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Rethinking social accountability in Africa: lessons from the Mwananchi Programme

Research reports

Written by Fletcher Tembo

Despite economic progress in Africa, rising inequality is slowing the rate at which growth delivers better services to poor people. After millions of dollars of donor investment, ordinary citizens across the continent are still missing opportunities to hold their governments to account in a consistent and meaningful way.

This report draws on five years' of lessons and case studies from implementing the Mwananchi Governance and Transparency Programme in six African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia. It argues that there are three major problems with the way social accountability initiatives are designed and implemented:

Failure to engage with the incentives at the heart of collective-action problems. Theories of change that fail to take advantage of learning by doing. Generic support to 'cookie-cutter' agents of change, rather than first identifying the right process to create change.

To combat these challenges, the report proposes a focus on context-specific processes, or 'interlocution processes', by which selected actors, or interlocutors, can orchestrate changes in citizen-state relations at various levels and a retreat from standardised tools which fail to produce the right results in different contexts. The report seeks to provide answers to the question 'how can social accountability projects enhance citizen engagement to deliver pro-poor policy and practice changes in Africa?'

Download the executive summary, visual summary, or the full report below. Find out more about the Mwananchi Programme.

Fletcher Tembo