The County Governors leading devolution in Kenya

Tracking Kenya’s progress on children and youth at county level: Devolution Dashboard

Kenya’s 2013 devolution reforms now channel over $3 billion a year to 47 new county governments for services such as health, education and agriculture. Big Win Philanthropy is partnering with Kenya’s Council of Governors with the intention of developing a Devolution Dashboard – a regularly-updated summary of key data to help county governors and their teams track child and youth indicators of the progress needed to achieve a demographic dividend. Kenya’s huge youth population could deliver a massive demographic dividend for the country’s economy, but only if human capital investments are focused and effective. The Devolution Dashboard will generate timely comparative data to help Kenya’s counties achieve that through improved resource allocation, decision-making, service delivery and accountability for results.

The program of work will include not only the development of the dashboard tool itself, but also capacity-building and advocacy work so that county administrations and the Council of Governors itself have the resources to use the dashboard effectively and the buy-in to make this happen.

$3bn a year is being controlled by new county governments
47 counties are co-ordinated by the Council of Governors
12-fold increase in GDP per person is possible by 2050

Kenya’s devolution journey

Following Kenya’s 2013 devolution of power from central government to 47 county governors, the future for children and young people in Kenya is increasingly being determined at local level. At least 15% of the national budget – about US $3 billion – is now given to new county legislatures to take direct responsibility for allocating it. This includes spending and implementation for health, agriculture, early years’ education and vocational training.

Devolution aims to improve quality, equity and accountability by bringing resource allocation decisions closer to the citizens affected by them. It has already resulted in dramatic changes such as an increase in the number of nurses from around 10,000 to 15,000 in just two years.

The forum through which the 47 county leaderships collaborate is the Council of Governors. This body promotes leadership development, capacity-building, policy analysis and the exchange of good practice.

Accountability depends on data

Devolution can be a game-changer for Kenya – particularly if there are effective ways of tracking social progress at county level to help identify good practice, enable counties to learn from each other and increase accountability for the results they achieve. Data is therefore a crucial ingredient for the Council of Governors to be able to fulfil its role of helping all counties raise their game. Without county-level performance data made available in a standardized way, it is hard to monitor and evaluate effectively. Good comparative data will enable the Council and its member governors to identify what each of them needs to focus on to get to the next level of achievement.

Kenya produces a lot of data – a 2014 study by the Africa Population and Health Research Center found that the country ranked very well compared to other African countries in the availability of data. However, data is often not generated or processed in a consistent and timely way to enable better policy-making at local level. This is one of the most pressing needs of the Council of Governors.

Preliminary work

An initial phase of work that started in 2016 has been exploring the feasibility of the program, focusing particularly on the measurement of areas of human capital investment in children and young people that are relevant to a demographic dividend.

One key aspect of this feasibility work is data mapping – to establish what reliable data exist at county level and what aggregated data indices are already calculated. An assessment of the systems for data production and use at county level has been completed by the program in nine counties, plus an assessment of dashboards and data repositories that can be accessed by counties in Kenya. A report has been produced with detailed recommendations for an optimal county-level system for the production and use of data. Click here to download the report.

Another key aspect of the feasibility work is to identify suitable options for a dashboard – specifying what data is needed for such a tracking tool, how it can be best presented and what support is needed to operationalize it. A list of priority indicators for tracking investments in youth and children and their impacts has been developed by the program in consultation with the Council of Governors, county officials and officials from data agencies at national and county level. There will also be an assessment of the implications, including costs, if new or more frequent data is needed beyond what is currently available.

A prototype tracking tool has also been developed by the program. It will be populated with baseline data for each county that will guide the selection of performance targets.

The program faces a number of challenges. While counties recognize the need for data for making informed decisions, resources dedicated to data systems at county levels are limited and there is little focus on specific data about young people. Data collection and management systems differ between counties and sometimes between departments. There are also issues concerning quality, completeness, timeliness, formats, and mechanisms for dissemination  between the different levels of government. Strengthened data systems are now being considered by the counties.

