2020 Review: Notable Civil Society Moves in Africa

The year 2020 was a game-changing year chiefly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the year winds down, take some time to look back at some of the top stories that drove the African civil society space.

1. Covid-19 challenges African CSOs

This year, EPIC-Africa and @AfricanNGOs reported that the impact of Covid-19 on African CSOs had been widespread and destabilising.

Based on the results of a survey of more than 1,000 CSOs in 44 African countries, the report found that 98 percent of CSOs had been adversely affected.

The report, titled, The Impact of Covid-19 on African Civil Society Organisations – Challenges, Responses and Opportunity, showed that more than half of the CSOs (55.69 percent) had already experienced a loss of funding, while 66.46 percent expected to lose funding in the next three to six months.

In addition, 49.87 percent of CSOs had introduced measures to reduce costs because of the loss of funding, or the uncertainty about future funding.

Looking ahead, 77.97 percent of respondents indicated that Covid-19 would have a devastating impact on the sustainability of many CSOs.

‘As a result of Covid-19, African CSOs are confronted with the dual challenge of keeping their organisations afloat while also responding to the needs of the communities in which they operate’, AfricanNGOs Moderator David Barnard said.

‘The majority of respondents confirmed that they were not prepared to cope with the disruption caused by the pandemic’.

The report also found not receiving the necessary support from authorities at the national level had added to the challenges facing CSOs.

CSOs reported being excluded from emergency funding mechanisms and 71.58 percent of respondents believed that governments failed to recognise and utilise local CSOs’ skills, experience and networks in response to Covid-19.

AfricanNGOs is a Twitter account that covers news and information for and about NGOs in Africa, while EPIC-Africa is a Senegal-based, pan-African organisation that seeks to strengthen the ecosystem for philanthropy in Africa.

2. NGOs and Amended CAMA in Nigeria

The year saw reactions and counterreactions from NGOs and other stakeholders in Nigeria following the signing of the amended Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), 2020, into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The new CAMA introduces provisions that appear to promote the ease of doing business while reducing regulatory obstacles.

But the bone of contention, as observed by Development Diaries, is the provision that empowers the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to take over and manage NGOs on allegations of misconduct.

As some NGOs grumbled over the amended CAMA, the CAC said the law had come to stay, insisting that it would go ahead with the implementation of the law.

According to the Registrar-General of CAC, Garba Abubakar, the amended CAMA was not targeted at any particular group.

3. Expulsion of Pregnant Schoolgirls Banned in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe, this year, made the expulsion of schoolgirls who get pregnant illegal, less than one year after a Nigerian state, Ekiti, banned the practice.

This move came after it was noticed that many Zimbabwean girls were dropping out of school due to pregnancy or marriage reasons.

Some women rights campaigners in Zimbabwe said they were hopeful this move would help tackle gender inequality in the classroom and stop many girls from dropping out of school.

4. Ivory Coast Adopts Stateless People Procedure 

In 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) lauded Ivory Coast for adopting Africa’s first Statelessness Determination Procedure.

This move was intended to help protect thousands of people who are without a nationality in the West African country.

A 2019 study led by national authorities and supported by UNHCR identified 1.6 million people as stateless or at risk of statelessness in Ivory Coast, which hosts one of the world’s largest stateless populations.

Authorities in Ivory Coast, based on the procedure, established two committees to identify stateless people in need of protection before a lasting solution is found to their predicament.

5. UNICEF, Microsoft Respond to Rise in GBV Cases

Also this year, Development Diaries reported that UNICEF and Microsoft launched Primero X to address the rise in domestic and gender-based violence due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

UNICEF said in a statement that Primero X, an open source case management web application, was designed to help social service providers coordinate critical support to vulnerable children.

Before the launch of Primero Primero X, millions of children were reported to have been more vulnerable to violence, abuse and neglect due to the socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic.

6. GiveDirectly Tackles Poverty with Algorithms in Togo

We reported that GiveDirectly had used mobile phone data to identify people living in extreme poverty and made direct cash payments to 30,000 of them as part of a pioneering project in Togo.

The organisation said it worked with the government of Togo and experts at the University of California, Berkeley, to find some of the poorest people in the country.

