Over the last nine years, four African countries – Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania have made concerted effort towards institutional reform for transparency and citizen participation in infrastructure with focus on strengthening policy and institutional frameworks, by embracing CoST – the Infrastructure Transparency Initiative.
To consolidate these gains and respond to the growing demand, CoST appointed the Africa Freedom of Information Centre – AFIC as its Regional Manager. In this regard, AFIC will provide technical support to CoST countries, promote and initiative CoST in new countries, facilitate capacity strengthening and knowledge sharing.
At the first Africa regional workshop held in Mangochi, Malawi from November 26 to 30, 2018, participants from Malawi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda shared experiences in the importance and progress of CoST. In particular, Disclosure, Assurance, Social Accountability and Multi Stakeholder working and elicited the most feedback from participants.
Discussions also revealed that there is a growing commitment and understanding of the relevance of CoST in the realisation of better project and contract performance, mostly revealed by results shared by the countries, the challenges and how they have gone about them ranging from mainstreaming disclosure to 100% of the CoST Infrastructure Data Standard within the Public Procurement Law in Malawi to the establishment of an e-disclosure portal, http://ippi.mw/, for infrastructure projects in Malawi, to mainstreaming reactive disclosure and stakeholder involvement in the delivery of infrastructure projects in Ethiopia, action on assurance results and recommendations on enhanced disclosure and citizens monitoring of infrastructure projects using disclosed data in Tanzania and increased quality control and quality assurance to stakeholder involvement in land acquisition, addressing pedestrian needs on roads, effecting policy amendments with regards to CoST recommendations in Uganda such as the Roads Amendment Bill, 2018.
We are beginning to see a spillover of the impact realised from our infrastructure transparency efforts in the four countries in Africa. With Ghana, Mozambique, Senegal and South Africa, among others, expressing interest to implement CoST core features of Disclosure, Assurance, Multi-stakeholder Working and Social Accountability, this presents an opportunity for concerted efforts to galvanize our efforts to share experiences, good practices and the untold stories of change about what value a country adds to its citizenry by embracing infrastructure transparency.
Learning from the steady progress of Ghana in their recent Open Government Partnership action plan https://www.opengovpartnership.org/local/participants where they committed to enhance infrastructure transparency, which has culminated into Sekondi Takoradi Metropolitan’s Assembly (one of the biggest cities in Africa) expressing to operationalise their action plan by seeking to institutionalise infrastructure transparency https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/sekondi-takoradi-action-plan-2018-2020 and their recent application to implement the CoST approach, we are heading towards a continental advocacy on Better Lives from Better Infrastructure.
Country and regional action plans were developed with focus on the challenges and experiences in each country in relation to efforts to promote disclosure, stakeholder participation, institutionalisation of disclosure as per CoST Infrastructure Data Standards, promoting uptake of assurance recommendations, data use and social accountability.
As the new year begins, CoST is set to enhance work to ensure its features become part and parcel of infrastructure projects in Africa.