Welcome Remarks by Nana Afadzinu, Executive Director, WACSI at the West Africa Civil Society Week 2023 

Welcome Remarks by Nana Afadzinu, Executive Director, WACSI at the West Africa Civil Society Week 2023 

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

Your Excellencies, the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Ghana, Mr. Charles Abani; and Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Nigeria, Mr. Martin  and Coordinator of the Regional Programme for Africa at the UNDP, Mr.  Jide Okeke;

Representatives of the ECOWAS Commission here present;

Esteemed civil society comrades in West Africa, Africa and internationally;

Respected members of the media,

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen- here physically and joining virtually;

On behalf of West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI)and our cherished partners including WADEMOS and the Ford Foundation whom you will soon hear from, it is my privilege and honour to welcome you all to the West Africa Civil Society week, 2023!

We are in very unusual times. If I was standing here 10 or barely 8 years ago we would be looking at discussing threats to civic space in West Africa considering terrorist threats, resource constraints, the lack of support to civil society, the weakening civil society front, concerns with unconstitutional changes in governance weaponizing legal systems and ECOWAS’s seeming non-responsiveness to those concerns, and all these are still matters that exists and need attention but we stand today teetering at the edge of a cliff – one that a slip could cause us to plunge into war in West Africa.

This is not a civil war where ECOWAS needs to intervene to save lives of citizens and restore peace and security like it was in Liberia and Sierra Leone- No. it would be a military intervention into a country in West Africa to remove a junta that has taken over the reins of governance through coup-d’état. Even more disconcerting is the fact that this would be the 4th successful coup d’état in the region within this span of time (Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea), with one failed one, supposedly in Sierra Leone.

This time, though, it is not the citizens that are clamouring for ECOWAS intervention but there is rather seemingly mass citizen support for the coups.

This time geo-political developments have a massive influence and citizens seem to have taken sides with external interests and one is not too sure which war and, in whose interest, ECOWAS would be fighting if it intervenes. It is not that clear.

Civil Society and the enhanced and strengthened civic space that we advocate for to ensure sustainable development through good governance; transparency and accountability; social, economic, and political development; inclusivity and participation; social justice, social accountability and social protection; gender equality and non-discrimination- all to ensure peace and prosperity in West Africa, is under a major threat- and we are in a dilemma.

To be very clear- We want democracy and good governance, we oppose coup d’états and prefer constitutional rule and good electoral governance- those are our principles and we have stood for and fought for them but even more fundamentally, we being West Africans ourselves are, stand for, and stand with the people- for our peace, security, prosperity and collective well-being. But, in a climate where citizens have demonstrated opposition to what seems ideal because they have not benefited from democratic dividends and even in countries that do not face these governance upheavals there is growing apathy the questions stares at us – whose democracy has it been; who are those that are benefitting from the system we have; whose interest is it serving and what does it mean for us- our civic space? And really… whose side are we really on?

Civil Society has itself changed and we now have different movements and groupings, many of which have so much to offer but are not part of the fold. There is an intergenerational gap that could be closed to enable more impact to enhance the civic space. We are in a technology age that offers a huge potential in spite of the disinformation, misinformation and cybersecurity issues- how do we take advantage of it and quell the weaponization of it. How do we build solidarity to take back and restore the civic space that belongs to the peoples of West Africa to enable the sustainable development that we so desperately need in our countries?

How do we break out of the projectized mode of engagement- breaking out of the siloed mentality of doing things and looking at the bigger picture and what we can achieve together- maintaining our identities but still working in concert towards mutual goals.

We still face resourcing issues- COVID exposed the weakness of our institutions, structural patriarchy continues to be an obstacle and the inequitable power in international development strangles our growth and facilitates civic space constraints.

ECOWAS, once our beacon of hope amongst the Regional Economic Bodies on the continent– a pace-setter and norm setter – seems to have lost the trust of its citizens and waned considerably in moral authority. We want our ECOWAS back- back to what it promised to be- that ECOWAS that wanted to be one of peoples and not States.

This week affords us a rare opportunity for deep reflection; honest and bold discussions; sharing and also learning, finding ways to strengthen our solidarity; use current platforms like WADEMOS; enquire and deliberate on how to strengthen our engagement with ECOWAS and make functional already approved mechanisms like ECOWAS’ ECOSOCC; and look at ourselves again in the mirror as civil society in West Africa.

The Civic Space Resource Hub is a tool for us. We will hear more about it this week, the different opportunities that it affords and also see how we can make it work better for us in these times.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Spaces for Change for our partnership on this hub so far, the Ford Foundation that has proven to be a reliable partner not only on the Civic Space Hub but for civil society in West Africa for many years, and WADEMOS for coming on board to support our gathering this week.

It is my hope that this will be the beginning of many more of such weeks for us in the coming years and that we will own it as civil society in West Africa. Next year, it is my hope that we will be talking about more partners coming on board with different resources to really make this a space that belongs to us and the peoples of West Africa for the redemption and sustenance of a strong, open, and empowering civic space.

Thank you and welcome, once again.

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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.