FollowTheMoney Movement Expands in Africa, Boosting Grassroots Organizers

Communications November 17, 2022 0

by JACKSON MALMGREN AND BEN SCHMIDT

Staring at the dilapidated one-room building, Philip Duah knew that Project 12 was a sham. “The municipal assembly said the project – a new high school building – was at 90% status and ongoing,” said Duah, the Director of ABAK Foundation, a small non-profit that runs a primary school for low-income children and serves as a watchdog for local government projects. What Duah found was a shabby one-story schoolhouse “with no electricity…and no construction work.”

After talking with several neighbors, the school’s headmaster, and a municipal assembly member, an explanation for the project’s shoddy delivery came into focus. In Ghana, assembly leaders are appointed by the national party in power, and party bosses expect assembly officials to fulfill a secondary, unofficial responsibility: stumping for the party in local elections. As Duah put it, “Practically, if you are a politician…and you are not able to push some of this [project] money to support political activities…brother, you can never be reappointed.” Project 12 had all the indications of a community project whose funds had been redirected by government officials for their own ends. “The ambitions of the political parties to make money during their time [in office] is killing us,” Duah lamented.

Force Multiplier
Over the years, numerous watchdog organizations like Duah’s ABAK Foundation have toiled in isolation to try and close gaps between government promises and on-the-ground results, with varying degrees of success. But in the last few months, ABAK Foundation’s efforts have been boosted by joining a regional initiative called iFollowTheMoney, a Pan-African movement that unites the efforts of over 6,000 activists, journalists, legal professionals, and researchers to better track and follow up on aid and government projects.

The movement recognizes that while inclusive development must start at the local level, it is strengthened by the support of a global network of like-minded people. Joining the iFollowTheMoney network gives local organizations access to far greater amplifying power through social media as well as cutting-edge grassroots accountability training developed by iFollowTheMoney’s organizer, Connected Development (CODE).

Founded in Abuja, Nigeria in 2012 by activist Hamzat Lawal, CODE is now a leading African government accountability organization that has tracked over $2 billion in government funding. Its work has spread across Nigeria and to chapters in 10 other African countries, with Ghana its most recent addition.

Citizen’s Guide
In 2022, CODE began a new partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) with the goal of formalizing its unique approach to promoting accountability and accelerating adoption of this approach by civil society groups around the world.

The CIPE-CODE partnership reached its first major milestone with the launch of iFollowTheMoney’s Citizen’s Guide to Making Public Accountability Work on October 25, 2022. The hybrid launch event was held near ABAK’s headquarters in Kumasi, Ghana and attracted over 60 virtual participants and 40 in-person attendees, including 18 representatives of local media.

CODE Chief Executive Lawal, who led the event in person with CODE Programs Manager Uchenna Kingsley Agu, shared how this new step-by-step guide would benefit citizens in marginalized communities and drive greater accountability. “Corruption and mismanagement of public resources stem from opacity, which characterizes public governance in Africa,” said Lawal. “This step-by-step guide essentially teaches citizens how to access information and use [it]…to demand accountability from the government.”

“Perhaps the most important aspect is that it also encourages community mobilization,” Lawal added. “With this guide, communities can rally together and drive the development and provision of basic amenities and essential services in their localities.”

CIPE’s Anti-Corruption & Governance Center Director Frank Brown also spoke at the event. “CODE’s approach initiates a cycle of feedback and follow-up between project implementers and project beneficiaries”, Brown said. “CODE’s social media savvy has brought needed help to isolated communities in just a few days – and sometimes just a few hours – after concentrated bursts of likes and shares spotlight attention on pressing needs and generate responses from authorities”.

The guide, which can be freely accessed online, incorporates case studies, step-by-step tutorials, and a list of free-to-access templates to make implementation easier. By simplifying tricky topics like how to understand government procurement processes and how to fill out a formal Freedom of/Right to Information request, the guide is an essential resource that makes sophisticated government accountability campaigning more accessible to local organizations like ABAK Foundation.

