ICTs, Films for Accountability and Network-Building in Dakar
The Lab’s Country Representative for Liberia, Lawrence Yealue, reflects on a recent visit to Dakar, Senegal.
Shortly after I submitted a proposal to OpenSocietic (a joint venture of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa and CTIC – Dakar) on behalf of the Accountability Lab, I received an e-mail message requesting that I travel to Senegal for a workshop and the opportunity to pitch the grant in person (we were one of just 11 projects selected from 110 applicants).
In late June I departed a wet and rainy Monrovia aboard Gambia Bird Airlines, Liberia for Dakar,on the edges of the Sahara Desert. I landed in Dakar later that night and was warmly received by the local team from CTIC Dakar and taken to the wonderful Ganale Hotel. I needed a good night’s rest as the next day I was to discuss our proposal and represent the Lab at the Technology for Good Governance Forum at the French Institute of Dakar.
Less than 24 hours after arriving in Dakar, I found myself before a six person panel, where I pitched the Lab’s Accountability Film School and fielded a round of intense questions. That evening, CTIC convened the Technology for Good Governance Forum. The winning proposals were announced and several start-ups from across West Africa received a $10,000 grant. Various Senegalese Ministers and Embassy officials were among the 600+ individuals attending the event. I heard presentations from Cyriac Gbogou, the President of the Association of Ivorian Bloggers, Senegalese Newscaster/Rappers from Journal Rappe, and remarks from Stanley Achonu, the COO of BudgIT, a Nigerian budget transparency initiative. Key personal highlights of the conference included:
- Discussions with lots of creative youth from across West Africa. The Lab is building its network in the region in order to leverage its high-impact, low-cost approach for greater results. Events like this allow us to build the necessary contacts to facilitate that mission. Among others, I made great connections with entrepreneurs from Niger and the Ivory Coast which we will build upon.
- The event convened an extremely talented, highly motivated group. I saw a lot of passion, creativity, and potential. Working in Liberia, I often encounter many challenges and conditions out of my control that can undermine my optimism about the transition the Lab is making. Events like this provide me with inspiration and the desire to continue to always give my all to the accountability agenda.
- I represent the Lab publically in numerous capacities- I participate in a range of Steering Committees, Networks, and Partnerships. I am regularly invited to speak at public events in Liberia focusing on accountability, corruption, and transparency. However, opportunities to engage with fellow West Africans are much less common. The creative ideas that I was exposed to play an important role in catalyzing new innovation, learning new best practices, and observing the methods that have been used by others to overcome challenges similar to those the Lab addresses in Liberia.
The trip to Dakar was both eye-opening and mind-expanding. Too often West Africa is the subject of negative headlines and false perceptions. The reality is that there is a generation of young people who are committed to positive change, technologically savvy and networked-together more than ever before. I’m looking forward to leading this generation to make our societies more fair, equal and accountable.