The impact of covid-19 on African Civil Society Organization

The immediate impact of COVID-19 on African civil society organisations (CSOs) was swift, widespread and destabilizing. This is one of the main findings of the Africa CSO COVID-19 Survey that @AfricanNGOs and EPIC-Africa implemented between 28 April and 15 May 2020. A total of 1 015 CSOs from 44 African countries participated in the survey.
Based on the survey findings, we are pleased to release, “The Impact of COVID-19 on African Civil Society Organizations – Challenges, Responses and Opportunities”, the first report that focuses exclusively on the impact of COVID-19 on African CSOs.
Click here to download the full report.
It presents an overview of the dual challenges confronting African CSOs of keeping their organizations afloat, while also responding to the needs of the communities in which they operate. It also highlights opportunities that emerged from the crisis, and crucial challenges that need to be addressed in support of the recovery and sustainability of African CSOs.
The report fills a critical knowledge gap and offers funders, governments, the private sector and other strategic stakeholders the necessary 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.
Some of the key findings from the survey include:
98% of respondents confirmed that they had been adversely affected;
55.69% has already experienced a loss of funding, while 66.46% expect to lose funding in the next 3 to 6 months;
49.87% have introduced measures to reduce costs because of the loss of funding, or the uncertainty about future funding;
77.97% of respondents indicated that COVID-19 would have a devastating impact on the sustainability of many CSOs.
The majority of respondents (84.48%) confirmed that they were not prepared to cope with the disruption caused by the pandemic. 69.34% had to reduce or cancel their operations, while 54.94% expect this to continue over the next 3 to 6 months.
Adding to the challenges facing CSOs, they are also not receiving the necessary support from national governments. In addition to excluding CSOs from emergency funding mechanisms, 71.58% of respondents believed that governments had failed to recognize and utilize 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. 84.77% of respondents introduced new program activities, with 71.94% self-funding these activities. 85.47% stated that they could have done more if capacity or funding constraints were not a barrier.
African CSOs are also demonstrating resilience and agility as they adapt to changing circumstances. They have identified some key opportunities as they seek to cope with the pandemic. These include leveraging domestic funding sources, building sector solidarity and accelerating digital transformation.
It is still too early to comprehend the full impact of COVID-19 on African CSOs, especially as the pandemic is still spreading. However, the impact will be long-lasting as COVID-19 has exacerbated historical and ongoing challenges that hamper the sector. If left unattended, a significant number of CSOs will close down, people working in the sector will lose their jobs, and the various constituencies that depend on CSOs’ services and advocacy interventions will suffer the consequences.
Still, many CSOs remain optimistic about the future. 45.06% of respondents felt that they would emerge stronger and more agile after the pandemic, while 68.08% felt that COVID-19 would result in greater public appreciation for their work.
@AfricanNGOs and EPIC-Africa will implement a follow-up survey in late 2020 to assess the evolving impact of COVID-19 on African CSOs.
(@AfricanNGOs is a Twitter account, moderated by David Barnard, that covers news and information for and about NGOs in Africa & EPIC-Africa is a Senegal-based, pan-African organization that seeks to strengthen the ecosystem for philanthropy in Africa)
Where to from here? Workplace after Lockdown.
For some time we have been talking about the 4th Industrial Revolution (4th IR) and how it will change the way we live and work. There was a focus on job losses as well as opportunities that will come along. I want to link the world after COVID-19 to the 4th IR. Why? Because some companies had to come to a complete halt as there were no resources and strategies in place to assist employees with working from home. We have many companies in SA that do not provide their staff with laptops and some do but fail to provide internet connection. This could be because of costs or that there has never been a need for them.
Businesses need to start thinking about implementing working from home as well as the resources they will need to ensure that staff remains productive. Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, sent an email to staff notifying them that they can continue working from home forever if they want to. Of course, they had adopted the work-from-home model way before lockdown and this put them in a position of advantage when lockdown hit.
A lot of honest conversations need to take place when organizations decide to implement the work-from-home model. Are employees productive for the full 8/9 hours a day? Do certain issues need to be discussed only in meetings or can they be communicated through email? How will we measure productivity when employees are not in the office? What costs are associated with employees working remotely? What about employees that prefer being in an office environment, do we still keep the offices open?
Various tools can be used to monitor employees’ active times throughout the day. For the model to be effective there needs to be a trusting relationship between employer and employee. You can start by allowing employees to work remotely once or twice a week and as the trust grows the hours will also increase.
We cannot deny that the world has changed, we need to be able to change with it. Old techniques might not yield the same results they once did. I believe that in as much as the pandemic has been disruptive for many, it also became a learning curve for most.
Food parcels donation
The aim to help rural arears with food parcels, since this lockdown started there are families that are strugling in rural arears so food parcels for them will help them to survive this disaster we are facing as a Nation wide.
