Leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa Look at Regional Governance and Best Practices

Engaging in thoughtful discussion and building bridges between stakeholders from seven sub-Saharan African countries, more than 120 people attended the “Africa Regional Governance and Best Practices Conference” hosted by IRI from July 30-August 1, 2013.  The conference brought together local, state and national government officials, civil society practitioners and international donors from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan and Uganda. 

The conference stimulated discussion about sub-national governance, focusing particularly on a range of the practices highlighted in IRI’s publication,Best Practices in Democratic Governance in Africa.  Sessions were organized around the chapters of the manual – Participatory Governance, Service-Oriented Government, Transparency and Accountability and Local Government Association Networks – and highlighted practices such as local government scorecards, performance contracts and public forums to better hold governments accountable and improve communication and interaction between government officials and citizens. 

Participants engaged with government officials and civil society members, including Samson Machuka, director of Kenya’s Ministry of Devolution and Planning, who have actively engaged in the implementation of Kenya’s devolution process which began in March 2013.  Conference delegates also heard from a number of civil society organizations about their role in improving governance on the local level.  Decentralization of decision-making was a key theme throughout the conference; panelists and participants alike highlighted its importance in improving governance and service delivery.

The Honorable Robert F. Godec, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya and Karen Freeman, the U.S. Agency for International Development mission director in Kenya, both spoke on behalf of the United States, stressing the importance of engaging all stakeholders to build and strengthen democracy and reaffirming the United States’ interest and dedication to supporting all those who desire deeper, more effective democracy in their countries.  Ambassador Godec emphasized that improving democracy and governance in Africa is critical for the future of the continent and will do more than any other aid program.   

Governors, as chief executive officers, are responsible for the provision of services and overall development of their state or county.  As such, IRI invited governors from three countries to detail the challenges and opportunities they have faced when governing in their respective countries.  Deputy Governor Hazel Nyamoki Katana, from Mombasa County, Kenya; Governor Sospeter Ojaamong, from  Busia County, Kenya; Governor T.H. Dado, from Tana River County, Kenya; Governor Kayode Fayemi, from Ekiti State, Nigeria; and, Governor Joseph Bakosoro, from Western Equatoria State, South Sudan all gave keynote addresses during the conference.  Many of the governors noted that democracy and governance does not improve overnight, as it is a process that takes commitment from both government and citizens.      

IRI’s Africa Regional Governance and Best Practices Conference was funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.  Around the world, IRI conducts democratic governance programs, working alongside political and government actors, citizens and civil society, to bring government closer to citizens, transforming government into a responsive, transparent and effective institution.  IRI works to build the capacity of civil society organizations and government officials throughout sub-Saharan Africa in order to generate more accessible, accountable and effective state and local governments.

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