Sharper Strategy
Together, CODE and CIPE are supporting local organizations like ABAK Foundation implement projects that follow the methodology in the new guide. In the first of an anticipated series of incubation grants across Africa over the next year, CIPE has awarded the Kumasi-based organization with funding to run a 4-month campaign to follow government projects in the health and education sectors.

Guided by mentors from CODE, ABAK is changing the way it engages with government officials and community leaders as it implements the new approach. “CODE’s FollowTheMoney approach can require civil society groups like ABAK to change their tone and interaction habits because it doesn’t pre-suppose that anyone is the bad guy,” said CIPE Program Officer Ben Schmidt, who arrived in Kumasi the day after the launch to join meetings with Duah, Agu, and local community and government leaders.

“It encourages respect and collaboration between all relevant stakeholders, whether it be the government official who is responsible, the implementing contractor, or the community leaders,” Schmidt added. “The goal is open communication about what is needed and accomplishing what all the parties want—delivering projects on time and on budget and benefiting the community.”

CODE launches Ewah Eleri Climate Justice Fellowship, selects 5 winners

Communications November 3, 2022 0

Five young Nigerians have emerged as the inaugural fellows of the Ewah Eleri Climate Change Fellowship implemented by Connected Development (CODE), Africa’s leading civil society organization.

The winners were announced at a press briefing held in Abuja on November 1. The fellows are the first cohort of the prestigious fellowship named after the Executive Director of the International Centre for Energy, Environment & Development (ICEED), Ewah Eleri, and will serve as technical advisers to the Nigerian government at the forthcoming United Nations (UN) Conference of the Parties (COP) on Climate Change, holding at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt from 7-18 November 2022

This fellowship will also serve as an opportunity for the fellows to engage signatory governments on plans for nations of the world to jointly address climate change and its impacts. This conference could be a chance to turn the Glasgow outcome into action, through implementing climate change adaptation, mitigation, and financial strategies.

Speaking at the ceremony, the Chief Executive, of CODE, Hamzat Lawal, noted that the COP, stands as the supreme decision-making forum of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and there is a need to empower young leaders who can contribute to solving climate change.

“Leveraging innovation and technology, young people have an advantage and can contribute immensely to solving climate change. This is why we are taking the step to empower young leaders who can shape the very important conversation at COP 27.”

“This is a legacy inspired and named after my mentor, Ewah Eleri. I’m optimistic that it will bear the right fruit,” Lawal said.

On his part, Eleri explained that the initiative was necessary following the hazards experienced in recent times, such as flooding which had destroyed lives and properties as well as rendered thousands of citizens homeless.

According to him, it’s important for Nigeria to begin to convert climate transition to opportunities, build resilience with people through human capacity development and create more awareness of climate justice.

The winners include Gift Olivia Samuel, Seasoned Journalist of The SightNews; Gregory Odogwu, Environmental Columnist at Punch Newspaper; Idowu Esuku – aka Climate Man, A Climate Change musician, and activist; Etta Michael Bisong, Abuja bureau chief EnviroNews Nigeria and bio-diversity advocate; and Hyeladzira Msheila – Climate Change Activist.

Ewah Eleri Climate Justice Fellowship

Communications October 17, 2022 0

Application deadline: October 25th, 2022.

Yearly, the Conference of the Parties (COP) which stands as the supreme decision-making forum of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), brings together signatory governments to thoroughly discuss and agree on how to jointly address climate change and its impacts.

This year, the United Nations Climate Negotiations (COP27) will be held in the city of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt from 7-18 November 2022. This conference will be an avenue to galvanize world leaders, activists, journalists and critical stakeholders to drive the implementation of climate change adaptation, and mitigation.

