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COVID-19 challenges African Civil Society Organisations and opens up new opportunities, says report

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DAKAR, Senegal, July 1st, 2020/ — More than 1000 African CSOs from 44 countries participated in a major survey on the impact of the COVID -19 pandemic on their organizations.

  • 55.69% of respondents already experienced a loss of funding, while 66.46% expect to lose funding in the next 3-6 months.
  • African CSOs decry exclusion from national responses to COVID-19 and emergency funding mechanisms.

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A new report by EPIC-Africa and @AfricanNGOs confirms that the impact of COVID-19 on African civil society organizations (CSOs) has been widespread and destabilizing. Based on the results of a survey of more than 1000 CSOs in 44 African countries, the report found that 98% of respondents had been adversely affected.

The report adds that CSOs have a long tradition of performing crucial developmental, humanitarian and advocacy functions across Africa and highlights the critical challenges that CSOs are experiencing as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis and strive to survive.

“COVID-19 further exposes many of the challenges that African CSOs have long grappled with, from unstable funding to exclusion from national policy processes. Yet, CSOs are stepping up to address the challenges that COVID-19 is posing to their work and survival. They are leading community responses and amplifying the voices of the most vulnerable populations, with little or no outside support. Once again CSOs are demonstrating that there cannot be any effective response to national emergencies such as COVID-19 without their involvement”, said Rose Maruru, co-founder of EPIC-Africa.

The survey shows that more than half of the respondents (55.69%) have already experienced a loss of funding, while 66.46% expect to lose funding in the next 3-6 months. In addition, 49.87% have introduced measures to reduce costs because of the loss of funding, or the uncertainty about future funding. Looking ahead, 77.97% 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 organizations afloat while also responding to the needs of the communities in which they operate. The majority of respondents confirmed that they were not prepared to cope with the disruption caused by the pandemic”, stated David Barnard, moderator of @AfricanNGOs. 

The report also found that not receiving the necessary support from authorities at the national level has added to the challenges facing CSOs. CSOs reported being excluded from emergency funding mechanisms and 71.58% of respondents believed that governments failed to recognize and utilize local CSOs’ skills, experience and networks in response to COVID-19.

According to the report, despite the odds, African CSOs are demonstrating resilience and agility as they adapt to the “new normal”. They have identified some key opportunities as they seek to cope with the pandemic including leveraging domestic funding sources, building sector solidarity and accelerating digital transformation.  

The report concludes that it is still too early to understand the full impact of COVID-19 on African CSOs, noting it will likely be long-lasting as the pandemic has exacerbated historical and ongoing challenges that hamper the sector. At the same time, it added, many CSOs remain optimistic about the future as 45.06% of respondents felt that they would emerge stronger and more agile after the pandemic.

Click here ( for a copy of the full report.

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