Togo, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), is a Least Developed Country (LCD) and Low Income Food Deficit Country (LIFDC) and among the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

More than 50 percent of the country’s population live below the poverty line, and poverty is linked to under-nutrition.

7. IFF Releases Fresh Findings on Terrorism in Africa

Terrorism will be the sixth biggest issue facing Africa with corruption and job creation viewed as the most pressing issues, Ichikowitz Family Foundation (IFF) said in a report.

In the research report, The African Youth Survey 2020, the foundation noted that recruiters of various militia had approached almost ten percent of African youths as terrorism emerges as one of the biggest concerns for young people in Africa.

The report also noted that nearly 30 percent of young people identified ‘fighting terrorism’ and ‘achieving peace and stability’ as the most important issues that require urgent action for the African continent to progress.

The South-African-based foundation said it interviewed a total of 4,200 participants (aged 18–24) from across 14 sub-Saharan African countries.

8. Nigeria’s Ekiti Joins OGP

Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State expressed confidence that the Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative will improve citizens’ standard of living as the southwest state became the first state in Nigeria to join the OGP.

Fayemi, who inaugurated the committee at the governor’s office, Ado-Ekiti, said that the OGP initiative was in consonance with his restoration agenda.

The OGP is an international initiative aimed at promoting open governance, citizen’s empowerment, fight corruption, and harness new technology to strengthen governance in member states.

9. LOCK Fights Hunger with Barcodes in South Africa

Hundreds of people in the Johannesburg suburb of Lorentzville, South Africa, were reported to be benefitting from a Love Our City Klean (LOCK) project in the area.

About 1,750 people had registered with LOCK to become recyclers, exchanging recyclables for a digital currency that they use to buy much-needed groceries.

The project gives recyclers a card with a unique barcode that is used to load their recycling points.

It was gathered that they spend the points at a weekly ‘Swap Shop’ on essentials like beans, soups and rice.

10. Five Africans Make UN Young Leaders for SDGs List

United Nations has recognised 17 young advocates, including five Africans, who are leading efforts to combat some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

The five Africans are Vanessa Nakate (Uganda), Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi (Nigeria), Mariama Djambony Badji (Senegal), Loay Radwan (Egypt) and Satta Sheriff (Liberia).

‘Despite being disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, young people around the world continue to demonstrate immense resilience, resourcefulness, and leadership in finding innovative solutions to recover better and achieve the SDGs’, UN Secretary-General’s envoy on youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, said.

11. Men Network Joins Fight against GBV in Kenya

Men Engage Kenya Network (MENKEN), in partnership with Isiolo County government, begun a male-led advocacy campaign against gender-based violence (GBV) in Kenya.

It was gathered that more than 300 boda-boda operators in Ngaremara had been trained on how to report GBV cases.

‘The more we engage men in efforts to prevent GBV, the higher the prospects of creating a culture of non-violence and respect for human rights’, Chairperson of MENKEN, Fredrick Nyagah, said.

12. CSOs, Government Face off over Agyapa Deal 

We monitored developments as regards the establishment of the Agyapa Royalties Limited deal in Ghana.

CSOs asked the government of the West African country to suspend the deal with Agyapa Royalties Limited until all documents tied to its establishment and its owners had been disclosed.

The Agyapa Royalties Limited was established by the government through the Minerals Income Investment Fund to manage the country’s mineral royalties.

But the CSOs working on extractive, anti-corruption and good governance said the policy was being implemented in an opaque manner.

However, at a press briefing, the ruling New Patriotic Party’s Communications Director, Yaw Asamoa, challenged the CSOs to ask for clarifications on the deal rather than insinuating that government had ill intentions.

13. AfDB, Partners Make Fresh Gender Equality Move

Gender inequality costs sub-Saharan Africa $95 million each year, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and its partners said in November.

They made this known at a Finance in Common summit hosted virtually by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) on 12 November.

At the summit, the AfDB Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society, Vanessa Moungar, representatives from global financial institutions, Green Climate Fund (GCF), and UN Women signed a joint declaration on gender equality to strengthen their commitment at all levels.

