities and their countries. These are the stories that must be told and we at ONE are finding such examples everyday and making an effort to bring you this other narrative about Africa by sharing the positive story/ies of a rising Africa.
One aspect of that story is the rise of a vocal and vibrant civil society in Africa. A civil society that has been effective in contributing to public participation, clamored for more transparent and accountable governance; lobbied for women and children’s rights to be understood and respected, and demanded better basic public services. Indeed African civil society has been an integral part of the real change that has swept over the continent in the last decade. These great stories must be brought to the fore. Though the dynamism of the civil society varies depending in which country you are, there’s an unmistakable increase in the activities and influence of non-governmental organizations—even notwithstanding the multitude of challenges civil society organizations face in much of Africa. From lack of funding, to hostile governments and restrictions on speech (to just name a few), it can be incredibly tricky if not risky to operate in some African countries, making their efforts and successes that much more heroic.
But challenges have never stopped progress and in Africa such obstacles have only strengthened determination. At ONE we’re proud to partner and work with many organizations across the continent. We often showcase the health education efforts and medical interventions by local clinics and medical groups to stop malaria transmission or treat HIV or prevent vaccine-preventable diseases. We work with farmers associations and other agricultural organizations to promote the best farming practices. We lend a helping hand to our fellow advocacy groups as they encourage their governments to root out corruption and open their national budgets and laws to public scrutiny and review. None of this would be happening if it weren’t for African citizens taking the initiative to make their communities better places to live and work.
We have also been privileged to feature some of these organizations over the past few years through offering the ONE Africa Award, a $100,000 USD prize devoted to recognizing the work of indigenous African organizations, individuals and groups in developing the continent specifically in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals. Last year’s recipient was SEND-Ghana, a policy, research and advocacy-based organization working to promote good governance and equality among men and women in Ghana. The group’s efforts have helped civil society to organize and influence policy and improve transparency through empowering citizens to monitor the government’s delivery of basic services.
We’ve found that offering this prize is our best way to shine a spotlight on some of the exceptional work being driven and led by Africans. Past years winners have come from Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana and the call for nominations for the next award is now open until September 16, 2011. If you know of any Africa-based organizations finding improbable solutions to vexing challenges, please encourage them to apply today.
May 23rd, 2011 11:27 AM UTC
By Dr. Sipho Moyo
If governments and leaders are not accountable to their citizens, resources will be squandered, services such as health and education will not be delivered effectively, businesses will not thrive, civil society will not flourish and conflict-affected countries will remain stuck in repeated cycles of violence and instability. For development to be sustainable, people need to be able to hold their governments to account to demand that they make good use of revenues, including aid, taxes and the proceeds of oil, minerals and other natural resources.
This video, the first in a series of videos produced as part of ONE’s Profiles and Perspectives Project was shot in Johannesburg as part of ONE’s Africa Symposium. In it, some of the brightest minds in business, civil society and academia explain how people are asserting their power, using information and new technologies to hold their governments to account.
African-led civil society organisations such as SEND – the winner of ONE’s 2010 Africa Award – play an important role in empowering local people to hold decision-makers to account, so that health, education and other services are improved. Technologies such as mobile phones, the internet and social media – in combination with traditional media such as newspapers, radio and television – are enhancing access to information and turbo-charging demands for accountability. Greater transparency and information technologies have the potential to transform the landscape of power, empowering people to raise their voices, to provide feedback, to hold their governments to account and to drive faster progress on poverty reduction and economic development.
From Kenya to Nigeria, from Cairo to Cape Town, in urban and rural areas, Africans are leading the way, using new technologies to transform the landscape of power. Ushahidi – meaning testimony in Swahili – is a great example. Born out of the post-election violence in Kenya, and bringing together African entrepreneurs, techno-whizzes, and civil society activists, the crowd-sourcing platform is now piloting an approach in which people use cell-phones to provide feedback on health and education services. Twaweza, an organisation that is about spreading information and sparking conversations that lead to change is another great example. This is about “citizens making stuff happen” as Twaweza puts it. Not donors. Not just governments. Not just NGOs. Not just the private sector. But people. Technology is not a silver bullet. Bad politics still constrains development. But in Africa as elsewhere, accountability, turbo-charged by transparency and technology, is on the move!
Building on its traditional focus on smart aid and its ongoing work on natural resource governance and transparency ONE is looking to promote an agenda on governance, transparency and accountability that responds to African priorities. We think that ONE can help to promote effective, transparent and accountable governance in three ways:
Transparency and accountability around aid, budgets and natural resource governance – and citizens’ monitoring of service delivery, for instance in relation to health and education – are current front-runners in terms of specific issues and campaigns that ONE might focus on. But we are keen to hear from you. What are the issues that matter to you? What are you doing to demand accountability? What successes have you had and what challenges have you faced? And what can ONE do to support your demands for accountability? We’re really keen to get your feedback, so please add your comments below.
Dr. Sipho Moyo and Dr. Alan Hudson
Feb 15th, 2011 4:16 PM UTC
By Dr. Sipho Moyo
Hi, I am Sipho Moyo, Director of ONE Africa. This is a very important week for ONE’s work on the continent
We have just opened our office in Johannesburg, we are hosting the ONE Africa Symposium on Economic Transformation through Technology and Transparency, and are launching the ONE Africa Blog.
Infused throughout all this work, is the idea that by going together with others, we will go far.
We are aware that we will need to prove our credibility and inspire trust as we actively build partnerships with other civil society organisations in the region who are already on the ground and working on precisely the same issues that we care about.
We also hope to continue to engage more people in the political process of fighting extreme poverty. There are tens of thousands of ONE members in Africa already, with hundreds more joining each week.
So no matter who you are, we aim to have something interesting for you here on the ONE Africa Blog. You’ll find posts from the business leaders, opinion formers and activists who are shaping the continent, and I hope that you’ll not just read them, but join in the conversation by sharing your thoughts.
Thank you, and I look forward to working with you to end the blight of extreme poverty.
Feb 15th, 2011 7:35 AM UTC
By Edith Jibunoh
In recent years there has been real progress in efforts to improve livelihoods and fight poverty and disease. Although affected by the global recession, African economies bounced back quickly and are amongst the fastest growing in the world.
But despite this progress, too many still live in extreme poverty. And even those who don’t fall within the technical definition of poverty often suffer as a result of poor governance and a lack of opportunity.
Yet balanced against these challenges are real signs of hope.
Rapid advances in technology – together with our greater understanding of how to harness it – are accelerating the ability of citizens to demand improvements in the services their government provides, just as they are enabling governments to improve the supply of services to their citizens.
New technologies are also enabling other progress: entrepreneurs can expand their markets to reach the most marginalised people, and the most remote producers can sell their goods at fairer prices because their mobile phones allow them to find out the real market rate. And with these developments come the hope of a more equitable form of growth in years to come.
It is within this context that ONE will be hosting a dynamic discussion on the role of transparency and technology in promoting and driving economic development in Johannesburg on 15 February. The ONE Africa Symposium 2011 will feature several speakers in short inspirational 10-minute presentations about ideas that will help shape ONE’s work.
We will hear from students, policy makers, technology experts, academics and creatives, from all over Africa. Together we’ll highlight innovations that can drive increased transparency and accountability in governments and corporations. Throughout the symposium, we hope to amplify ideas that can inform policy makers and inspire entrepreneurs and activists. These ideas could ultimately transform Africa.
I’ll hope you join us and follow the conversation on Twitter via the #ONEsymposium hashtag.
ONE is a movement of 3 million people in Africa and around the world fighting the injustice of extreme poverty.
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The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
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