Dialogue between Organised and Organic Civic Actors on Transformative Strategies to Expand Civic Spaces in West Africa held in Senegal

Dialogue between Organised and Organic Civic Actors on Transformative Strategies to Expand Civic Spaces in West Africa held in Senegal

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[Dakar – 22 July 2022] Leaders of organised civil society and drivers of social movements across West Africa held a three-day workshop in Dakar, Senegal, to design a transformative strategy that will help drive effective policy engagement and empower citizens to build a resilient civic space in the region.      

The group explored extensively dynamics of the shrinking and restrictive nature of civic space, constraints of organic entities (social movements), emerging issues—especially in the Sahel region and citizens efforts to pushback these restrictions in an unstable and post-pandemic West Africa.   

Convened  by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and Oxfam regional office in West Africa, the workshop which commenced on 19 July 2022 created a tactical platform for participants to reflect and discuss on collaborative strategies to leverage the strengths and strengthen accountability mechanisms for social movements and organised civil society.   

The actors used the opportunity to identify, share, learn and explore potential mechanisms aimed at enhancing the social movements’ ability to mobilise resources from traditional donor by meeting basic donor requirements for grantmaking and reporting, without necessarily  transitioning to an NGO in any form or format. 

The Acting Director of Oxfam Senegal, Zeinabou Coulibaly, in an opening remark emphasised the importance of the convening. According to her, “it was crucial and timely for Senegal, at a time the country needed a unified front to drive citzens’ collective mandates ahead of the forthcoming general elections.”   

She expressed confidence that the outcome of the workshop would revigorate the needed solidarity to pushback degrees of state’ restrictions on civic space and citizens organising.  

Speaking on the sidelines of the event to Senegal-based WALF TV, Omolara Balogun, Head of Policy Influencing and Advocacy, WACSI reiterated the timeliness of the convening.  She recounted that the past few years had seen a resurgence of new set of actors such as social movements, online/social media activists, ‘democratives’ (activists in the creative world) in civic space.   

She said the impact of these new actors had been significantly felt in countries such as the Gambia, Burkina Faso, Guinea (Conakry), Mali, Senegal, and Nigeria where they acted swiftly to safeguard democracy and demand for accountable governance using street protests, rallies, technology and social media to mobilise and call public attention to several social, political and economic challenges.   

She said, “social movements have become a powerful force in the quest for democratic consolidation and social justice across West Africa”. While emphasising the importance of a workshop like this at a time where the region was grappling with democratic instability and witnessing a comeback of autocratic regimes, she indicated that the dialogue sought to glavanise practical ideas to foster collaborative approach for open civic space in the region.    

Balogun affirmed WACSI’s commitment and readiness to support organic groupings (social movements) in their bid to restructure and be better placed to drive their mandates. She indicated that the outcomes from the event will be documented to serve as a pool of knowledge that will provide hands-on information to activists in the region. 

 More than 40 leaders from organised CSOs, social movements, international non-government organisations and donor institutions across the region attended the workshop.  They expressed confidence in the outcome of the workshop and indicated their readiness to apply the lessons learnt.  

Oyebisi Oluseyi, Executive Director of Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO) believed the workshop had built on the knowledge of social movements leaders who participated. He challenged social movements to shift from “emotional and overly sentimental activism, towards evidence-based activism, because government do not work based on sentiments but with evidence.” 

Fatou Sy, a Political and Governance Progamme Associate at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa said the organisation was resolute to support the civic space in the region especially towards removing persisting restrictions to the freedoms of activists, human rights defenders, and civil society advocates.   

She said the institution was ready to provide long term funding to support organic activism. However, it was prudent for organic movements to put in place mechanisms to facilitate accountability, transparency, donor funding and reporting.    

The workshop ended on high note on 21 July 2022 with closing remarks from partners Oxfam and WACSI, where Omolara Balogun, WACSI, assured participants of accelerating the deployment of an advocacy capacity building programme designed for social movement in West Africa.  




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Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.


Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.


Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.


Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.


Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.


George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.


Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.


Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.


Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.


Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.


Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.


Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.


Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.


Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.


Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.


Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.


Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.


Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.


Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.


Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.