Funding imbalance preventing African NGOs’ effectiveness — report

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Staff Reporter

THE sustainable development of Africa’s civic society sector is being challenged by an imbalance in international investment, new research has shown.

The research commissioned by Vodacom, Safaricom and Vodafone Foundation said funds meant for Africa’s civic society organisations were being received by international non-governmental organisation (NGOs) instead of going to the intended recipients directly.

The research sought to answer why local African civil society organisations (CSOs) were finding it hard to access global donor aid.

The study was meant to find ways of engaging the relevant stakeholders that will strengthen and accelerate the role of African CSOs in performing a variety of services and humanitarian functions.

Titled Barriers to African Civil Society: Building the Sector’s Capacity and Potential to Scale Up, the report said funding was predominantly flowing to the Northern Hemisphere at the expense of Africans.

“Foreign funding is predominately flowing to donor organisations headquartered in the Northern Hemisphere rather than going directly to the 90 percent of African civil society organisations CSOs that remain dependent on it,” read part of the report.

“Too often, only a portion of philanthropic funding from international aid institutions reaches African CSOs, as it remains trapped within bureaucratic processes and systems. When this aid does reach the African continent, it is usually distributed among locally registered international NGO counterparts, and then allocated to African-led CSOs only for specific projects.

“With these funding limitations, African CSOs are unable to sustain resources and build long-term strategies for lasting social impact. Along with administrative constraints, and negative perceptions about African CSOs, this imbalance in approach to donor funding is preventing African CSOs from being more effective, self-reliant and, of course, helping the communities and citizens they serve,”

While international donors must take concerted action to work with African CSOs more fairly and effectively, the report also called for local organisations, research institutions and the business sector to be supportive in empowering CSOs.

It also recommended re-imagining donor-CSO relations, approaches and systems. Donors must therefore facilitate a level playing field for local CSOs by re-imagining grant-making, rigorous guidelines and procedures, organisational norms and management systems.

CSOs must also be given sufficient funding and room to develop long-term strategies so they can invest in non-programme critical issues, such as securing resources, and improving their own financial management systems, the report said.

Efforts must be channelled towards building local CSOs’ sustainability. In addition to giving larger grants and providing core support, donors must make conscious efforts to strengthen capacities of CSOs, the report said.

The report was funded by Vodafone Foundation and developed by the Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment, the Centre for Strategic Philanthropy at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School, and Clearview Research. It was launched in partnership with African Philanthropy Forum, which promotes home-grown philanthropy and inclusive development in Africa.

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