‘Takwimu was created to offer solution to Africa’s data challenges’

Onyebuchi Ajufo is the group head of client service, Africa Practice. In this interview with JOSEPHINE OKOJIE, she spoke about Takwimu Africa and how broader participation in development policy and programming can be stimulated using the open data platform. Excerpts:

Could you please tell us about your organisation?

Africa Practice is an Africa-focused strategic advisory firm operating at the intersect of industry and government. We combine insights and advocacy to enable our clients to navigate complex stakeholder ecosystems and lead with confidence, because we believe sustainable performance depends on managing political and policy risk, building trust and delivering social and economic impact.

What is Takwimu all about?

Takwimu was developed to provide African development champions and storytellers with the best analysis and data available, supporting their work to educate, influence and advocate for change in their communities.

It is a new African development data platform providing users with expert analysis of the key stakeholders, decision processes, policies, organisations and budgets that are driving development outcomes. The free platform combines this information with access to a growing body of national and sub-national statistics in the health, agriculture, education and financial inclusion sectors in Burkina Faso, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Senegal and Uganda.

Why was the platform developed?

The challenge of uneven access to reliable, consistent data on human development indicators inevitably affects the effectiveness of human development actors both here in Nigeria as well as across the continent. It reduces these actors’ capacity to improve the quality of lives of millions of Africans. This is one of the problems Takwimu was created to offer a solution to. The other was the nature of the data. We didn’t just want to provide data, we wanted to provide actionable insights, to make it much easier for development champions and storytellers to find, download, share and reuse high quality analysis and data visuals to strengthen a proposal, champion a cause or advocate for change.

There is often no single, objective source of truth on development indicators, especially at sub-national level, so it takes time, resources and effort to chase down the information required. Most international or other ‘apex’ organisations have no trouble accessing and using the data they need, whilst others, especially smaller or younger organisations face challenges and end up effectively locked out of the debate.

Who are those behind this new data platform and how do people have access to it?

Takwimu is an initiative by Africa Practice, in collaboration with Code for Africa, the continent’s largest federation of indigenous civic technology and open data laboratories. CfA manages key digital democracy resources such as the data portal and; iHub, an African support system, founded in 2010, for ICT focused tech entrepreneurs and individuals. Takwimu is underwritten by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

A lot of emphases were made on African development; can you speak more on this, especifically as it relates to Nigeria?

Africa’s development is crucial to the world’s shared progress, but the continent’s development indices have been far from positive. A data-driven approach to policymaking and policy advocacy de-risks ambitious reforms, enables rapid scale-up of successful programmes and ensures positive impact is sustainable. But data alone cannot drive change. Understanding the political and economic context of the unique markets is the first step in the process of development. Data needs to be interpreted in a local context to be meaningful – and combined with relevant analysis to have impact. Data visuals that combine quality data with succinct analysis are a powerful means to support a position or influence a debate or process.

Nigeria is Africa’s second largest economy by GDP and remains a critical player on the continent. With a population of circa 200 million people and its current rankings on the human development index, it is clear that getting it right in Nigeria will make a huge difference in Africa’s current statistics. If we can address the data deficit and democratise access to actionable data, we would have taken a right first step in the journey to progress. This is the foundation for well-designed interventions that have the power to yield powerful stories of transformation.

How do you see the acceptance and future of Takwimu across Africa?

Takwimu is easy to use and the data is easy to understand. Information is split by country and topic, giving users the ease of access and convenience to search by their interests. Our analysts have been careful to present information in simple, easy-to-understand terms.

Users gain access to data-rich, analytical country profiles shedding light on human development in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Because we plan to offer the platform in English, French, Amharic and Swahili, this means that development champions who speak different language across the continent can leverage the insights the platform gives, thereby broadening its potential for adoption, and impact. In addition, the platform provides interactive high-quality visuals making it easier for local development champions and storytellers who need to find, download, share and reuse high-quality data-visuals in their own materials. We hope that by opening out access in this way, Takwimu will help to stimulate broader participation, especially among local drivers of Africa’s development.

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