What the program will do

If the outcomes of the initial data-mapping phase are sufficiently promising, the program will commence a full-scale development phase.

Kenya’s Council of Governors, led by its Chairman, H.E. Governor Peter Munya, will lead the development of a county-by-county dashboard tool. This will be a simple, clear, graphically-presented summary of key priority indicators with regularly-updated metrics showing a county’s “scorecard” regarding progress in key areas of human development such as health, education, governance and economy. The initial focus, given Kenya’s rapidly-growing youth population, will be on children and young people.

Evidence from other similar programs shows that generating good data does not necessarily translate into evidence-driven policy. A crucial part of the work will therefore be to maximize buy-in from key stakeholders, so that the dashboard tool meets their needs and is actually used in formulating policy and making resource allocation decisions. This advocacy work might include a high-level forum focused particularly on issues that affect children and young people.

In practical terms, it is anticipated that the work will include:

  • Identifying priority indicators to be tracked by the Council of Governors.
  • Establishing baselines and targets for each indicator.
  • Working at county level to identify where data gaps are.
  • Aligning the tool with existing data sets.
  • Establishing management processes to review and report performance at county level.
  • Building performance management capacity within the Council of Governors secretariat.
  • Supporting counties to invest more in timely generation of data.
  • Supporting counties to use evidence from the dashboard tool to guide planning and policy making.
  • Designing the architecture of the dashboard tool for clarity and impact.
  • Documenting case studies that demonstrate the value of the tool.

Benefits of the program

The dashboard should have benefits ranging from short-term impacts in Kenya to longer-term ones both in Kenya and more widely:

  1. Improvements across Kenya in data management, accountability, evidence-based policymaking, resource allocation, delivery and the tracking of results as described above – to maximize the value generated by human capital investments.
  2. Lessons and conclusions that could be helpful across counties and for other countries seeking to make devolution more effective and accountable – both in terms of the mechanics of service delivery as well as how the structures of local government can best be used for monitoring and evaluation.
  3. Contributing to Kenya realizing the prize of a demographic dividend. This is described below.

Kenya’s demographic dividend potential

There is a potentially a huge long-term economic prize for Kenya in the form of a demographic dividend, if effective human capital investments are made now. A study by the Kenya’s National Council for Population and Development concluded that while economic policies to foster job growth and attract investment could generate a seven-fold increase in GDP per person by 2050, this could be increased to a twelve-fold increase if the right investments in education and family planning were also made. Investment in other areas such as nutrition might increase this still further.

The country’s good positioning regarding a demographic dividend is thanks to impressive social improvements, a promising demographic trajectory and healthy economic growth:

  • Examples of basic social improvements are child mortality falling from 74 per 1,000 births in 2010 to 52 in 2014, stunting falling from 40% in 2000 to 26% in 2014, and exclusive breast feeding during the first six months of life increasing from 13% in 2003 to 61% in 2014.
  • Hopeful demographic trends include a fall in fertility from 6.1 children per woman in 1990 to 3.9 in 2014, helped by an increase in the use of modern contraception from 32% in 2003 to 53% in 2014. With 42% of the population aged under 15, the ratio of working age people to dependents is rising – one of the core conditions for a demographic dividend.
  • Current economic growth is around 6% – a good basis for finding the resources for the massive human capital investments now needed.

The Devolution Dashboard program is helping to raise the profile of the demographic dividend agenda within government in Kenya. The final communique of the 2017 Devolution Conference concluded that “County and National governments should take advantage of the youth bulge through strategic policies and development of structures to reap ‘demographic dividends’”.

The intention is that the  Devolution Dashboard initiative will have an impact beyond Kenya. The results of the program and learnings from its implementation will be offered to other countries that are seeking to make devolution more effective and accountable, or wanting to improve their tracking of key metrics relating to children and young people.