Capitalizing to innovate
07 / 2002
When the RITE (International Meeting of the Dph Network) took place in Abidjan (1999), its organizers had probably thought that it would promote Dph in Africa. Indeed, the continent wasn’t very present in Dph database and the reports written by Africans very few (6
). The bet was then to encourage the Africans to talk about themselves, to say what they were doing, why and how they were doing it. Indeed, behind the RITE, we have been given the responsability of the realisation and the management of an African Center of Resources and an african Dph database (IFRIKIYYA). My function: be the keeper of our collective memory and spread the information, tasks that I have often shared with Fran oise Feugas*, in charge with the central database.
We have been the "remote" prime movers in this process, working out (by means of Internet and of the telephone and with the help of other networks) major events like Africit’ and The Global Assembly of the Inhabitants of Mexico city in 2000, the African Meeting of the Alliance in Dar Es èalam (Tanzania), the Lille International Assembly (France) in 2001 and the two held by the network "Governance in Africa" (Bamako (Mali) in july 2001, Dapaong (Togo) in november 2001, Banjul (Gambia) in march 2002). Before such meetings, we have the responsability to urge the members of the networks to write Dph reports. Then (in accordance with the authors’ wishes) we revise and publish them. èeveral workshops have also been set up in order to provide a methodological support to the networks: in Burundi in 2000, in Burkina Faso, Mali and Gambia in 2001.
Nevertheless, producing reports cannot be an end in itself. One of the interests of the process is to draw from them an acurate transversal analysis. During several meetings, we have therefore supervised both the transversal analysis of the experiences and the production of documents: the African Charter at the close of the Interafrican Assembly of Inhabitants, the African Caravan at the close of the Refundation Meeting, the network Governance at the close of the Bamako Workshop.
It is now time to confront the various experiences coming from both the Dph reports written during the meetings, and the Ifrikiyya and Dph database. It is now time to draw common themes and lessons from them all.
At last, the information goes round
What about breaking the walls... African actors often work in the same field without sharing what they know. We have decided to bring them together and teach them dialogue. It also is a matter of breaking the "ghetto" in which the actors who are working in the field are clad in. In order to fulfil that task, we may deliver useful information to them on time so that they might adapt their activities. We are talking about political information in particular: continental measures initiated in Africa by the african states (Omega Plan, Millenium African Plan, New African Initiative - Nepad); or important international events (World Assembly of Citizens in Lille, World èocial Forum in Porto Alegre). Today, we are debating on Internet about those policies and their consequences on the african people. A group dedicated to the New African Initiative has been constituted in southern Africa (South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia). We, of course, put all the data we have gathered at their disposal.
The great efforts we have been making for several years now seem, at last, to bear fruit: more and more Africans write their personal experience in Dph reports, documents are being produced and the network has begun to take up the Dph method.
The Dph database is a most valuable tool. Indeed, in Africa, it allowed some of us to influence democracy. In Mali, for example, a major innovation is being developped: the "space for community questioning". This initiative has been inspired by the experiences contained into the Dph database: see "Space for democratic questioning", published in Dph letter number 37, and the reports dealing with the participative budget. èome actors of the network Governance have crossed these two experiences and imagined to promote the creation of places where local councillors along with citizens might meet and discuss the problems of their district.
In Benin, where the governement has launched a process of decentralization, the members of ASSODIV, by collecting similar experiences in other countries (in Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso), are developing training modules for the councillors and the local population. They mean to follow the teachings of past experiences to anticipate and avoid the reefs.
The peul people say: "A dancer without public looks like a fool. When the applause break out, he becomes a master." An organizer cannot do anything valuable without involved actors. All that work has been possible thanks to the networks, highly motivated and interested in sharing their experience.
To complete that analysis, see: "La longue histoire du partenariat de Dph en Afrique", a Dph report by Vladimir Ugarte, may 2000, Dph website http://www.webdph.net (menu "Echanges/Dépôts et Retraits").
*Françoise Feugas and I have soon been aware that cultural complementarity was essential in the workshops we held together (in Lom’ (Togo), Windhoek (Namibia) and Bujumbura (Burundi)). Indeed, if I seem to be providing some kind of an "african touch" made of patience and compromise (along with some loss of time), she is the one who makes "Cartesianism" intervene through the use of direct speech to make things move forward. This cultural duality allowed us to produce the three above mentionned documents...
Interafrican Resource Center - BP 19347 Guediawaye, Senegal - Tel/Fax: + 221 837 12 10 - - Senegal - sidiki.daff (@) sentoo.sn