ENGAGING POLICY-MAKERS AND REGULATORS IN AFRICA - THE CATIA EXPERIENCE

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For the past three years the Catalysing Access to ICTs in Africa programme (CATIA) has worked towards strengthening the context for the vibrant adoption and use of ICTs in Africa. The programme has been set up with nine components, each with its particular advocacy aim, in countries as diverse as Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Senegal.

CATIA has shown that one of the most effective ways to have an impact on the ICT policy landscape in Africa is by collaborating in multi-stakeholder processes, where experiences, perspectives and resources can be shared, and a common agenda shaped.

Equally important, however, is how advocates engage policy-makers and regulators. These experiences have been documented in an article entitled 'checks and balances', which can be downloaded off the CATIA website (www.catia.ws).

Some of the key findings are:

- The distinction between policy-makers and regulators is not clearly felt in some countries in Africa. Reasons include a lack of 'checks and balances' or political instability, amongst them. Even in liberalised environments, such as Kenya or South Africa, the independence of a regulator can be challenged by the state;

- Policy-makers and regulators are key to any ICT policy advocacy process. However, having a policy influence may mean targeting influential officials in government who may not be policy-makers or regulators themselves;

- The direct involvement of policy-makers and regulators in activities is an important way of ensuring the sustainability of advocacy initiatives. Advocates need to provide policy and regulatory officials with a sense of buy-in and confidence in their work. Advocates need to demonstrate that they are serious;

- Developing informal relationships are often more effective than formal engagements;

- Advocates need to nurture a culture of 'honest brokerage' so that their work can be trusted in a policy development environment where there are many competing interests.