How Viable is Civil Society in Africa? A USAID Tool Provides Insight

2001 CSO Sustainability Index

By David Bargueno and Kellie Burk, USAID Africa Bureau

For Immediate Release

Monday, December 10, 2012

Donors can play a crucial role in strengthening the ability of civil society organizations (CSOs) across Africa to organize, advocate, raise awareness, act as watchdogs, and provide vital services.  However, the ability of CSOs to make a true impact depends not only upon their own organizational capacity and financial viability, but also upon such external factors as the legal environment in which they operate and the infrastructure supporting them. 

USAID offers an easy way to better understand the opportunities and the obstacles facing civil society across the region with the CSO Sustainability Index for Sub-Saharan Africa.   The Index assesses the strength and viability of the CSO sector based on seven dimensions of sustainability.  The latest edition expands coverage to 23 African countries with the addition of Botswana, The Gambia, Malawi and Zambia.

Angola Mali
Botswana Mozambique
Burundi Nigeria
DR Congo Rwanda
Ethiopia Senegal
Gabon Sierra Leone
The Gambia South Africa
Ghana Tanzania
Guinea Uganda
Kenya Zambia
Liberia Zimbabwe

Celebrating the third year of publication of the Index for Africa, a recent launch event at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars featured presentations on the latest data and emerging trends.  According to the Index, African CSOs continue to play a key role in service delivery.  The findings also indicate an overall improvement in advocacy efforts by civil society, particularly around elections.  On the other hand, there has been a deterioration of the enabling environment for CSOs in several countries where governments have enacted or proposed restrictive laws.  Meanwhile, financial viability continues to be the greatest challenge for CSOs across the countries examined. 

Based on the Index’s 2011 scores, most African countries fall into the Sustainability Evolving category, with the remaining countries in Sustainability Impeded.  Again this year, not a single African country falls within the highest category of development—Sustainability Enhanced. South Africa’s overall score for CSO sustainability continues to rank highest among the African countries assessed, followed by Kenya; while Angola has consistently ranked lowest since 2009. 

With financial support from the Aga Khan Foundation, USAID produces the Index for several regions of the world where it is used by donors, researchers, and national and local partners to advocate for policies and inform strategies supporting civil society. 

Visit the CSO Sustainability Index for Sub-Saharan Africa webpage for an interactive map, downloadable scores, and country reports in English, French and Portuguese.

Last updated: August 03, 2017

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