Fostering Democracy Across the World: How BudgIT Empowered Citizens in 2023

Imagine a world where every citizen, regardless of background, can understand how their government spends their taxes. A world where they have the tools and knowledge to demand accountability and advocate for better services. That is the world we are building at BudgIT, one empowered community at a time.

In 2023, BudgIT’s impact transcended borders, reaching over 15,000,000 citizens across Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Senegal. Here’s how we did it:

Amplifying Youth Voices to Drive Change

We are sparking a movement for change through the BudgIT Youth Club Initiative, which launched in 12 colleges, engaging over 1,500 young people and reaching 10,000 online, equipping them with the knowledge and tools to demand budget inclusiveness and advocate for their communities. Our goal is to shape the future by instilling a strong appreciation for good governance and developing servant leadership in young people.

 Knowledge is power

Our simplified 2023 national budget analysis in English and French with infographics was distributed online and in print to engage citizens in community engagement meetings and social media, making complex budgets understandable for everyone and ensuring over 15,000,000 people were empowered with crucial information about government spending plans in their communities.

Capacity Building for Peer Organizations

We built the capacity of over 87 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) in Liberia. Similarly, in Senegal, we engaged youth and women’s organizations in Dakar, Thies, and Saint Louis. In Sierra Leone, we engaged over 100 CSOs through meetings, awareness raising and capacity building on the national budget process and national budget allocations to various Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) and reinforced the need to monitor budget implementation to enhance transparency and accountability in governance.  Our extensive training programs empowered these organizations to conduct budget analysis and advocacy effectively. We provided them with the necessary tools and knowledge to enhance their capacity for monitoring budgets and advocating for change. Our ultimate aim is to foster synergy among peer organizations, empowering them to amplify citizens’ voices, demand service delivery, and hold the government accountable.

                                        Participants at a budget engagement meeting in Dakar, Senegal 

Community Engagement Meetings 

For community engagement meetings, we have organized and facilitated ten town hall meetings across six counties in Liberia, including Bong, Bomi, Margibi, Montserrado, Grand Bassa, and Grand Cape Mount counties. These gatherings were instrumental in fostering dialogue and promoting accountability, particularly within the health sector. The recommendations generated from these meetings have been formally submitted to the Open Government Partnership, contributing to efforts to enhance transparency and accountability in Liberia’s healthcare system.

We have successfully hosted seven budget awareness town hall meetings, engaging with a diverse audience comprising 120 local government authorities, Civil Society Organizations, and youth and women’s groups. These sessions were designed to deepen participants’ understanding of the draft national budgets for both 2022 and 2023. With support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), we empowered these stakeholders to advocate for accountability and transparency in budgetary processes effectively. 

                                                                 Harnessing Technology for Social Good

BudgIT’s impactful bi-weekly radio programs have reached thousands of individuals, empowering them to advocate for a fair and inclusive society by enhancing service delivery within their communities and urging their representatives to allocate more funds towards capital projects. This concerted effort has led to tangible improvements in infrastructure, education, and healthcare facilities.

Collaboration for Action

Across our focal countries, we prioritize collaborative partnerships to drive progress. By teaming up with local organizations, we’ve expanded our outreach to new communities, thereby fortifying the foundations of democracy. In Ghana, our advocacy efforts on health accountability culminated in the adoption of BudgIT’s Health Sector Accountability Report into the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan, thereby strengthening the healthcare system.

BudgIT Liberia partnered with youth groups to organize peaceful election campaigns, engaging over 5,000 young individuals to participate in the electoral process while providing them with vital information on voter registration procedures, rights, and responsibilities. We collaborated with fourteen CSOs in Senegal to promote accountability in the health sector. An increasing number of organizations are joining this ongoing advocacy effort, which fosters a synergistic approach among CSOs to improve health service delivery and ensure accountability.

In Sierra Leone BudgIT conducted 14 town hall meetings and engaged citizens in 10 communities in Freetown and the regional headquarters towns of Bo, Kenema, Makeni and PortLoko on the 2023 national budget. Advocated for increase allocation to the health sector and urged government to cut down on frivolities in the health budget. 

In the United States, BudgIT embarked on data-driven research on Chicago’s 2023 budget to stimulate civic participation in governance and continues to explore civic education and participatory programs for young people in Maryland. Our goal is to empower young scholars to participate in public fiscal discussions, gaining valuable insights into how they can reshape the future of their communities through the budget. Despite the challenges and uncertainties of citizen apathy, poverty, and weak institutions, which inevitably limit our ability to meet our goals across borders, we remain unfettered and committed to ‘strengthening democracy, one community at a time.


Our 2024 Commitment 

In 2024, our initiatives will prioritize women and young people in Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Senegal, with targeted messages to place them at the forefront of public finance and governance discussions. We will amplify citizen voices by strengthening partnerships with community leaders, other CSO groups, the media, and governments to increase their ability to demand and implement service delivery. BudgIT will also improve access to public budgets, ensuring that more citizens in our operational areas are informed and engaged, and will expand our service delivery monitoring platform, Tracka, to Senegal, Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. We are committed to fostering a world where every voice counts, and we look forward to more avenues to share our vision and garner support for an inclusive and accountable fiscal governance system.

Abiola Afolabi, the International Growth Lead at BudgIT, writes from Chicago, IL. 

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