Grooming Influential Actors for Civil Society in West Africa: The Story of Leandre Banon 

Grooming Influential Actors for Civil Society in West Africa: The Story of Leandre Banon 

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Unemployment and underemployment are dire challenges facing many developing countries. In West Africa, the youth are worst hit by this menace. Moreso, many youths endowed with valuable potential to contribute to the development of their countries and the region are pushed to engage in illegal migration ventures in search of greener pastures. This is partly because they sometimes do not have the opportunity to express their savoire-faire in society. 

Recognising this challenge, and, appreciating the potential in West African youth, the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) designed the Next Generation Internship Programme (NGIP) to groom young West Africans to be civic conscious and capable of championing civic action and promote effective leadership and influence within civil society organisations in West Africa. 

Through the NGIP, WACSI has groomed more than sixty young people across West Africa into excellent leaders and influential civil society actors.  

This holistic professional development programme offers young people practical experience and mentorship which makes them better leaders, improves their civic consciousness, and prepares them for their career. Specifically, it grooms them to be capable of taking leadership roles within the civil society sector and society at large. 

In 2014, when Leandre Banon started his internship at WACSI, he had basic project management skills but just a little knowledge about civil society. He had worked as an Assistant Analyst at the Central Bank of West African States (Benin Republic Office) where he supported his department in data collection and compilation for economic trend analysis. Therefore, being selected to intern with the Institute as a Programme Assistant was a groundbreaking opportunity for him to enhance his project management skills and broaden his knowledge base about civil society.  

Banon who interned with the Institute from September 2014 to March 2015, was the second Beninese to have benefited from the NGIP. 

While working as an intern, Banon put up a sterling performance at work which shaped his career at the Institute. Upon successful completion of his internship, he was recruited to lead one of the Institute’s key projects, the West Africa Drug Policy project. A role he played for more than three years. In 2016, he was subsequently recruited as a Programme Assistant and later promoted to the role of  Programme Officer, Capacity Development. 

The former employee who worked with the Institute for 9 years was genuinely happy while recounting his experience. 

“It was through this internship that I enhanced my inter-personal skills. The people here [at WACSI] are nice people and easy to relate with,” he told WACSI’s communications team on 24 January 2023 at the Institute’s Secretariat in Accra. 

Banon beliefs the Institute has a supportive work environment characterised by collaboration and teamwork. This helped him to get any help he needed in his work.  

“WACSI has professionals from diverse backgrounds and different countries. This is very helpful for anyone who wants to learn and share ideas,” he said. 

As an Officer with the Capacity Development unit, Banon had the opportunity to lead several capacity development initiatives under many projects. This, according to him, significantly contributed to his career growth as he did not only acquire skills but also gained exposure interacting with over 800 civil society organisations across West Africa including international non-governmental organisations.  

While at WACSI, his work cut across various thematic areas including, human rights promotion, environment, local fundraising, advocacy for social change, to mention but a few. Banon believed in constant learning by doing, a philosophy which won him great successes in his work.

He noted that the Institute which started work in 2005 has grown significantly, moving from a regional-focus to international-outlook.   

“WACSI has grown due to the great leaders we have in the team. I also like how the communication and knowledge management units work collaboratively to amplify the Institute’s impact across the African continent,” Banon added.  

He expressed appreciation to the Institute and pledged commitment to making the best out of the knowledge he has acquired.  

As he transitions into a new role as the Regional Programme Manager at the International Republican Institute, Banon has urged young people to make the best out of every opportunity that will come their way. 

Commenting on Banon’s career progress, Charles Kojo Vandyck, Head of Capacity Development unit, who supervised his work describes him as a young man with good amount of “emotional intelligence.”   

“I know he [Leandre Banon] will excel wherever he goes, having passed through WACSI. He always demonstrates resilience and a calm attitude even when the work gets tough.  

He is always looking for solutions to problems. He believes every problem has a solution. It was a joy working with him,” he said. 

Banon’s story is one of the numerous success stories the Institute has received over the years regarding its flagship internship programme.  We are particularly happy the programme is adding value to the lives of young civic actors.  

The NGIP is a six-month rigorous skills development initiative which began in 2008. Out of the 69 young Africans from sixteen countries who have graduated from the programme, 38 are females while 31 are males.  

Sixteen of the participants came from Ghana, ten came from Nigeria, three came from Burkina Faso while ten were selected from Benin.  

Seven of the graduates were from Cameroon, three came from Cote d’Ivoire, two from Gambia, six from Guinea Conakry whereas two were selected from Guinea Bissau.  

One Liberian has also benefited from this programme. Two also came from Mali while one was selected from Seirra Leone.  

Two Senegalese and one person from Niger have also benefited from this flagship programme with two and one from Togo and Zimbabwe respectively. 

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FIIFI BOATENG

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 KANKAM KUSI

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 ADWOA ANIMA

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 ODEI

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

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

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

GEORGE ADU-MINTAH

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

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

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

BETHEL KWAME BOATENG

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

WHITNAY SEGNONNA

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

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 ASANTE

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

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.

LILLIAN DAFEAMEKPOR

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

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 CHANASE

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

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

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

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 A. SOMBO

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 T. BALOGUN

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

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 KOJO VANDYCK

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 ASANTEWA AFADZINU

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.