14. DPI, Others Launch $750 Million Biopharma Platform

Development Partners International (DPI), ADP III Fund, CDC Group, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced the creation of a pan-African biopharmaceutical platform.

The platform, according to the partners, will execute a buy-and-build strategy to improve the availability and affordability of essential pharmaceuticals across Africa.

It was gathered that the platform has received an initial $250m in capital from its founding investors and plans to raise up to an additional $500m.

15. Rights Group Reports Crackdown on CSOs in Egypt 

We also reported that Amnesty International (AI) had condemned the ‘chilling escalation’ of a crackdown on civil society in Egypt.

The rights organisation was reacting to reports by human rights groups in Egypt that dozens of activists had been targeted with arrests, travel bans and asset freezes under President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

It was learnt that Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) Director of Criminal Justice, Karim Ennarah, was arrested on 18 November while on vacation in the Red Sea resort of Dahab and taken to an undisclosed location.

16. Abandoned Projects and Tracka Advocacy

Our in-depth review of abandoned projects across Nigeria and Tracka’s response revealed notable successes in Lagos, Osun, Kaduna, Kebbi, Niger, and Ekiti States.

We also observed that although Tracka had recorded noticeable acceptance from quite a number of citizens and even public officials and institutions, public apathy still lingered.

17. United Nations FDES 2013 Adopted in Ghana

The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) adopted the UN Framework for the Development of Environment Statistics (FDES 2013) by launching a Compendium on Environment Statistics (ES).

The FDES is a multipurpose statistical framework that defines the scope of environment statistics, and provides an organised structure to guide the collection and compilation of environment statistics at all levels.

The National Implementation Team (NIT), a collaboration between GSS and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), prepared the compendium.

The compendium reports on some indicators of the 17 SDGs, reducing inequalities in income as well as those inequalities based on sex, age, race, among others.

18. Civic Space Squeezed in Uganda as Elections Near

Civil society organisations (CSOs) in Uganda challenged the country’s government to prove its claim that the Uganda National NGO Forum and Uganda Women Network (UWONET) were financing terrorism.

The CSOs challenged the government after bank accounts belonging to the NGO Forum and UWONET were frozen, affecting their operations.

The Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) had said in a letter addressed to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that it freezed the organisations’ accounts over their alleged funding of terrorism.

The organisations are understood to be heavily involved in civic education and criticising the government over what they believe is the government’s failure to provide equal opportunity for political competition ahead of the general election scheduled for 14 January, 2021.

19. WCCI Develops Climate Centre in Uganda 

The Women’s Climate Centres International (WCCI) developed a community hub project in the eastern Ugandan town of Tororo to address climate change issues.

Climate change is one of the major threats to Uganda’s sustainable development and efforts to end poverty.

It is understood that the rate of forest cover loss in Uganda stands at 2.6 percent annually, one of the highest in the world.

According to the 2016/17 Uganda National Household Survey, more than 80 percent of the country’s rural households use firewood for cooking.

20. Samson Itodo Only African Appointed to IDEA Board 

And finally, Samson Itodo is now a member of the board of International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).

The Executive Director of Yiaga Africa and six others were appointed to the board on 01 December for a three-year tenure to begin in 2021.

The other appointees are Mariska Beijnum from The Netherlands, Eva Belser from Switzerland, Adam Bodnar from Poland, Laura Chinchilla from Costa Rica, Christian Leffler from Sweden, and Julia Leininger from Germany.

It is understood that the IDEA board of advisors play the major role of advising the council of member states and the secretariat on matters of strategic importance.

What can we expect in 2021?

Several CSOs in Africa are facing a critical threat from the Covid-19 pandemic due to funding as they have been forced to downsize and lay off staff at a time when the work of nonprofits have become critical.

But with the development of a Community of Practice Action Plan (CP-APS) by CLEEN Foundation to mitigate the adverse impact of Covid-19 on the activities of CSOs in Africa, many affected CSOs stand a chance of recovering.

The Nigerian-based foundation developed the plan after the organisation was granted special consultative status by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.

The consultative status enables CLEEN Foundation to actively engage with ECOSOC and subsidiary bodies, as well as with the United Nations Secretariat programmes, funds and agencies in a number of ways.

Photo source: WACSI


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