AFIC was first registered in 2007 in Nigeria and then established a permanent office in Uganda in 2009. In the years since, our network has grown to include 46 civil society organisations and think tanks across 23 countries. (See map below).
As our membership has grown, we have contributed to the advancement of access to information within Africa and around the world.
We worked through regional and international mechanisms to advance the right to information in policy and practice. Through shadow reporting, direct advocacy engagements, petitions, and meetings, we secured commitments, resolutions, and decisions in favor of ATI. Key among these is the United Nations General Assembly and UNESCO General Conference Resolutions Proclaiming September 28th as the International Day for Universal Access to Information.
We have supported and collaborated with partners on campaigns that have increased the number of countries with ATI laws: from 15 countries in 2016 to 25 in November 2019. Our strategies have included: shadow reporting to treaty bodies like the Human Rights Council and the ACHPR; analysis of draft bills and providing feedback to national legislators; technical assistance to our members and partners at national level; mobilizing OGP commitments on ATI laws; petitions and letter campaigns; promotional missions; and working collaboratively with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa.
From our first strategy (2011-2015) to our most recent (2015-2019), our work expanded from a focus on adopting laws to also promoting effective implementation. As part of that work, we developed training manuals for and delivered training to over 1,800 public officials, civil society representatives, and journalists in Malawi, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda. In addition, we piloted sector and thematic implementation of ATI laws focused on open contracting and women. Targeted governments improved on implementation, and CSO/journalist demand for public information grew. Significantly, delivery of services improved at community level as a result of disclosure and citizen monitoring of contracts and services.
Public procurement accounts for 55-65% of most governments’ expenditures, yet it is littered with secrecy, conflicts, collusion, and corruption. We believe that disclosure of public procurement information is key. Through promoting open contracting, we have seen governments disclose more—especially by using technology like the Government Procurement Portal in Uganda and the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCOPO) in Nigeria. We have worked with public procurement authorities to map disclosure levels and support them in publishing data in Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) formats to enable monitoring. We have also trained public officials in disclosure and citizens in contract monitoring. Finally, we have monitored public contracts and shared report findings with key accountability agencies to inform improvement of disclosure by public agencies. This work has shined a light on corruption and waste, enabling governments to fix problems.
One of the major barriers to ATI is simply lack of knowledge about this powerful tool, among both citizens and duty bearers. We have advanced knowledge and understanding of ATI through reports, case studies, and more, disseminating information to citizens, our members and other CSOs, government officials and public servants, development agencies, and regional and international institutions.
Through our work—including our feminist open contracting research, access to information baseline study, and project on winning against corruption with private sector players—we have shown how marginalized groups, who face difficulties accessing social services and enforcing rights, are also disproportionately disadvantaged in accessing public information. This is due to isolation and low social status, exacerbated by decision-makers’ poor understanding and awareness of those challenges. This knowledge has helped create greater understanding of the need for inclusive programming.