Re-Assessing America's program of media assistance in a fluid
democratic state: The case of Zambia.
Folu Folarin Ogundimu, Ph.D.
School of Journalism, Michigan State University
305 Com Arts & Sciences Building
East Lansing, MI 48824 - 1212
Phone: 517-353- 6459
Email: [log in to unmask]
Submitted to the International Communication Division
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass
Communication, 1997 Chicago Annual Convention.
This paper examines the US media assistance plan to
Zambia under the five-year, $15 million-dollar Democratic Governance
Project which the US Agency for International Development is now
Using and interdisciplinary policy analysis framework,
the paper shows that whereas AID may have unwittingly micro-managed
project, Zambia nevertheless benefited greatly from institutional
transfers by way of technical capacity, and human resource
Re-assessing America's program of media assistance_Zambia
"Re-assessing America's program of media assistance in a fluid democratic state:
The case of Zambia."
Five years after the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID)
launched a $15-million program to consolidate democracy in Zambia, the agency is
winding down the Democratic Governance Project amidst uncertainty about the
future of democracy and independent media Much of the uncertainty relates to
cutbacks in AID's committment to key project components -particularly in the
areas of legislative performance, policy coordination, constitutional reform,
and to a lesser extent, media independence. U.S. government dissatisfaction with
the Zambian government over the conduct of the last multiparty elections is
already well-catalogued, particularly in resepect of the exclusion of key
opposition candidates and continuing debate over the fairness of the polls.
Pending the release of a final project report, one can only speculate as to
whether AID's management of the DGP has lived up to an elaborate project design
that was intended to ensure that a mix of inputs and outputs in five mutually
reinforcing areas would attain AID's principal project objectives. These
objectives were to assist in "rendering public decision making more accessible
and effective." Known as project components, the areas were: constitutional
reform, civic education, media independence, legislative performance, and policy
coordination. These "main components" represented areas where AID would provide
specific assistance, collect performance indicators, measure them, and evaluate
whether or not progress was being made toward accessible and effective
This paper examines AID's performance on the media independence component,
utilizing an interdisciplinary policy analysis framework to show whether project
performance, where constrained, could be attributed to design failures or
management failures. Furthermore, the paper examines how AID has made
significant contributions to capacity-building in Zambia's mass media industry
despite the cynicism about the fragility of Zambia's independent press and
continuing tensions in press - state relations. By interdisciplinary policy
analysis, reference is to policy analysis that extends the traditional focus of
the discipline beyond politics and economics. As Barry Bozeman says,
interdisciplinary policy analysis commonly involves "a self-conscious focus on
policy outcomes, and often the careful study of substantive dimensions of
certain policy domains sucha as environment, transportation, or human
resources." In this approach, politics is only one contributing variable, and
often takes a back seat to economics. I have used reviews of AID's policy
documents and extensive field interviews with principal actors who are
associated with the Zambia Democratic Governance Project as a key methodological
procedure for gathering evidence.
Given the dynamic state of policy on the Zambia DGP, I will restrict much
of my analysis to what is currently known about the project, given assumptions
and developments in the aftermath of project design in 1992. I will speculate
about the implications of current changes in policy direction and management at
AID-Zambia, particularly with respect to the future of the DGP. Although
speculative, I will argue that it is unlikely that USAID would any time soon use
Zambia's Democratic Governance Project as a model for consolidating democracy in
sub-Saharan Africa. Three observations inform this speculation. One, the final
project assessment, now under review, makes a detour from earlier project
evaluations and departs significantly from project design assumptions regarding
evaluation criteria. These criteria were codified in a logframe matrix included
in project design. Two, harsh criticism of project management has already led
to the unexpected retirement of AID/Zambia's long-time powerful resident
director. The preference for a new director who is said to be less abrasive,
appears a deliberate attempt by AID/Washington to mend fences with the Zambian
government. Also, other key project officers, including the Democratic
Governance Advisor, are being relieved of their responsibility and being
replaced, partly because of unhappiness over alleged AID involvement in attempts
to undermine the credibility of last December's multiparty election. Three,
the contract of Southern University, (Baton Rouge, LA), the lead institution for
project management is unlikely to be renewed, even as AID contemplates a
scaled-down democratic assistance project in Zambia.
Media Assistance and Democratic Governance
The media assistance plan under the Zambia project cannot be reviewed in
isolation of the other components of the DGP, primarily because the mix of
project components were seen as mutually-reinforcing in accomplishing project
objectives. In this sense, the media assistance plan under the DGP was unlike
any other the US government had previously implemented. Most US overseas media
assistance programs either take the form of bilateral exchanges that are
supervised by the US Information Agency, or specific media assistance training
programs such as those organized for the former Soviet states in the post-Cold
War era. Neither the bilateral exchanges, nor the largely skills-building
activities organized by the USIA compare in scope and comprehensiveness to the
AID media assistance plan under the Zambia Democratic Governance Project.
Regarding scope and comprehensiveness for example, project emphasis was on the
"complementarity of interventions to support 'demands' for accountable
government from civil society and to enable a 'supply' of accountable government
by the public service".
