In March 2020, the world was plunged into a state of shock and dismay by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The pandemic affected every aspect of human life, ranging from the individual level to the organisational level. Civil society organisations (CSOs) in West Africa suffered to the extent of not being able to embark on the projects earmarked for a significant part of the year. Some could not pay the salaries of their staff; several of them could not work under the hazardous condition posed by the virus.
To fully understand the effects of the pandemic on CSOs, the West Africa civil society Institute (WACSI) through, the support of Wilde Ganzen, in collaboration with six renowned researchers-initiated research on the effect of Covid-19 on the operations of CSOs in Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and The Gambia, respectively.
Due to the complexity of the pandemic, the researchers employed quantitative and qualitative research methodologies like interviews, focus group discussions and survey. After months of engagements, the Institute produced six countries-specific reports that subsequently were made available on the West Africa civil society Institute’s website wacsi.org on 30 March 2021, which are currently helping CSOs, donors, policymakers, and governments across the region.
As a leading knowledge hub within the civic space in West Africa, the Institute, on 14 April 2021, held a webinar to discuss the content of all six reports. The session enabled the six researchers to elaborate on the findings and explain key Recommendations therein.
The researchers for this project include Dr Gbemisola Abdul-Jelil Animasawun researcher -Nigeria, Issa Bangura researcher -Sierra Leone, S. Aaron Weah-Weah, III researcher -Liberia, Dr Ismaila Ceesay researcher-The Gambia, and Dr Odette kibu, researcher- Cameroon.
While moderating the Webinar, Jimm Chick Fomunjong, the Head of Knowledge Management and Communication Unit, explained the need for this all-important webinar. In articulating his point, he said, ‘’WACSI will continue to put in place measures to promote CSOs’ sustainability’’.
He mentioned that the just-ended hardware donation programme rolled out by the Institute was informed by the findings in the research.
Speaking at the session, Dr Odette Kibu, researcher for Cameroon, stressed that although the COVID–19 has affected the informal sector and the economy in general, its impacts on CSOs in Cameroon is devastating.
“The survey revealed that CSOs in Cameroon are not getting funds from their donors anymore,” she said.
Dr Odette further revealed that most CSOs had to reduce their staff capacity to be able to pay their salaries. She, however, charged stakeholders to adopt the recommendations as put forth by the report. In her view, that is the surest way CSOs can outlive the impact of the pandemic.
Dr Solomon Kofi Amoah, researcher for Ghana, on the other hand, considers his encounter with the CSOs during the research as an eye-opener and revealing. Specifically speaking to the Ghana situation, he said “a staggering number of 83 per cent of CSOs (respondents) fared badly to the harsh conditions posed by the pandemic’’.
However, explaining the Liberia report, S. Aaron Weah-Weah, III said, “The findings of our survey revealed that all CSOs in Liberia who participated were significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their operations and programming were halted or dwindled’’.
The six renowned researchers took turns to thank WACSI and Wilde Ganzen for the opportunity. They charged stakeholders to explore and adopt the recommendations and other strategies that could contribute to strengthening CSOs’ resilience beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the event, participants were full of praise one had this to say, ‘’We are grateful to WACSI and Wilde Ganzen for the COVID-19 report. More importantly, the session has given us more insights into the impact of the pandemic. The recommendations will help both donors and CSOs moving forward. She gladly stated.
Access all six reports using the following links.
Sierra Leone: https://bit.ly/3cDFlhY
The Gambia: https://bit.ly/3ulBJqX