2017 CSO Sustainability Index For Sub-Saharan Africa


USAID is pleased to present the ninth edition of the Civil Society Organization (CSO) Sustainability Index (CSOSI) for Sub-Saharan Africa. The Index describes advances and setbacks in the civil society sectors of thirty-one countries in 2017 through assessments of seven key dimensions: the legal environment, organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, sectoral infrastructure, and public image.

In 2017, USAID reaffirmed its commitment to working with a diverse array of partners, including civil society, to advance the principles of self-reliance and locally-sustained development. The CSOSI provides a comprehensive assessment of the capacity of civil society to serve as both a short-term partner in implementing development solutions and a long-term actor in ensuring development outcomes are sustained. The CSOSI empowers local civil society to collectively assess not only the environment in which they are operating, but also their own capacities to advocate, operate sustainably and communicate with citizens. Allowing local civil society to self-identify their development challenges is the first step in promoting resiliency and long-term self-reliance.

The Index is intended to be a useful source of information for local CSOs, governments, donors, academics, and others who want to better understand and monitor key aspects of sustainability in sub-Saharan Africa’s CSO sector. It relies on an expert panel of CSO practitioners and researchers in each country to propose a score for each dimension. Scores may range from 1 (indicating advanced development and sustainability as a result of existing policies and practices) to 7 (indicating fragility, instability, and a low level of development because of impeding policies and practices, generally by a government that opposes an independent CSO sector). Dimension scores are averaged to produce an overall sustainability score. The Index groups all scores into three overarching categories: Sustainability Enhanced (scores from 1 to 3), Sustainability Evolving (3.1−5), and Sustainability Impeded (5.1−7). An editorial committee composed of technical and regional experts reviews each panel’s findings to maintain consistent approaches and standards so as to facilitate cross-country comparisons. Further details about the methodology used to calculate scores and produce corresponding narrative reports are provided in Annex A.

The CSO Sustainability Index for Sub-Saharan Africa complements similar publications covering twenty-four countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, nine countries in Asia, and seven countries and territories in the Middle East and North Africa. The various editions of the CSO Sustainability Index bring the total number of countries surveyed to seventy-one.

For the ninth year in a row, the CSO Sustainability Index for Sub-Saharan Africa offers a snapshot of developments in the region’s CSO sectors. Overall, the year posed diverse and sometimes contradictory challenges for civil society. In some countries, economic decline began to turn around, armed conflicts abated, or political leaders in office for decades ceded power, although not always willingly. Elsewhere, economic and political trends increased suffering and political turmoil. CSOs usually responded to local developments as capable advocates and service providers, although in some countries they suffered severe setbacks as funding waned or government hostility intensified. In view of these divergent trends, this introduction seeks to point out patterns in this year’s scores as well as events occurring across the continent, which can serve as guideposts for interpreting the country reports that follow.

As in 2016, this year’s Index covers thirty-one countries. Nine of these countries (Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC], Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda) are in East Africa; thirteen countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone) are in West Africa; and nine countries (Angola, Botswana, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) are in Southern Africa. While these regional divisions help inform broad-brush trends, the individual country reports are critical for understanding specific developments, given the vast ethnic, political, historical, and other differences among the countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

Last updated: April 12, 2019

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