Civil-Society Development & Governance
“With Africare, I acquired experience in community appraisal and the elaboration of local development plans. I am now the coordinator of a project on community participatory appraisal”
Gilbert Glele, Benin
Democracy and good governance provide the foundation for sustainable development. In contrast, weaknesses in democratic governance dampen economic activity and cause civil unrest. The best insurance that the needs and desires of citizens will be met is effective government which represents the interest of the people, is accountable and transparent, and is able to implement changes necessary to promote and consolidate long-term improvements and gains.
Over the past 45 years, forms of governance and the role of civil society have undergone tremendous change in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The 1960s was the decade in which most African nations gained independence from colonial rule. Exceptions included Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe: all independent today.
During the 1970s and 1980s, governments by and for Africans took different forms, most embracing centralized, single-party political systems and economies run by the state.
It was in the 1990s that democratization began sweeping the continent.
And democratization — a lengthy and multifaceted process of change, affecting all actors from national governments to civil-society groups — continues in the majority of African countries today.
In 2001, a study to assess the degree of perceived democratic freedoms in every country classified 54% of African nations as “not free” and only 12% as fully “free”. In 2008, 23% were “free”, 48% were “partly free” and only 29% were “not free”. From 2008 to 2009 alone, 22 parliamentary elections and 25 presidential elections occurred in Africa, showing growth in democracy. Most African countries have been independent for just 45 years. In the United States, independent for over 230 years, full freedom and equality still elude some segments of society. Democracy is a process.
Most of Africare's work addresses social and economic development. Other Africare programs foster "good governance,” as the partnership of government and civil society forms the framework in which improvements such as food security, health services, education and ultimately economic growth can take hold and last.
Since 1970, Africare's work to empower rural communities and the rural poor in Africa has implicitly advanced many such objectives. Programs explicitly addressing civil-society development and governance include:
Governance training at both local and national levels
Programs to strengthen indigenous NGOs (non-governmental organizations), such as co-ops, trade associations, community self-help groups and other grassroots entities (capacity-building and institutional funding)
Primary and secondary education; adult literacy and vocational training for youth