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Tackling West Africa’s Knowledge Management Challenges

In West Africa, the Ouagadougou Partnership (OP) is a success story in delivering critical family planning and reproductive health outcomes. In 2011, the OP, a nine-member coalition of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo committed itself to increasing the number of women using modern contraceptive methods by at least one million between 2011 and 2015 and by 2.2 million between 2016 and 2020. Its 2020 report noted that the partnership had impressively exceeded this goal. Over 3.8 million users of modern family planning methods—above the overall target of 3.2 million—were registered.

The success of the Ouagadougou Partnership, however, does not imply that the francophone Africa family planning and reproductive health ecosystem lacks shortcomings. A mapping activity of family planning and reproductive health stakeholders and co-creation workshop series conducted in the region in June 2020 by Knowledge SUCCESS noted that while there were laudable family planning and reproductive health initiatives and strategies to deliver targeted outcomes, the impact of such initiatives had not been documented or shared with stakeholders. There were ineffective information generation and dissemination tools. Organizations, coalitions, networks, and Technical Working Groups had limited capacity in family planning and reproductive health knowledge management—a strategic and systematic process of collecting and curating knowledge and connecting people to it so they can act effectively.

Niger: Girls in Science, Feed the Future | SERVIR West Africa | Rimana hones her leadership skills
Niger: Rimana hones her leadership skills. Credit: SERVIR West Africa.

Knowledge SUCCESS set out to address the identified regional knowledge management challenges. The USAID-funded global project seeks to infuse knowledge management culture and practice in key global and regional family planning and reproductive health networks. The project aims to build a broad stakeholder base that will collaborate to improve uptake of family planning and reproductive health knowledge and related health outcomes. Aïssatou Thioye is the Senior Technical Officer, Research Utilization at FHI 360, and West Africa Knowledge Management and Partnerships Officer for Knowledge SUCCESS.

Knowledge Management Practices in West Africa

“After a mapping activity of the different family planning and reproductive health stakeholders in the region, I conducted virtual orientation activities on the basics of knowledge management,” says Thioye. “Most notably I engaged Amplify Family Planning and actors of the family planning Costed Implementing Plans (CIPs) in Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, and Burkina Faso.” In these three countries, and in collaboration with Breakthrough ACTION and the ministries of health, particularly the departments in charge of family planning, Knowledge SUCCESS provided technical support to identify needs and concrete knowledge management practices to integrate into the CIPs.

West African civil society is mobilized around strong coalitions. Thioye observes that thanks to the mobilization around the Ouagadougou Partnership for the achievement of common family planning objectives, efforts in the coordination of knowledge management actions were bolstered.

Guinea Health Center | USAID StopPalu+ | Communicating safely with communities
Guinea Health Center. Credit: USAID StopPalu+.

The Challenges

There are fewer French-language family planning and reproductive health resources—most exist in English. Documentation and dissemination of family planning knowledge in the region is also low, something that is attributed to a lack of more innovative knowledge-sharing practices. Access to information is also hindered by limited or expensive access to the internet (especially by youth).

Thioye believes that increasing awareness among stakeholders of knowledge management and its importance to programs provides good ground for accelerated family planning and reproductive health outcomes. “Knowing that, consciously or not, we all do knowledge management in our projects is a good starting point to explore the possibilities for improvement, structuring, formalization, and systematic integration of knowledge management practices in programs, and I pay particular attention to such,” she says.

“Knowing that, consciously or not, we all do knowledge management in our projects is a good starting point to explore the possibilities for improvement…”

Partnerships

“We co-organized webinars and produced blogs on topical family planning and reproductive health topics with partners in the region, such as the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for Family Planning (CS4FP+) and Population Reference Bureau. I also joined the Ouagadougou Partnership Youth Think Tank where I am a member of the Dissemination sub-committee as well as an active member of the Senegal Self-Care Trailblazers Group. The idea is to join Technical Working Groups where I can support or co-create family planning and reproductive health knowledge management products in the region,” explains Thioye.

Community Health Worker in Togo | USAID/West Africa Regional | USAID supports health programs in West Africa that empower women and men with voluntary family planning options.
Community health worker (in vest) discusses family planning with women at a village in Togo. Credit: USAID/West Africa Regional.

Knowledge SUCCESS has also supported USAID-funded family planning and reproductive health implementing projects in their knowledge management activities in the region, such as:

  • SHOPS Plus—seeks to harness the full potential of the private sector and catalyze public-private engagement to improve health outcomes in family planning, HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, and other health areas.
  • Evidence to Action—partners with governments, local NGOs, and communities to strengthen family planning and reproductive health service delivery.
  • Passages Project—aims to address a broad range of social norms, at scale, to achieve sustained improvements in family planning, reproductive health, and gender-based violence.

Success Registered

“We have succeeded in creating interest in and a better understanding of knowledge management practices in the region,” says Thioye. “Working in partnership, we have succeeded in addressing one of the knowledge management needs in the region, albeit not in an exhaustive way: the availability of French-language family planning and reproductive health resources.” Today, Knowledge SUCCESS website content, That One Thing (a weekly newsletter), and webinars on topical family planning and reproductive health subjects are available in French.

“We have succeeded in creating interest in and a better understanding of knowledge management practices in the region.”

In East Africa, the family planning and reproductive health Community of Practice is by far Knowledge SUCCESS’ major achievement. In Francophone West Africa, Thioye says that successful integration of knowledge management practices in the family planning Costed Implementation Plans of the target countries will be a great milestone.

Malian Youth in Class | Adwoa Atta-Krah/EDC | Students in Kati
Malian Youth in Class. Credit: Adwoa Atta-Krah/EDC.

Going Forward

“I am exploring the opportunity to work with the directorate in charge of family planning in Burkina Faso, where there is already an existing knowledge management system. That could serve as a great example that inspires other countries to adopt the same,” says Thioye. Her goal is to ensure that knowledge management practices are appreciated at the ministries of health level, which would not only benefit the family planning and reproductive community but also HIV among other health sectors.

Thioye is prioritizing working with youth, especially in the Ouagadougou Partnership Youth Think Tank, and other youth and religious organizations in the region. On top of Knowledge SUCCESS’ priorities for West Africa is the continuous training and capacity building in knowledge management for coalitions, networks, and Technical Working Groups to ensure that quality family planning and reproductive health knowledge is curated, disseminated, accessible, and shared among stakeholders.

Are you interested in engaging our West Africa team on a KM initiative for your organization? You can find out more by contacting Thioye at athioye@fhi360.org or submitting your interest through our Contact Us form.

Niger_Maradi_Zinder | Scott Dobberstein/ USAID/Sahel
Brian Mutebi

Contributing Writer

Brian Mutebi is an award-winning journalist, development communication specialist, and women’s rights campaigner with 11 years of solid writing and documentation experience on gender, women’s health and rights and development for national and international media and civil society organisations. The Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health named him one of its “120 Under 40: The New Generation of Family Planning Leaders” on the strength of his journalism and media advocacy on family planning and reproductive health. He is a 2017 recipient of Gender Justice Youth Award in Africa, described by News Deeply as “one of Africa’s leading women’s rights crusaders.” In 2018, Mutebi was included on Africa’s prestigious list of “100 Most Influential Young Africans.”

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