Photo credit: DFAT

Rethinking social accountability in Africa: lessons from the Mwananchi Programme

Despite economic progress in Africa, rising inequality is slowing the rate at which growth delivers better services to poor people. After millions of dollars of donor investment, ordinary citizens across the continent are still missing opportunities to hold their governments to account in a consistent and meaningful way.

This report draws on five years’ of lessons and case studies from implementing the Mwananchi Programme  in six African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia. It argues that there are three major problems with the way social accountability initiatives are designed and implemented:

  • Failure to engage with the with incentives at the heart of collective action problems
  • Theories of change that fail to take advantage of learning by doing
  • Generic support to ‘cookie cutter’ agents of change, rather than first identifying the right process to create change

To combat these challenges, the report proposes a focus on context-specific processes, or ‘interlocution processes’, by which selected actors, or interlocutors, can orchestrate changes in citizen-state relations at various levels and a retreat from standardised tools which fail to produce the right results in different contexts. The report seeks to provide answers to the question ‘how can social accountability projects enhance citizen engagement to deliver pro-poor policy and practice changes in Africa?’

Download the executive summary, visual summary, or the full report.

Find out more about the Mwananchi Programme.

Photo Credit: UN Women

Listen to voices from the Mwananchi Programme

The Mwananchi Programme is coming to a close after five years implementing social accountability programmes in six African countries. Listen to our national coordinators describe what they see as the key successes and challenges of the projects in each country, and what they learnt from working with partners across the African continent.

Listen here.

Photo credit: Lindsay Mgbor/DFID

Rethinking social accountability in Africa: report launch

Thursday 12 September, 12-3pm: Auditorium J1-050, World Bank J Building, 18th Street and Pennslyvania Ave, NW Washington DC

​Despite evident economic progress in Africa, inequality is slowing the rate at which growth delivers better services to poor people. This event launches the report ‘Rethinking social accountability in Africa: lessons from the Mwananchi Programme’. RSVP to

Based on five years of lessons and case studies from implementing the Mwananchi Programme across six African countries, the report argues there are three major problems with the way social accountability projects are designed and carried out: failure to engage with incentives at the heart of collective action problems; non-evolving theories of change that fail to take advantage of learning by doing; and generic support to text-book agents of change, without identifying the best partner for each context.

The report proposes that in order to transform citizen-state relationships in favour of the poor, we need a through understanding of local dynamics and incentives, in order to build relationships based on trust.


 Roby Senderowitsch, Program Manager, Global Partnership for Social Accountability, The World Bank


Fletcher Tembo, Research Associate, Overseas Development Institute (report author)

Jeff Thindwa, Manager, World Bank Institute Social Governance

Derrick Brinkerhoff, Distinguished Fellow, International Public Management, RTI International

A light lunch will be served before the presentations begin.

Follow #citizenvoice


The Governance and Transparency Fund series

The Mwananchi Programme is a member of the Govenance and Trasparency Fund event series, in which different Governance and Transparency Fund grantees present their experiences implementing their projects and discuss what they have learnt about the different aspects of governance and accountability programming.

Events in the series include:

Mwananchi - Demand-side governance: are we overstating the claims on social accountability? 21 March 2012

Oxfam - Making women’s voices count: from participation to power - 17 May 2012

Christian Aid - Value for money and effectiveness in voice and accountability programming: complementary practice or uneasy bedfellows? - 18 July 2012 

BBC Media Action - The role of media in improved transparency and accoutability – towards a consistent and compelling evidence base - 26 September 2012

WaterAid - Ensuring the sustainability governance programmes and their impact over time: international actors as problem – and solution? - 28 February 2013

World Conservation Society / Global Witness – to be confirmed

Later in 2013 we will present a summary report of the series.

Other events planned for this year:

Febuary/March – each Mwananchi focus country is holding a national learning event, to explore what our partners have discovered during the five year programme. 

May – pan-African learning event (location to be confirmed).

July – international end-of-programme event, to be held at ODI in London.

Photo credit: Department for International Development

Update: President of Malawi promises to construct district hospital in Phalombe

Phalombe hospital

A few weeks ago, a blog from our partner in Malawi explore the problem of access to healthcare in Phalombe, a district of Malawi.

Local people had been waiting for the promised construction of a district hospital for three years, during which time, citizens have repeated held meetings and indabas (forums) to call on local and national government to construct the hospital.

Since screening a documentary exploring the health care situation in Phalombe, as well as other issues beign tackled by the Mwananchi partners in Malawi, on national television on 18th July. The documentary was due to run again on the 1st August but was blocked by politicians from Phalombe.

However, the President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, saw the documentary and after clarifying the situation, promised in a rally the following day to ensure the local hospital would be constructed.


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