As the economies of many African nations fall back into bad habits, Kenya’s government has decided to fight back. Kenya has become the first African nation to publish detailed government spending plans on the Web in an effort to fight persistent corruption. East Africa’s foremost economy, which intends to be a center for information and technology innovation, anticipates the data to improve financial transparency for citizens, lenders and investors.
“It will be particularly useful to policy makers and business persons who require timely and accurate information in formulating policies and making business decisions,” President Mwai Kibaki said, upon launching the site www.opendata.go.ke.
“I also call upon Kenyans to use this government portal to enhance accountability and improve governance in our country. Reliable and timely data is the basis for determining whether government is delivering services effectively and accountably.”
According to Kibaki, the country’s information, communication and technology sector is expanding at about 20% annually. The web site will offer information ranging from the national census to government budgets. Graphs and maps will show, for example, how much is apportioned to education and health facilities around the country, allowing for easy examination and evaluations between regions. Such financial information about the government was not as easily accessible before now. In a process hindered by bureaucracy, those seeking the information had to get approval from authorities or buy it from the government printer.
“This is the first open government portal in Africa, making Kenya one of the world’s leading exemplars of open data … better enhancing transparency and accountability in government operations,” said Johannes Zutt, World Bank country director for Kenya.
The data is taken from key sectors including planning, education, health, finance and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics on population. Kenya fell down the grades of Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index last year, falling to 154 out of 178 countries. The Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) has said graft and misappropriation of government funds consume up to 40% of gross domestic product. Several departments have been involved in corruption scandals, with some ministers facing graft charges, but none have been convicted so far.
This transparency is all well and good, however, reflecting policy misperception and investors’ receding confidence, four prominent regional currencies – Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania’s shillings and Ghana’s cedi – have all hit record lows against the dollar this year. By contrast, South Africa’s rand, a deeply traded emerging market currency rather than a more exotic “frontier” unit, is at a four-year high. With an election impending next year, the central bank has undervalued the impact of soaring world fuel and food prices, even cutting interest rates in January in the face of accelerating inflation. It has since overturned the change, but the damage has been done. Together with its selling of shillings to build reserves, investors’ already slim trust in the currency has vanished.
“Africa now is an international attraction. If we do not continue to develop our skills, we could well find someone asleep at the wheel,” said Roy Daniels, head of trading for Africa at Rand Merchant Bank in Johannesburg.
Kate Croston is a freelance writer, holds a bachelors degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. She writes guest posts for different sites and loves contributing high speed internet service related topics. Questions or comments can be sent to: katecroston.croston09 @ gmail.com.