[Nigeria, 19 November 2022] The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) is poised to tighten collaboration with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to build civil society resilience in Nigeria for the country’s development.
The Institute has launched its node in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, the home of ECOWAS, which will enhance the longstanding relationship between the two institutions.
Speaking at the launch on Wednesday, November 16, Executive Director of the Institute, Nana Afadzinu, underscored the importance of a buoyant civil society in the affairs of the Africa’s most populous country, especially at a time when the country is preparing to go to the polls in 2023.
She noted that “Nigeria’s position in Africa’s geo-politics cannot be underestimated, and a strong civil society in Nigeria bodes well not only for Nigeria but for West Africa and indeed the continent.”
Afadzinu noted that despite the important role the third sector plays, civil society actors face several constraints that weaken their prowess to pursue their mandates as agents of national development and democracy.
Some of these challenges, she explained, include lack of access to affordable technology, cybersecurity challenges, dwindling donor funding, inflexible grant agreements, and reporting mechanisms.
Others include weaknesses in networking and coordination within civil society, weakening institutions because due to the lack of investment in strengthening the institutions and not just supporting project delivery, and a marginalisation of civil society within the policy space.
The Executive Director said WACSI’s node will help address some of these challenges by connecting them to the Institute’s capacity strengthening trainings, mentoring and coaching offerings.
On his part, Wits School of Governance researcher, Professor Adebayo Olukoshi, charged Nigerian civil society to take advantage of the physical presence of the Institute and work towards improving the democratic credentials of the country.
He admonished civil society actors in the West African country to rise above threats to democracy. “I hope that this node will be a healing abode for Nigerian CSOs to build a united and democratic country.”
Addressing the event on the impact of digital transformation on civil society, Charles Abani, the United Nations’ Resident Coordinator for Ghana, called on civic actors to use technology to forge social cohesion instead of using it to promote hate speech and division, especially during the times of the elections.
He also implored them to build solidarity in the sector. “Civic actors must collaborate, share, and leverage skills and competencies instead of competing with each other,” Abani added.
The launch of a liaison office in Nigeria marks a great milestone for the Institute, which also forms part of its strategy to effectively respond to the evolving needs of civil society in West Africa.
More than 100 civil society actors and development experts, including dignitaries from the ECOWAS and international non-governmental organisations attended the launch which was also complemented with a nonprofit tech event.