State of Access to Information in Africa 2017

Posted in Blog

ODAC are exceptionally excited to launch our latest research on the state of access to information in Africa.

In 2016 UNESCO officially adopted 28 September as the International Day for Universal Access to Information. The Day was adopted after intense lobbying by ODAC and the other members of the African Platform on Access to Information Working Group. To mark the Day in 2017, and to reflect on developments in the state of access to information in Africa, this study has been launched as a development on a 2014 study done on a similar methodology.

And some of the results are fascinating. The study covers twelve countries: Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Using the African Model Law we were able to develop a methodology for reviewing access to information laws. South Africa's law for instance received a reasonable 78%, which is unsurprising given how it has traditionally been lauded as a strong law. However, Malawi's new law received a 77%. It is worth noting then that – except for South Africa – the top three scoring African laws (Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania) all come into being after the AU Model Law, with the bottom four scoring laws (Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe) all coming into being prior to the AU Model Law being drafted.

And, as we know, the strength of a law is not enough to ensure that access to information is a reality. The existence of an ATI law is a necessary, but insufficient, step for ensuring a positive access to information environment. Problems with the implementation of ATI laws often cited a lack of awareness of the laws, and weak political will for implementation, as key inhibitors. Both of these factors highlight the important role ATI activists must play in developing the positive discourse around ATI to both encourage users, as well as bureaucratic and administrative actors.

There is also generally a very weak implementation of proactive disclosure, and low levels of utilisation of Internet and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to facilitate access. Both of these indicators make the reality of open government data, in particular, a problematic area on the continent. Proactive disclosure and open data are vital avenues for access – particularly when we consider the non-existence or weakness of laws, coupled with discriminatory access practices.

A further identified trend is that not a single country cited a practice in the domestic contexts that demonstrated a presumption of openness. While some countries have laws, which provide such a presumption – practice does not correspond with this obligation.

So, how best might you be able to use this report?

  • Each country comes with a one page summary for easy circulation.
  • Each country also has a slightly longer detailed analysis.
  • The report as a whole can be read as a snapshot of the access to information environment.
  • There is also some trends analysis over the twelve countries considered together.

You can download the report here.

An example of the South African summary can be seen below: