Tanzanian initiatives don’t make the New York Times too often. So when Bono mentions an NGO initiative such as Twaweza and it gets blogged here and there and eventually works its way back to me in Tanzania…. I start to think. The first thing that comes to mind is that I’d rather see Profesa Jay bigging up Twaweza in the Tanzanian press than Bono in the US press.
Fr. Bono, in his end of year homily, tells us of pyramids of power being turned upside down; of new technologies emancipating the down trodden. His only evidence?
for example, Twaweza, a citizen’s organization, is spreading across East Africa, helping people hold local officials accountable for managing budgets and delivering services. (Twaweza is Swahili for “we can make it happen.”)
So what work is that exactly? Visit the Twaweza page* on the Hivos website (one of their funders) and you’ll see outlines of work on improving “water point functionality” in Tanzania in cooperation with Daraja, “deepening dialogue about public accountability” in Kenya, literacy and numeracy assessment across East Africa and some TV spots.
Clicking through the Daraja link on water points and I can’t find anything solid on how Twaweza helps to:
a) share information about water point functionality to the public in accessible formats, primarily through the media and b) enable citizens to update functionality information in real time via SMS, and c) analyze and publicize responsiveness of government to citizen notification.
The work in Kenya on public accountability is via the Zinduko Trust. Click on the link yourself and check the information available.
No information is available on the Twaweza page on any on the “ ‘citizen movement based’ literacy initiative that is Uwezo”, though a quick google gives some a little info from other sources.
And I’ve yet to see the TV spots. But then, I don’t have a TV.
None of the above is a criticism of Daraja, the Zinduko Trust or the Uwezo initiative. But it is a criticism of Twaweza allowing hype to overcome reality and a criticism of Bono for not taking East Africa seriously. How Bono came to name check Twaweza in the NYT is anyone’s guess. But it leaves Twaweza and its partners exposed (even Bono, indeed) if there isn’t easily available evidence of how Twaweza is doing what Bono says it does.
What Twaweza wants to do is positive and deserves support. But if it comes off, it willl take time and patience.
Disclosure: I occasionally collect an allowance from Hivos.
*Update Feb 11 09: Twaweza have a new website to be found here.
Chuck D and Flava Flav