The immediate impact of COVID-19 on African civil society organisations (CSOs) was swift, widespread, and destabilising. This is one of the main findings of a new survey undertaken by @AfricanNGOs and EPIC-Africa. Titled ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on African Civil Society Organisations – Challenges, Responses and Opportunity’, the report surveyed over 1,000 CSOs from 44 African countries between late April and mid-May.
‘This report is the first of its kind to focus exclusively on the impact of COVID-19 on African CSOs. It fills a critical knowledge gap and offers funders, governments, the private sector, and other key stakeholders’ data-based evidence to inform their engagement with African CSOs both during and after the pandemic. It also provides CSOs with a tool to help strengthen solidarity and inform advocacy for greater recognition and support for the sector,’ commented David Barnard, who runs the @AfricanNGOs Twitter.
The report presents an overview of the dual challenges African CSOs face of keeping organisations afloat and also responding to the needs of the communities in which they operate. It also highlights opportunities that emerged from the crisis, and challenges that need to be addressed in support of the recovery and sustainability of African CSOs.
Some of the key findings from the survey include:
- 98 per cent of respondents confirmed that they had been adversely affected
- 56 per cent has already experienced a loss of funding, while 66 per cent expect to lose funding in the next three to six months
- Half have introduced measures to reduce costs because of the loss of funding, or the uncertainty about future funding
- 78 per cent of respondents indicated that COVID-19 would have a devastating impact on the sustainability of many CSOs
Nearly 85 per cent of respondents confirmed that they were not prepared to cope with the disruption caused by the pandemic. Some 70 per cent had to reduce or cancel their operations, while 55 per cent expect this to continue over the next three to six months. Adding to the challenges facing CSOs, most participating in the survey felt excluded from support by national governments – 72 per cent of respondents believed that governments had failed to recognise and utilise local CSOs’ skills, experience, and networks in response to COVID-19.
Despite the impact on their operations, African CSOs have been at the forefront of the response to COVID-19. Almost 58 per cent of respondents introduced new programme activities, with nearly three-quarters self-funding these activities. According to @AfricanNGOs and EPIC-Africa, African CSOs are demonstrating resilience and agility as they adapt to changing circumstances, including leveraging domestic funding sources, building sector solidarity, and accelerating digital transformation.
It is still too early to comprehend the full impact of COVID-19. Still, many CSOs remain optimistic about the future, with nearly half of respondents reporting that they felt they would emerge stronger and more agile after the pandemic and almost 70 per cent saying that they felt COVID-19 would result in greater public appreciation for their work.
EPIC-Africa and @AfricanNGOs plan to conduct a follow-up survey in late 2020 to assess the evolving impact of COVID-19 on African CSOs.
To download and read the full report, click here.