Open Government Partnership: Opportunities in Africa | World Bank Institute (WBI)

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • The principles of the Open Government Partnership, and the concrete commitments that countries are making within its framework, present a great opportunity to support and maximize the impact of World Bank operations. 
  • The World Bank is supporting the Open Government Partnership member countries through facilitating knowledge exchange on the elaboration of their Action Plans in Africa.
  • Practitioners from Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, and Tanzania shared their experience in elaborating their OGP Action Plans, and learned from international experts about how to include key open government issues in such plans.

April 11, 2012—Transparency and openness are at the core of changing how governments work and development is practiced. Transparency is a key element to empower citizens to engage constructively with policy makers and demand accountability from service providers. This in turn can lead to more effective institutions. Transparency in light of open government is about making information on government activities and decisions open, comprehensive, and timely available to citizens.

In this context, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched in September 2011 under the leadership of 8 founding member countries. It is a multilateral, multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to enhance transparency, participation, and collaboration between governments and civil society. Since it began, membership has increased to more than 50 countries. Its steering committee includes governments as well as civil society organizations. 

“The strongest foundation of human progress lies in open economies, open societies and in open government,” said U.S. President Barack Obama at the launch event for the partnership in 2011, which he hosted with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the current co-chair of the OGP. Representatives from more than 50 countries will come together in Brasilia in April 2012 to present their action plans and continue advancing the open government agenda through the OGP.

The World Bank, recognizing the importance of the principles that OGP promotes and its alignment with the WB’s core mission, currently supports OGP by facilitating knowledge exchanges and helping to build the capacity of OGP member countries to elaborate and implement their plans to become more open and responsive. The concrete commitments countries are making within the OGP framework present opportunities to support this agenda as well as  maximize the impact of World Bank operations.

On March 20, 2012, the World Bank’s Africa Region and the World Bank Institute’s Open Government team hosted a peer exchange videoconference titled “Open Government Partnership in Africa: A Knowledge Exchange on Preparing OGP National Action Plans.” The session included representatives from Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, and Tanzania.  It featured international experts on budget transparency, access to information, transparency in extractives industries, ICTs and open data. These exchanges  provided policymakers and other stakeholders with practices and experiences on key issues to inform the drafting and implementation of OGP national action plans.

open-quotesCitizens prefer to see results, rather than documents close-quotesSuzanne Mlwai, the State House’s Deputy Permanent Secretary, Tanzania

Presentations included those by Vivek Ramkumar from the International Budget Partnership on Open budgets; Thomas Blanton from National Security Archive at George Washington University on Freedom of Information; Alexandra Gilles, from the Revenue Watch Institute on Transparency and Accountability in Extractive Industries and Martin Tisne, Program Director Transparency and Accountability Initiative on Open Data use of ICTs for enhanced Open Government.

Action Plans: Ghana, Kenya, Liberia and Tanzania

The session provided comparative insights into the national action plans from Ghana, Kenya, Liberia and Tanzania. 

Tanzania has made significant progress in the preparation of its OGP action plan. A draft of the plan has been posted at the official OGP site and translated into Swahili. Citizens are being encouraged to provide comments on that draft. Tanzania is committed to follow through on its action plan to achieve results. “Citizens prefer to see results, rather than documents,” said Suzanne Mlwai, the State House’s Deputy Permanent Secretary. By sharing insights during the session on its process towards a substantive and robust action plan, Tanzania helped to inform the process of other countries in the region as they draft and implement their respective plans.

Kenya has become an important case in the successful implementation of national open data efforts. The Kenya Open Data Initiative has resulted in over 4,000 downloads from data made available in two open data portals. As Kenya looks into presenting its OGP action plan, it is exploring how it can broaden its open government agenda, particularly by incorporating commitments on freedom to information.

After being the first country in West Africa to pass an access to information law, Liberia is striving to become a model in the region for access to information legislation. During the session, Noris Tweh, Liberia’s Deputy Minister of Information highlighted the strong commitment at high levels of the government to elaborate and implement an OGP action plan that broadens and continues to build on the progress that has been made.  

As Ghana begins the process to elaborate its OGP action plan, practitioners expressed great interest in learning from other countries in Africa about the challenges and opportunities of  becoming more open, transparent and responsive to citizens needs. 

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