MINISTER LUGOLOOBI ROOTS FOR CITIZENS’ ENGAGEMENT AS AU DATA-CIPATION PROGRAM TEAM CONSULTS UGANDANS
By Samuel Kamugisha
State Minister for Planning, Amos Lugoloobi, has emphasized the need to engage all citizens if Uganda and Africa are to meet their development ambitions. On Wednesday, Minister Lugoloobi welcomed and held consultations with the AUDA-NEPAD Team to Uganda. Through the Data-Cipation (Data and Participation) Project, AUDA-NEPAD seeks to enhance use of data, digital and non digital approaches to empower citizens and deepen engagement on African Union (AU) affairs. The team, which is in the country to undertake consultations on Data-Cipation Program and Citizen Engagement, is expected to hold meetings with various stakeholders from Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Local Governments (LGs), Civil Society, and private sector players, among other stakeholders. Uganda is one of the 10 countries which have been chosen to pilot the implementation of the three-year project which began last year and will end in the 2023-24 Financial Year.
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According to Richard Ssewakiryanga, a Consultant with AUDA-NEPAD, and also senior research fellow at the Center for Basic Research, the African Development Agency has developed a handbook on citizens’ engagement among AU members. Ssewakiryanga, who was part of the team that developed the handbook, noted that it would be customized at member state level. He went on to note that the tool offers methodologies for measuring insights and perceptions.
He further observed that Uganda has the opportunity and can benefit better because it has done “quite a bit of work around citizens’ engagement” such as under the Poverty Eradication Plan. He also emphasized the role of ICTs in citizens’ engagement, noting that digital tools would go a long way in facilitating citizens’ engagement.
Jacob Gyamfi-Aido from the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) explained that the citizens’ engagement program is meant to foster engagement with the view of boosting development, starting at national level, and heading to the desired African dream. Gyamfi-Aidoo also noted that the idea of citizens’ engagement at local level is akin to a process where the beneficiaries participate in the decision making and implementation of projects. It is such a process that calls for the development of tools to engage better, create together and come up with what meets aspirations, so that people can create solutions. He also talked of integrating data in the participation. APRM’s Gyamfi-Aidoo also noted that technology was not the only tool but one of those to be used. His colleague Dr Gideon Nimako likened citizens’ engagement to the bottom-up approach to development.
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On his part, Minister Lugoloobi called for engagements at national and continental level, saying these would go a long way in awakening Africa, which he described as a sleeping giant. He noted that due to lack of engagement across the continent, Africa was being exploited by selling tons of agricultural produce and minerals only for these to be returned in finished form at high prices.
“When we create a platform like this, we should be able to discuss, why are we so resource-rich gifted by nature but suffering from poverty. So, we should be able to engage, because where there is no engagement, they sit there and say ‘you guys are just there sitting in offices, putting on ties, doing nothing, you’re so useless, get out of those offices.’ Then they get voted into those offices and do nothing,” said Lugoloobi.
“I think both sides need to talk with another so that we come up with a hybrid of what we really need to do regarding our country. It should not be stopping within countries but across countries we should have this inter-governmental engagement within the regional trading blocs and within the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. We should be able to engage why you should not buy my roasted coffee and you prefer to buy it from abroad and why we cannot put a protective tax regime on imported coffees in order to protect our own. We should engage on all these things.”
He also called on experts to put in place tools that target the grassroots. Lugoloobi noted that most of the engagement tools available are sophisticated, leaving out a significant number of people whose lack of enabling devices makes it difficult for them to access the critical information. Noting that active participation of all people is important in inclusive growth efforts, Lugoloobi called for solutions that engage those who are not online as well as those who are online but not engaged in development initiatives.
The Minister also emphasized the centrality of Agenda 2063 and how the Data-Cipation Program would be a great enabler of this development plan. At their 50th anniversary meeting in 2013, AU Heads of State adopted the transformative Agenda 2063. The Agenda has seven aspirations and 20 goals aimed at continental prosperity and peace.
“The development of tools that focus on tracking the progress of Agenda 2063 is important as it will help the country keep track of its targets and commitments towards achieving the targets of the country and the continent. We are looking at ourselves in the context of Africa as we plan,” said Lugoloobi.
Lugoloobi further noted that the AUDA-NEPAD Data Cipation Project would enhance the use of data, digital and non-digital tools to empower citizens to contribute to the shaping of AU programs and innovations; strengthen engagements among AU agencies, member states and citizens by leveraging data, digital and non-digital approaches; provide easy-to-communicate insights and information on the implementation progress of AU frameworks; and strengthen regional innovation ecosystem through the facilitation of an AU Innovation Lab for harnessing regional value chains of goods and services. (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 0200900416 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).