Here is what we did in 2018 | Annual Report

What is active citizenship? By one of several definitions, “an active citizen is someone who cares about their community enough to change it.”

At Twaweza we defined an active citizen as one who seeks and engages with information, speaks out based on the insights and acts to make change happen. During our most recent four-year strategy that ended in December 2018, we set out to promote and make a measurable contribution to active citizenship, responsive authorities and children learning basic literacy and numeracy skills. It is good to ask how we did on these dimensions, but especially on the intangible but crucial one of catalyzing change-creating active citizenship. 

This question is salient because the conditions that support or encourage active citizenship have continued to evaporate. The headwinds of shrinking civic space grew stronger in 2018 as governments intensified the legislative and administrative restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly. To be concrete, the governments of Uganda and Tanzania made almost impossible for politicians to hold rallies and communicate alternative political views. The publication of independent statistical information in Tanzania was outlawed. Ordinary Ugandans’ access to social media was made more expensive by being taxed.

In the face of this toughening climate, which has directly affected our work, especially in Tanzania, we worked even harder to remain true to our mission of promoting basic learning, as well as open, inclusive and accountable government. This report gives a comprehensive account of our activities, our achievements, as well as the challenges we encountered and the lessons we drew. The following highlights are worth noting: 

In our basic education domain, we completed a learning assessment of over 45,000 children in 32 districts of Uganda. Unfortunately the learning assessment in Tanzania did not happen as planned. New, largely informal guidelines requiring that the assessment be endorsed by the ministry of education have proved difficult to navigate amid uncertainty as to who makes the final decisions. The validation of some positive deviance results has also suffered delays for similar reasons.

By contrast, the KiuFunza teacher motivation initiative received the necessary support from government, including endorsement of the overall design and assignment of school quality assurance inspectors to help implement the scale up using government systems starting in 2019. And after some initial official skepticism, our curriculum analysis gained new and enthusiastic friends among the national curriculum specialists in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

In our open government domain, Sauti za Wananchi further cemented its relevance, utility, and controversy. In Uganda, high-level government officials continued to participate in our launches and noted that the poll data is used in their citizen dialogue meetings (barazas), while Kenya’s county governments sought to understand better how such citizens voices can be used to shape sub-national policy priorities.

However, the main Sauti za Wananchi story for 2018 is the strong reaction from the government of Tanzania to our annual political approval poll. Following the release of two briefs in July which included the participation of the ruling party spokesperson but showed negative views about the administration, we encountered a number of legal and administrative challenges to the extent that we were unable to release any further data in 2018. Indeed, amendments to the country’s Statistics Act 2015 were enacted requiring prior approval for the publication of any and all statistical information. We navigated the terrain, continuing to engage constructively and carefully with government and media to ensure that this important work is allowed to continue.

In 2018 we got engaged in a number of legal challenges against restrictive laws or actions in Tanzania. We supported a precedent-setting case to defend a young activist from malicious charges. Separately, we contributed resources and analysis to a case challenging the online content regulations implemented early in the year and which we had previously worked to amend through engagement. The results have been mixed. The first one resulted in a victory while the second, despite yielding some rhetorical victories was ultimately not successful.

Three separate assessments of our operational and financial systems were carried out during the year. We passed all of them with flying colours. One named Twaweza an ‘exemplary’ organization. Our financial audit for 2017 returned a 100% clean result, an achievement which we repeated for 2018. Our stewardship of the significant resources with which we are entrusted continues to be well above reproach.

At the core of Twaweza’s purpose is to promote, support and catalyse active citizenship. We have often done this at arms’ length by working through media, academic, community and other partnerships. 2018 was substantively different. We rolled up our personal and collective sleeves, got stuck in more and showed that we care enough about our community to make every effort change it. If a price has been paid for such active citizenship, it has been more than worth it.


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