As such, Connected Development (CODE), Africa’s leading civil society organization is launching a fellowship program (Ewah Eleri Climate Justice Fellowship) that will enable climate activists & campaigners to build networks around the world for climate justice and engage with other activists, campaigners and journalists beyond their countries/regions. It will be a chance to gain hands-on experience at the United Nations Climate Negotiations (COP27) event in Egypt.

CLICK HERE TO APPLY

Over 500 diverse world Leaders; A thrilling experience!

Hyeladzira James Mshelia October 17, 2022 0

A cross-section of Sub-Sahara African Shapers 

I would easily describe the Global Shapers Annual Summit as an immeasurably life-changing moment. This event inspired me in profound ways.

Weeks after, I am still finding the right words to describe how immensely powerful and liberating it was to be amongst over 500 diverse young people from across the Globe.  Let me put it in perspective, under 30 leaders who were Asians, African Americans, Europeans, and Australian were adequately represented under one roof. 

I received an email from the World Economic Forum (WEF) inviting me to attend the Global Shapers Annual Summit in Geneva, Switzerland. After more than two years, WEF opened up the summit for physical participants at the Forum Headquarters. Of course, this was an opportunity for shapers around the world to have a chance to connect, learn and plan to make a difference in the year ahead. 

The summit served as a favourable time for us to develop an understanding of our communities and what they truly stand for. We were also expected to test new ideas, skills and tools to lead change in today’s unique context. Of course, my role at Connected Development as someone who leads and coordinates some campaigns across Nigeria has availed me with numerous opportunities to work directly with marginalized communities  while understanding their context and exploring possible solutions. 

As I sat through the opening plenary at the United Nations building listening to Klaus Schwab Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum speak about the dimensions of leadership and how best these principles can be applied, I swiftly took a glance at the people sitting next to me. It was at that moment I realised that indeed diversity opens up fresh, unexplored avenues of thought and avoids myopic views, which is critical in our world today. 

Diversity is beautiful. Diversity gives us strength. Diversity makes life interesting. Diversity propels us forward. Diversity inspires unity. I could feel the power in the atmosphere. 

Global Shapers bonding during climate-related conversations 

I was born and raised in Nigeria; arguably one of the most diverse countries in the world. Despite colonialism, today, we boast over 500 unique languages and rich cultural heritage. However, We struggle to accept one another. I would rather refer to my neighbour by their tribe or religion. Tribalism has eaten deep into the flesh of Nigerians. Forgetting that we are all Nigerians, and in our differences lies our strength. I could certainly feel the energy. 

I bonded with a number of people on the first day. We spent hours talking about the various challenges we faced in our countries. Particularly, the shaper from Pakistan mentioned how over one-third of his country was underwater. This was a result of increased precipitation and glaciers melting fueled by climate change. Pakistan contributes less than 1% of the global greenhouse gases that warm our planet but its geography makes it extremely vulnerable to climate change. He delved into the root causes of terrorism, which occurs due to a lack of law enforcement, poverty, and unemployment. I could instantly relate because Nigeria is faced with similar challenges and we are working tirelessly at Connected Development to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. We must keep playing a vital role while anticipating the necessary evolution.

Most of us spread across all the continents of the globe are constantly thinking of ways to make impacts. We remain bound together by the desire to facilitate change and that is the epitome of diversity and inclusion. Change-makers from across the world move together as a team, yet spread from pole to pole of the planet earth. 

As the days progressed, I shared the work done by my hub while exploring areas of collaboration and partnerships. The most recent was the Climate reality project incubator which the hub won $3,000 to carry out a Gender-inclusive Plastic Recycling Action within two schools in Abuja, Nigeria. The summit had various breakout sessions under the community’s main impact areas. Areas like Protecting the planet, Creating inclusive communities, Strengthening civic engagement, reskilling for the future, Delivering basic needs and Improving health and well-being.

While we networked, learned, relearned and unlearned, we had tons of fun. We never hesitated to dance or sang during breakout sessions. We spent the night looking for fun activities and most importantly, afro-pop concerts on the heavenly streets of Geneva.

