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African civil society organizations face severe resource shortages as demand for their services increases, new report finds



African civil society organizations face severe resource shortages as demand for their services increases, new report finds

This report is an opportunity to reflect on solutions that will ensure a post-pandemic future with resilient and sustainable CSOs

DAKAR, Senegal, October 28, 2021 / APO Group / –

New report reveals lingering uncertainty but also glimmer of optimism in the resilience of African civil society organizations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; A new report calls on governments and donors to partner with African CSOs to better serve communities.

Large funding losses have limited the ability of African civil society organizations (CSOs) to meet the needs of their communities at a time when COVID-19 has pushed demand for their services to unprecedented levels, according to a report published today by EPIC-Africa. and @AfricanNGOs. The report, “The Impact of COVID-19 on African Civil Society Organizations: Continuing Uncertainty and a Glimmer of Optimism” (, is based on a survey of 1 039 CSOs in 46 African countries in June. and July 2021. It follows the 2020 Groups Report (, which interviewed African CSOs at the start of the pandemic.

Despite these challenges, African CSOs have assumed expanded roles during the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 80% of organizations surveyed introducing new program activities to address the social and economic needs of the most vulnerable populations. Yet CSOs themselves have been hit hard by the pandemic and face considerable uncertainty as the global crisis worsens. Of the organizations surveyed, 68.1% have suffered a loss of funding since the start of the pandemic (up from 55% in 2020) and only 8.4% have received financial support from a government emergency relief fund in their country.

This lack of funding, according to the report, has resulted in citizens being denied vital services such as educational programs for children and adolescents, life-saving medicines for people with HIV, shelter for victims of violence. domestic violence, rape and other atrocities; and the muted voices of citizens in matters of social and economic justice.

“The findings of this report clearly show that governments and donors must recognize, partner and support African CSOs, whose actions are essential to drive a comprehensive response to COVID-19,” said the co-founder. from EPIC-Africa, Rose Maruru. “Since the start of the pandemic, African CSOs have shown great adaptability and creativity to meet the needs of their communities, which makes us optimistic that the sector can recover and build a better future. “

Too important to fail

The report notes a marked increase in demand for the services provided by African CSOs: from 31.5% in 2020 to 40.7% in 2021. In response to the pandemic, 83.4% introduced new program activities , 27.6% have increased their programming to deal with the impact. COVID-19, and 34.3% changed the focus of their programs to COVID-19 in other areas. As the report shows, they provide these services under pressure, with 87.1% reporting increased levels of anxiety and stress among staff. The situation is made worse by the lack of long-term resources and tight civic space in many pre-pandemic countries.

“COVID-19 has exposed some of the main challenges facing African CSOs,” said David Barnard, of @AfricanNGOs and co-author of the report. “This report is an opportunity to reflect on solutions that will ensure a post-pandemic future with resilient and sustainable CSOs. With millions of people dependent on the vital advocacy and daily services provided by African CSOs, the sector is simply too important to fail.

The role of funders

This new report also includes the results of a complementary survey of African CSO donors, which sought to understand how the pandemic has impacted their organizations and the implications for their future engagement with African CSOs. The results show that many donors have shown unprecedented flexibility, provided additional resources and, in some cases, ceded more decision-making power to their recipients. When asked to describe the lessons of COVID-19 and what donors can do to enable CSOs to recover and emerge stronger from the crisis, one donor stressed the importance of general support: “The multi-year flexible grants have given many of our partners the space to react to changing situations. The past year has highlighted the importance of investing in infrastructure; partners receive additional funds to develop their infrastructure so that they can remain resilient in changing environments.

A way forward

According to the report, African CSOs have recognized that the sector needs to be better organized, collaborate more and build stronger networks and platforms. The report notes that COVID-19 has triggered an inflection point and recommends that donors, governments and CSOs lead initiatives to revitalize the sector, with support for institution building, including strengthening infrastructure for local philanthropy. It recommends that governments include CSOs in national emergency response and long-term development efforts, and that CSOs strive to diversify funding and explore new organizational and funding models.

Dr Bheki Moyo, Director of the Center for African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI) at the University of the Witwatersrand said: “This report provides us with important data and knowledge on the impact of COVID-19 on African CSOs and how the crisis exacerbated some of the structural problems that existed before the pandemic. We have a unique opportunity to reflect together on how to translate the recommendations of this report into actions that benefit the millions of people who depend on African CSOs to overcome this crisis and the future.

About the report

EPIC-Africa and @AfricanNGOs conducted the survey that informed this report from June 1 to July 5, 2021, with responses from CSOs from all regions of the continent. This is one of the most comprehensive analyzes of the impact of COVID-19 on CSOs around the world. Given the historical challenges facing African CSOs and the severity of the impact of COVID-19 on the sector, the survey aimed to:

Capture the continuing impact of the pandemic on African CSOs, how CSOs are responding, and emerging trends and lessons that can help predict and prepare for the future. Acquire information at sectoral and regional levels to conduct relevant cross-sectoral analyzes and present a more granular picture of how African CSOs are coping. Compare the results of the 2020 survey with the current situation and generate data and knowledge to inform and broaden the discussion on building resilience in the African CSO sector. Building on the survey responses and comments received from various local and international stakeholders in response to the first report, this report includes two new elements: cross-national and cross-sectoral comparisons to highlight critical gaps and priorities among CSOs in different parts of the continent. Overview of a complementary ‘mini-survey’ of African CSO donors on the impact of COVID-19 on them and how this impact will affect their future engagement with African CSOs.

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