Whereas "supply" of accountable government by the public service was to be
fulfilled by activities in constitutional reform, policy coordination, and
legislative performance, demands for accountable government from civil society
were to be fulfilled by activities designed for civic education and media
independence. For media independence, the focus of this paper, the project
specifically targeted media law reforms and capacity-building initiatives
through the funding of policy studies, training for media specialists, and the
establishment of a resource center for independent journalists. The thinking
was that these conditions would enable the emergence of independent and
professional journalism in Zambia.
I mentioned earlier that an elaborate logframe matrix was codified to provide
evaluation criteria and standards for determining the overall outcome of the
democratic governance project. Proceeding from the logic of policy analysis,
this logframe matrix provided what project designers hoped were a priori
measures for measuring cost-efficiency and project effectiveness. Under the
"Media Independence" component, for example, the logframe matrix specified three
sets of outputs: (a) improvement in the professional competence of journalists
and media educators; (b) upgrades of independent media resources; and (c)
identification and removal of legal and institutional constraints on media
independence. Each of these outputs was accompanied by what were termed
"objectively verifiable indicators"; "means of verification"; and "assumptions".
For example, the magnitude of outputs for objectively verifiable indicators
included improvements in journalists' knowledge of news, analysis, economic
reporting, investigative journalism, professional standards, legal
responsibilities, and press freedom at training courses which were to be held at
the Zambian Institute of Mass Communication (ZAMCOM) --one of two institutions
designated as targets of US resource transfers for implementing the media
component of the project. Another example of verifiable indicators included
overseas training for journalists, media managers, and media educators at the
University of Zambia. In all there were seven categories of verifiable
indicators included in the logframe matrix.
Means of verification included use of project records, including Project
Implementation Reviews (PIRS) which were prepared twice yearly by the AID
bureaucracy in Zambia. Additionally, other sources of data to be taken into
consideration were: (a) ZAMCOM course reports (3 per year); (b) international
resource persons departure reports; (c) participant grade reports; (d)
participant graduation records; (d) participant trip reports; (e) equipment
installation records; (f) library acquisition catalog; (g) user records); (h)
list of publications; (I) content analysis of Zambian press; (j) consultant
report; government (Zambian) legislative initiatives; and the Law Association of
Zambia consultants report.
The "Assumptions" specified in the logframe involved five key demands by AID:
(1) that the Zambian government fulfills a commitment to devolve ZAMCOM from
government control; (2) that the Department of Mass Communicaton at the
University of Zambia continue to sustain its program during the staff
development phase of the AID project; (3) that journalists generate sufficient
demand for media resources to sustain a fully-funded Media Resource Center --to
be located at ZAMCOM; (4) that the Zambian government accepts study
recommendations that are sponsored with AID project funds; and (5) that the
privatization of Zambia's media industry is not pre-empted by other consultant
reports (e.g. UNESCO).
The logframe shows that AID's objectives were predicated on the economic
principle of "supply" and "demand" -- whereby specific inputs were measured
against observable outputs, in the hope that by so doing Project objectives
would be attained through the removal of perceived constraints. To develop an
independent and professional media in Zambia, three main constraints were
identified: (1) shortage of professional skills among journalists and other
media operators, especially in policy analysis; (2) excessive government control
and ownership of media institutions; and (3) inadequate resources for a
private-enterprise press, to counterbalance government ownership and control of
the media. To remove the constraints, the design team adopted a three-prong
strategy of short-term and long-term training for journalists and media
managers; the establishment of a media resources center; and funding of policy
studies that would ensure media privatization and the liberalization of media
laws for greater openness and freedom of the press.
Judging by project paper assumptions, and the careful attention to detail,
including some element of micro-management -such as the requirement that Zambian
journalists publish "a minimum 100 freelance reports in Zambian and
international media" - AID's Zambia DGP was consistent with US government
strategic objective to encourage a worldwide movement toward multipartyism,
structural adjustment, and free market systems in the aftermath of the collapse
of the Soviet empire at the end of the 1980s. The election of Frederick
Chiluba's Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) in Zambia, after 28 years of
iron-clad one-man rule by Kenneth Kaunda, was seen by the AID bureaucracy as a
"target of opportunity" for consolidating pluralist choice policies and
western-type democratic accommodation in Zambia. Other less ambitious democratic
governance projects were planned for democratizing African countries, including
Malawi, whilst ideas of democratic pluralism, civil society, media law reforms,
and professionalization of journalists -all indicators included in the Zambia
DGP were beginning to find favor in other African countries, including
But as would be seen in this review, neither the careful attention to detail,
nor project design assumptions regarding what was expected of the Government of
the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) were sufficient to prevent undermining the
strategic objectives of the US government in advancing the goal of democracy in
Zambia. Although the project will record a number of impressive successes,
notably in professional development for Zambia's media pratitioners, and in
resource transfers to targeted Zambian institutions, the economism which
characterized project design may in the end have had the unintended consequence
of micro-management and bureaucratic high-handedness on the part of the AID to
the extent that key project sub-components, including media independence were
poorly handled and badly managed for embarrassingly long stretches of time at a
period when the implementation of these sub-components were most needed given
the strategic importance of media to attempts at democratic consolidation in
Zambia. At the same time, the GRZ began to resent AID's insistence that it
implement key project committments, particularly those backed by several
memoranda of agreement that were signed between the US government and the Zambia
government. Known as Conditions Precedent, one of these key memoranda agreement
concerned AID insistence that the Zambian government devolve control over
ZAMCOM, a training institute established in 1980 by the government to provide
short-term professional training to Zambian journalists and media operators.
