Wed, Sep 25, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Grassroot revolution in West Africa led by ‘factivists,’ NGOs and innovators

Ghana is said to be one of the ‘lions’ of sub-Saharan Africa with the discovery of offshore oil, but the excitement is in the creation of a civil society demanding openness and democracy

By Tim Adams  /  The Observer, Accra

Herman Chinery-Hesse, widely known as the Bill Gates of Accra, has developed a cheap and transparent payroll platform, democratizing accounting, and is working on a security network for poor neighborhoods that uses the spare capacity of private security firms allied to a network of friends and family.

An organization called MoTech sends voice messages to pregnant women in remote rural areas, particularly in the largely impoverished north of Ghana, reducing the necessity and cost of women to travel to clinics, and providing advice in their local language that reduces the still alarming rates of maternal mortality. The project was set up by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but is engaged with mobile companies who provide the service for free, and win the loyalty of whole communities in return.

Others point to the growth of platforms such as and WhereMyMoneyDey? which are creating an ever-growing network of whistleblowers across the continent, or to GCNet, which crowdsources instances of corruption at ports in Ghana with great success.

These are all small steps toward a more robust and open democracy in a country like Ghana, but taken together they perhaps begin to spread not only a notion of accountability, but a spirit of engagement.

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