Welcome Remarks by Nana Afadzinu, Executive Director, WACSI at the Regional Civil Society Strategy Convening 2023

Welcome Remarks by Nana Afadzinu, Executive Director, WACSI at the Regional Civil Society Strategy Convening 2023

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Esteemed chairpersons:

  • Amina Salihu, Senior Programme Officer, McArthur Foundation; and

  • Professor Charles Ukeje, Independent Consultant/ Governance expert;

Your Excellency Ambassador Awinador-Kanyirige, Senior Advisor for Governance and Peacebuilding, African Union;

Distinguished executives and representatives of civil society in West Africa, Africa and internationally;

Respected members of the media,

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen- here physically and joining virtually;

All other protocols observed.

On behalf of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), Media Foundation for West Africa (MfWA), West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), and West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS), I am delighted to welcome you to Accra, Ghana, for the inaugural Regional Civil Society Strategy Convening.

This event follows closely on the heels of the just-passed Civil Society Week in Nigeria, for which many of you, our esteemed guests, honoured us with your presence. We are eternally grateful. Among the outcomes of the event were two cardinal ones needing immediate attention, namely:

  • a regional meeting of civil society to discuss the retrogression of democracy broadly and what could or should be done to rescue the situation;
  • and through the meeting, collectively develop a road map on how to engage transitions to ensure the return to constitutional order.

We are therefore convening here today to begin working on these goals collectively, as we respond to our mutual and deep concern for the state of democracy in the sub-region. This is a critical juncture in our history, as West Africa is plagued by ever increasing democratic retrogression and mounting disillusionment among its citizens.

This is reflected in the Global Freedom rankings in Freedom House’s 2023 Freedom in the World report. For instance, Mali is the worst ranked country in West Africa, ranking only 29 points on a 100-point scale, while Guinea follows closely behind at 30 points. Additionally, following successive coups in Burkina Faso, the country is shown to have experienced the steepest decline in the region, losing a total of 23 points, and falling from “partly free” to “not free”. This leaves Ghana and Cabo Verde as the only “free” countries in the region, a worrying trend to say the least, as the widening cracks in democracy place a great burden on the region’s levels of peace, stability, poverty lines and overall human security. (Freedom In the World 2023),

A number of challenges and threats can be outlined as factors leading us to this point, harbouring such a fractured and restricted civic space. These include:

  • The appetite for tenure elongation among some of our leaders;
  • Corruption and misgovernance;
  • Economic impacts of COVID-19;
  • The youth bulge and corresponding youth unemployment rates; and
  • The rise of violent extremism and terrorism, to name but a few.

These challenges are interconnected and pose a serious threat to the long-term stability and prosperity of West Africa. With our region’s turbulent history, it is imperative that democracy be nurtured and defended unwaveringly. It is more important than ever for civil society to play a leading role in championing and defending the region’s freedoms. We as civil society organisations are the backbone of democracy, and play a vital role in holding governments accountable, advocating for the rights of citizens, and building a more inclusive and just society.

This dialogue grants us the opportunity for us to work together to strengthen and build back the West Africa we want to see. It is an opportunity to develop a shared vision for the future of democracy in the region and a unique chance to develop a plan of action for how we can achieve this vision. That is why this dialogue is so important. We must come together as civil society actors, development partners, academics, activists, and concerned citizens to discuss the challenges facing democracy in West Africa and to develop a collective strategy for addressing them.

As we launch into today’s program, let’s all bear in mind that we want to emerge from this dialogue with a clear understanding of the following:

  • The root causes of democratic erosion in West Africa
  • The current forms of democracy practiced and limitations
  • What form/s of democracy or democratic ideals are fit for our context
  • The specific challenges facing civil society in promoting democracy
  • The role of ECOWAS in strengthening democracy in the region
  • The expectations of civil society for a more responsive and effective ECOWAS

Once these are clear, we will be able to begin framing a concrete plan of action for strengthening democracy and state-citizen relations in West Africa. This will not be an easy task. But I am confident that we can achieve it if we work together.

I encourage you to participate fully in this dialogue. Share your ideas and perspectives. Be open to learning from and innovating with others. Together, we can build a stronger and more resilient democratic future for West Africa.

Thank you and once again, welcome.

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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.