Although the Zambians initially went along with the memorandum of understanding,
they later would balk on making ZAMCOM a private-enterprise institute, fearing
that it could become captive to a foreign power. After a long drawn-out
stalemate during which AID forestalled crucial resource transfers to ZAMCOM, the
GRZ eventually settled on a compromise, devolving control over ZAMCOM by
establishing it as an independent Educational Trust by late 1996, and allowing
AID to fulfill by March 1997 the last stage of resource transfers to ZAMCOM,
scaling back significantly the scope of its earlier committments. I will provide
more detail about this in reviewing the specific accomplishments of the AID
The impatience of the Zambians with AID and their reluctance to fully committ
to the letter of project paper assumptions and conditions precedent clearly had
to do with increasing exasperation with an obviously reckless, undisciplined,
and unprofessional independent press whose excesses were an embarrassment to the
AID and the diplomatic corps in Lusaka although publicly they continued to back
the principle of freedom of the press. Assailed by an increasingly restless
population whose patience for the "long awaited fruits of the restructuring
agenda" was beginning to wear thin, the declared committment of the MMD
government to democracy and restructuring was beginning to wane as the party and
government struggled to contain the opposition, and keep the support of its
constituency. By the summer of 1995, President Chiluba was beginning to warn
that "liberal democracy leaves a thin line between anarchy and democracy" and
that "newspapers must not be like guided missiles thrown by misguided
people". Although Index on Censorship, the Freedom Forum, and other
western-based press watchdog organizations have roundly condemned the Zambian
goverment for its harrassment and punishment of Zambia's independent press,
there is little sympathy in Zambia itself for the excesses of this independent
newspapers, especially when they engage in peddling blatant falsehoods,
unsubstantiated by fact or supported by fabricated
* project failures, -- design failures or management failures? And what
about project successes?
 USAID Democratic Governance Project Paper, 611-0226, (September 1992).
Further reference is entitled Project Paper.
 Barry Bozeman, Public Management and Policy Analysis. New York: St.
Martin's Press, 1979.
 For reference to traditional policy analysis, see, for example, Thomas Dye,
Politics, Economics, and the Public. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1968; R.A. Bauer, I.
De Sola Pool, and L.A. Dexter, American Business and Public Policy. New York:
 See ANNEX A Logframe Matrix, USAID Democratic Governance Project Paper,
611-0226, (September 1992).
 Informant interviews, March 1997.
 Informant interviews, March 1997.
 Joy F. Morrison, 'Professional media training in the CIS and Russian Far
East'. In Journalism Educator, 49, 1 (1994), pp. 97 101; Laird B. Anderson,
'Around the world, U.S. government-style journalism education works well'. ASNE
Bulletin 758 (April/May 1994), p. 26. Another example is the current USIA's
Regional Scholar Exchange Program and Freedom Support Act Fellowships in
Contemporary Issues, for Russia and the CIS, administered by the International
Research & Exchanges Board and the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian
Studies, both based in Washington, DC. Author's private papers, 1997.
 United States Agency for International Development, Zambia Democratic
Governance Project Monitoring and Evaluation Studies Mid-Term Review, No.
623-0226-A-00-3024-00 (July 18, 1995).
 Project Paper, 1992, ANNEX A, p.69: op.cit.
 I have elaborated on the logframe matrix here, by including information
from other Project files, e.g. the location of the Media Resource Center at
 Project Paper, 1992: p.2.
 See Logframe Matrix (Project Paper, Annex A, op.cit).
 For some references, see: Celestin Monga, "Civil society and
democratisation in Francophone Africa". The Journal of Modern African Studies,
33, 3 (1995), pp. 359-379.; Todd J. Moss, "US Policy and Democratisation in
Africa: the limits of liberal universalism". The Journal of Modern African
Studies, 33, 2 (1995), pp. 189-209; and Charles Manga Fombad. "Freedom of
expression in the Cameroonian democratic transition". The Journal of Modern
African Studies, 33, 2 (1995), pp. 211-226.
 . Project files and field interviews, May - June 1995.
 Information based on field interviews, project files, private
correspondence, and informant interviews (May 1995 - March 1997).
 Julius O. Ihonvbere. "From Movement to Government: The Movement for
Multiparty Democracy and the Crisis of Democratic Consolidation in Zambia."
Canadian Journal of African Studies, 29, 1, (1995): pp.
 Author's field notes, from ex-tempo comments by Frederick Chiluba, at the
opening of the Regional workshop on freedom of expression and information in a
democratic society. Lusaka, Zambia, 30th May - 1st June, 1995.