#JuaBudget – Making Kenya’s Budget 2024/2025 Relatable

We are happy to announce #JuaBudget campaign that we are doing in partnership with Kilifi Youth Assembly and Maono Space. #JuaBudget is Swahili for ‘know the budget’, and is a campaign that breaks down Kenya’s budget estimates for the financial year 2024/2025 into easy, bite-sized content that connects with people. The goal is to make sure that the youth in Kenya know and understand what their national government will be spending on next year, how much and how that will affect their everyday lives.

This campaign comes at the back of hot conversations about the #FinanceBill2024, which essentially describes how the government aims to raise revenue through taxes to finance the 4.2 Trillion budget. A lot of public engagement has been going on around the Bill, with a little less attention to the incoming budget. Our thinking is that in the same way people know about how taxes will affect them, they should also know what it will be spent on.

Citizens Don’t Read Public Documents.

We appreciate how far the government has come in making public information public, in conformity with the principles of Open Government. Supported by Civil Society organisations, it is now possible for Kenyans to access important information that would have otherwise not.

But let’s face it, citizens barely read any of the information made public by the government. Even the constitution itself! Apart from the media analysis that will be done on the budget 2024/2025, Kenyans will not know what the government has prioritised and how much has been allocated.

Important Public documents are used not by citizens, but by a handful of people who have keen interest in them, such as Civil Society Organisations, lawmakers, policy makers and scholars. But what are some of the factors that cause this challenge?

  • Firstly, these documents are not easily accessible. Online, they are published on websites that barely any ordinary citizen visits, and where one has to navigate pages to find them. Offline, they are placed in certain offices, out of reach from citizens. Even when a ‘popular version’ has been made, it is not taken to where citizens are, citizens have to find it where it is.
  • It is important to remember that not all Kenyans have equal access to the internet or digital devices. This digital disparity disproportionately affects rural people. 
  • Secondly, when the documents are published, there is not enough noise made to the effect of, “hey, we have just published this and this is why you should read it.” They are released quietly. Sometimes, the announcements are made in newspapers which hardly anybody reads anymore. In addition, there aren’t enough follow-up activities to remind citizens to look at the published documents. 
  • When one finally manages to find the document, it is large, in fact, voluminous! We are talking about hundreds of pages in some to more than a thousand in others! And with the standard way in which they are laid out, it is easy for one attempting to read them to feel overwhelmed and defeated.
  • The documents are published in English – not just everyday English, community of practice jargon! The complexity of the language makes these documents difficult to read. 
  • In the cases where citizens are required to give feedback, the documents are published late, narrowing the window for proper engagement and response.
  • Finally, bearing the above in mind, citizens might not engage with public documents because they feel distrustful of the government. It may be perceived that all these huddles have been strategically designed to frustrate engagement and feedback so that the government can have its way.
Marketing For Public Participation

Keys to Fostering Effective Active Citizenship

It is not enough for governments and public institutions to make public information public. It is more useful when it speaks the language of its recipients, the citizens. The dissemination of this information should take into account social and behavioural factors. Some of the recommendations that we have to close the communication loop between government and citizens include the following:

  • Avail information on time: recognising that individuals lead busy lives, disseminating information in a timely manner shows respect for their schedules and emphasises the value of their participation. 
  • Reminders: once important information has been published, it is important to have constant reminders (almost like a campaign) rallying citizens to go have a look and submit their feedback. 
  • Simplify language: have alternative versions that are written in clear, ordinary language. In these versions, avoid technical jargon and complex sentences.
  • Improve accessibility: in addition to websites, make the documents easily accessible in places where citizens are. For example, disseminating them through social media as visually appealing posters, or community based organisations, religious institutions, public offices, local leaders such as chiefs among others. 
  •  Market: develop public awareness campaigns such as those done during public health emergencies, to educate citizens on the contents of the documents, and how they affect their lives. 
  • Lastly, there is unimaginable benefit that can come from mutual collaboration between governments and civil society organisations. If you need examples, just look at the health sector. Both sectors have their strengths – CSOs bring grassroots insights, specialised knowledge, and community trust, which can significantly enhance the effectiveness and reach of government initiatives. In turn, the government can offer resources, regulatory support, and broad policy frameworks that empower CSOs to operate more efficiently and scale their impact.

Breaking Down Budget 2024/2025

To ensure effectiveness of the #JuaBudget campaign, we are running it online and offline. Online, we shall share memes and short videos simplifying the contents of the budget. Seeing as we are targeting youths, the outputs are in Swahili, Sheng and a mixture of these. And in order to make it as relatable as possible, the visuals and examples we are using are of everyday life experiences of local youths.

Offline, the campaign is running in Kilifi County, reaching young people through the wide network of Kilifi Youth Assembly. Together, we are meeting youths and young people in various wards across the County, engaging them with translated, broken down information so that at the end of the sessions, they will be able to articulate the government’s plan for next year.

At Thellesi Trust, we believe that communication should be done effectively. Entities communicating should employ tailored strategies to ensure that the message is well received and understood by its target audience.

We invite you to follow the campaign on our social media channels or through #JuaBudget. Help us to share so that it can reach as many Kenyans as possible, and remember to leave us a comment.

Thellesi Trust
Thellesi Trust

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