Varied but vulnerable: the non-profit sector in West Africa

Kofi Awity

The non-profit sector in West Africa is a varied one including groups as diverse as religiously motivated welfare societies, neighbourhood development associations, trade unions, hometown associations, international NGOs, and sport and recreation groups. This diversity notwithstanding, the sector in the region generally remains vulnerable. It is dependent on overseas funding. Its image is frequently unfavourable, both in official circles, where it is often viewed with suspicion, and among the wider public, who see examples of political partisanship and incompetence. Nor, for want of pertinent expertise, has it always been able to capitalize on the opportunities which fledgling democratic regimes have thrown up.

There is no doubting the sector’s diversity in the region. Francophone West Africa counts nine classifications[1] including: Trade Unions, Neighbourhood Development Associations and Groups, Women and Children’s Groups, Artisans, Traders and other Professional Groups, Academic and Research Institutions, Youth, Sports, Folkloric and Dance Groups. A recent study of the non-profit sector in Ghana[2] proposed three main types of organization: Traditional associations and Community-based organizations; Religious and faith-based organizations; Private voluntary organizations or NGOs.

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