Lf- Natalie Pierce head of Global Shapers Community Rh- Hyeladzira James Mshelia Abuja Global Shaper 

This life-changing experience has deepened my understanding of the importance of diversity. Indeed, a multicultural exchange of ideas reinforces richer ideas, better impact and comprehensive solutions to perhaps, the global challenges we face in our world today.

I am thankful to World Economic Forum for this opportunity that I now hold so dearly to my heart. 

CODE’s Hyeladzira Mshelia selected for Twink Frey Fellowship

Communications September 25, 2022 0

Connected Development (CODE)’s Programs Associate, Hyeladzira Mshelia, has been selected as a visiting social activist for the 2023 Twink Frey Fellowship from hundreds of candidates from across the globe.

Hyeladzira will work on a campaign in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States, to establish a cohesive framework and digital platform to organize and empower 500 Gender Advocates (GA) across Africa to consolidate, collaborate, educate, learn, and participate in local issues impacting them.

The Twink Frey Visiting Social Activist (TFVSA) Program empowers social justice activists each year, whose work impacts women and acknowledges gender equality problems. One of the program’s objectives is to increase the ability and effectiveness of social activists. This will be achieved by providing the TFVSA with the time, place, and resources to work on a project that would not be achievable under the activist’s normal working conditions.

At CODE, Hyeladzira leads campaigns that address issues affecting women and girls including gender-responsive budgeting, girl-child education campaigns, and campaigns to eliminate all forms of violence targeted toward women and girls. She manages Project Sabi and the Gender Advocate Movement in Africa (GAMA). Her activism has focused on Women’s Rights with the goal of achieving the United Nations Sustainable Goal 5: gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

Connected Development (CODE), led by Hamzat Lawal, a global citizen and activist, has been promoting and advocating for open government, improving the government’s implementation of community projects, exposing and combating corruption, and combating extreme poverty in marginalized communities for more than a decade.

The leading civil society organization also invests in its young and vibrant workforce. Through Lawal’s leadership, CODE staff are exposed to an enabling environment that drives them to take on leadership and service opportunities on a global stage. Just recently, Out of 9,000 applicants, Pearl Utuk who works as a Programme Officer with CODE emerged as one of the 56 carefully selected winners of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for the 2022 cohort.

Host Community Development – Chapter (3) of PIA 2021 & Policy Brief

Communications August 29, 2022 26

The Petroleum Industry Act 2021 was passed to remedy the failure of the Petroleum Act, it commercialized the NNPC and established new regulatory agencies. It also aimed to solve the age-old problem of oil-bearing communities being devastated by the activities of oil companies through the establishment of the Host Communities Development Trust (HCDT). The host community development provisions in the Petroleum Industry Act 2021 (PIA) is a well-known topic amongst stakeholders in the Nigerian oil and gas industry. The reason for this is not far fetched as before the PIA, there were no laws imposing host community development obligations on oil and gas companies but chapter 3 of the PIA in S.235 mandates the incorporation of the HCDT which will be a corporate body able to sue and be sued aimed at fostering sustainable prosperity in host communities and encouraging peaceful coexistence between licensees and host communities. It goes on to mandate the contribution of three percent of the total annual expenditure of the ‘settlor’ to the trust. The HCDT is to be established, specifically, to address the developmental needs of the oil-bearing and impacted communities in the region, and while it is commendable, it creates certain challenges. Below are some of the gains and perceived challenges that can arise from the act.

Policy-Brief-print

PIA 2021 &UNGP-NAP

Communications August 29, 2022 26

The UNGP provides a framework for companies to report on their human rights record while chapter 3 of the PIA mandates it. The PIA by its provisions is complementary to the principles of the UNGP and although the development and implementation of the National Action Plan have been slow, the passage of the PIA and its eventual implementation will go a long way in influencing human rights records within the industry. 

Policy-Brief-Update