Call to civil society organisations in Africa – Participate in the African CSO COVID-19 Survey

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on the African continent. While Africa still accounts for relatively few deaths from the disease, the numbers are rising. COVID-19 has disrupted and destabilised the global economy, and its impact is felt throughout Africa. While most countries scramble to contain the pandemic, the social and economic effects on vulnerable communities continue to mount.
COVID-19 will also have long-lasting implications for African civil society organisations (CSOs). There can’t be any effective response to COVID-19 in Africa without the involvement of CSOs. However, at a time when their response is more critical than ever before, they are also confronted with the negative impact of the pandemic on their operations and sustainability.
To better understand this situation, @AfricanNGOs and EPIC-Africa are implementing a Pan-African survey that aims to assess and document the specific impact of COVID-19 on African CSOs.
This survey is a follow-up to a Twitter conversation that EPIC-Africa and partners hosted on 2 April 2020. The event provided a platform for African CSOs to discuss how COVID-19 affects their operations, how to respond to the crisis, and how to keep their organisations stable and focused.
Given the feedback generated during this conversation and the ongoing impact of COVID-19 across Africa, the survey results will contribute to a deeper understanding of how the pandemic is disrupting the work of African CSOs, and also highlight their response in this regard. Thinking ahead, the critical lessons learned from this feedback will assist African CSOs to better prepare for any future emergencies.
If you are involved in an African CSO, I encourage you to reflect on the current and expected future implications of COVID-19 for your organisation, complete the survey, and also encourage other CSOs in your networks to participate.
To complete the survey, click here (English) or here (French).
The deadline for completing the survey is Friday, 15 May 2020.
It will take you no more than 15-20 minutes to answer all the questions. Participating organisations should only complete the survey once.
All respondents will receive a report on the survey findings.
You are welcome to contact me ( if you need any assistance with the survey.
Thank you in advance for your support. We appreciate your input!
David Barnard is a development consultant with extensive experience in NGO, philanthropy and ICT issues in Africa. He also moderates @AfricanNGOs
COVID-19 in South Africa – An Overview of the NGO Funding Situation and Fundraising Efforts
This article provides an overview of the expected impact of COVID-19 on the funding situation of NGOs in South Africa, new funding initiatives that aim to support the sector, and the fundraising efforts of NGOs that are involved in COVID-19 related interventions.
The COVID-19 pandemic, national lockdown, and resulting economic slowdown affect every aspect of South African society. Given the already weak state of the economy, the country’s high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality will increase as a result.
The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic also have far-reaching implications for the role that NGOs play in the lives of millions of South Africans.
The more than 220 000 NGOs registered with the Department of Social Development, as well as many community-based organisations, perform crucial development, humanitarian and advocacy functions, and are an integral part of the fabric of our society.
Unfortunately, most NGOs are dependent on grant funding and individual donations to support their operations. As local and international funders are also affected by economic downturns, less funding will be available to support NGOs.
COVID-19 is not an event with a defined beginning or end, and it is likely to remain an ongoing threat for the foreseeable future. This situation makes NGOs extremely vulnerable, and some NGOs are already experiencing a decrease in funding, or fear funding cuts in the future. This is not the time for complacency, and NGOs will require smart leadership and creative fundraising efforts to prevent the down-scaling of operations or staff losses.
Several initiatives have emerged to support NGOs under these trying circumstances. CAF Southern Africa (CAFSA) has launched an emergency fund to support NGOs that provide essential services to the most marginalised communities in the country. Similarly, the Mergon Group has created an emergency Gap Fund to support NGOs that have lost significant funding in recent weeks, or that are experiencing an increase in demand for their services. Both initiatives are actively seeking public support to meet their funding objectives. CAFSA also manages emergency funding by the Oppenheimer Generations Foundation. This funding is offered on a once-off basis to small NGOs (budget of less than R5 million per annum) that deliver food to vulnerable groups. The National Lotteries Commission (NLC) has released R150 million as a relief measure to NGOs struggling to stay afloat during this time.
Many traditional funders are also reviewing the impact of COVID-19 on their grantees, and offer additional support where possible.
The Solidarity Fund, which was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 23 March 2020, provides a vehicle for individuals and organisations to support measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 and assist in the economic recovery. Although not aimed at supporting NGOs specifically, some of the funding will hopefully reach NGOs that are implementing services aligned with the fund’s objectives.
Despite the negative impact of COVID-19 on the NGO sector, many organisations are operating during the lockdown, providing essential services, food and medical supplies to vulnerable communities across the country. These interventions complement those of government and other stakeholders, and form an integral part of a collective national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, given the impact of the pandemic and extension of the lockdown period, these NGOs are in urgent need of immediate financial and in-kind donations to continue providing, or expanding their interventions. Most of them are implementing specific fundraising efforts in this regard.
The following list highlights the fundraising efforts of NGOs (in alphabetical order) in support of their COVID-19 related interventions. Click on the name of an organisation to learn more about its specific fundraising appeal or to make a donation.
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