Redefining the Lens Through Which Aid is Delivered

Redefining the Lens Through Which Aid is Delivered

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Is there more African non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can do to be more resourceful and less dependent on foreign philanthropists?  

Decades of inequitable development, colonialism and political uprising have made the continent a global destination for charitable funding from philanthropists. Initially, most funding was focused on government institutions, but times have changed, and these resources are being shifted toward sustainable social and economic reforms. International humanitarian organisations like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have spent millions of dollars engaging the continent on shared interests and values.  

In early 2022, the agency donated nearly $1.3 billion to assist people on the brink of starvation from drought in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The agency works with African countries on several projects that aim at building resilience to climate change, supporting democracy, strengthening health systems, and boosting agricultural productivity. Similarly, the Australian government runs projects across the continent. Between 2020-2021, approximately 2.5 million Africans benefited from the work of 26 Australian non-governmental organisations. These initiatives make it easy to applaud philanthropists’ support to the continent and ignore the challenges they pose to the continent’s independence. 

The issue of being dependent on philanthropists is not bad but there are consequences, and it is demanding time for Africa to stop ignoring the backlash that comes from being dependent on philanthropists.  

There are civil society organisations (CSOs) in Africa, particularly international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) that operate strictly through a top-down approach. These organisations claim to work in the interest of their beneficiaries but barely respect the perspectives of the people/institutions they serve. Projects implemented by these organisations are based on donors’ requirements, not on what the communities need. This will continue if Africans cannot start to embrace domestic resource mobilisation. Africans tend to be complacent with and feel entitled to the little that is donated or gifted to them. 

Impact of foreign aid on developing countries 

Humanitarian aid should be given to people in need, but how much aid is enough to do this? Africa receives so much assistance from philanthropists which has led to foreign-aid dependency among nations.  

A British activist and writer, Dr Teresa Hayter critiqued the idea that the purpose of aid is to alleviate poverty. She stated, that “the actual function of aid from Western governments and their agencies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is to subsidise the operations of the private corporations and banks of the West.” She moved on to further explain that “Aid was, and is, used by governments and big multilateral aid agencies to ensure that the governments that receive it adopt policies that favour not just capitalism in general, but the interests of their private corporations and banks in particular.” Hence, from the above, one can assert that although humanitarian interventions should be implemented with the aim of promoting positive humanitarian results, several humanitarian organisations inevitably have ulterior motives. 

Also, a Zambian economist, Dambisa Moyo raised concerns on the impact of aid on Africa in her book. Her synopsis was that the aid Africa is receiving is not promoting economic growth, instead it has condemned the continent to poverty and extended its reliance on Western aid. It was explicit in her write-up on the kind of aid she meant – “systematic aid,” the sort of aid that is transferred from government to government, or through the World Bank Group. Moyo gave a background of such aid from the Bretton Woods system (July 1944) and the Marshall Plan. She wrote that it worked in Europe because the continent had a limited scope, and institutions to use it, unlike many African countries. She believes that the problem with Africa is Africans. 

 Too much aid has suppressed innovation and is preventing growth within the continent. Bauer (1972) known as a critic of foreign aid, saw it as not only failing to speed up but damaging economic development. The apparent motive of foreign aid, at least in the post-World War II era, was to provide a helping hand in international development based on P.N. Rosenstein-Rodan’s big push model, 1943. Paraphrasing the model “insufficient investment across sectors of the economy and infrastructure is keeping developing countries behind.”  

 It is therefore important for civil society organisations in Africa to be aware of these issues and strive to re-strategise to adapt to this reality. They also need to reposition themselves to be preferred allies of communities they operate within. Most importantly, they need to tailor their messages to win the support of community members and attract diverse support from these groups. Such support can be technical, material and or financial. 

Way Forward 

It is no doubt that a key difficulty in attaining the sustainable development goals (SDGs) within the next few years is the availability of sufficient resources to drive the needed action. There is growing competition for meager donor resources from numerous actors. Often, for a country to obtain funding, it depends on its lobbying strategy. They will have to compete with other nations’ projects. 

Government institutions in the region must learn new ways to leverage the available resources to support and maintain the country’s development programmes pointed at attaining economic stability and contributing to sustainable development. Resource mobilisation refers to the steps or activities required to obtain new and additional resources for an institution. Resources are not just money. It could be in-kind donations from communities, raising support from volunteers, or from business-oriented projects. African nations that are dependent on international funds need to design and operationalise a transformative agenda prioritising domestic resource mobilisation strategies. There is a huge need to push private investment in these countries to meet development goals. If this is not done, most countries will continue to be dependent on bilateral aid rather than moving towards investment. 

Shifting to local resource mobilisation is a big step. It is not going to happen overnight but with time, Africans will have to start being financially independent and foster their own peace and development. The task local non-governmental organisations (LNGOs) will face in the future is to explore alternative funding to boost financial stability without interfering with their institution’s mandate.  

This would mean developing a new set of skills and a culture of innovation. Africans’ minds need transformation through capacity building, and that is where capacity building organisations come into play. The experiences from Kenya and Botswana provide useful information for CSOs in Sub-Saharan Africa to use in strengthening their nations’ capital formation strategy. It is imperative that policy makers hasten measures to develop domestic resource agendas focused on financial models that can be used to maintain the region’s independence while being sustainable all at once. 

About the author

Anthonette Quayee

Environmentalist Anthonette Quayee holds experience in protected area management, community-based natural resource management, climate change, illegal wildlife trade and research. She is now supporting the West Africa Civil Society Institute's Knowledge Management Unit in collecting and organising knowledge that aims to improve West African Civil Society Organisations.


WACSI Communications

Environmentalist Anthonette Quayee holds experience in protected area management, community-based natural resource management, climate change, illegal wildlife trade and research. She is now supporting the West Africa Civil Society Institute's Knowledge Management Unit in collecting and organising knowledge that aims to improve West African Civil Society Organisations.

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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.

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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.

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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.