A group of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have called for a better approach in handling various sectors of Africa’s economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
They made the call during a virtual meeting organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), at the weekend and monitored in Abuja by our correspondent.
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The meeting themed, “Civil Society and COVID-19: Navigating Changes and Adapting Practices” sought ways CSOs could navigate through the Coronavirus pandemic to serve local community towards achieving sustainable development and good governance.
Welcoming participants and panellists to the event, the Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, said discussions have continued around the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic with none focused on the kind of works that the CSOs do or should do across Africa.
She said: “We have never had a discussion that looks at how we operate as a civil society organisation, the challenges that we are going to be facing and what we can actually do better. We need to look at the civil society and how we can navigate through the challenges during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
Moderating the session, Prof. Adebayo Olukoshi, the Director for Africa and West Asia at the Institute of Democratic and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) said that this is the time for civil society organisations to go back to the drawing board and find solutions to the challenges.
Also speaking, the Director, West Africa at the Ford Foundation, Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, decried the non-participation of African countries in the research for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Lamenting that African countries have not been part of the research process going on for the discovery of COVID-19 vaccine, Chukwuma queried the continent’s fate.
He said, “NGOs are struggling with adapting to structures within donor agreement especially with fixed agreements. CSOs need to work together to ensure that plans are mapped out to scale through the crisis period especially with changes in policies which are the biggest challenges.
“There is need to partner with local groups to cut the cost of the work that we do and again leadership is crucial in the face of changing work environment that COVID-19 has placed on us especially our female staff.”
Speaking on what the shape of leadership within the CSOs should be, Dr. Amina Salihu, a Senior Program Officer at the MacArthur Foundation, said the difficult thing to do at the moment is, what is common?
She said that if everything were to be easy and governments across the continent were doing the right thing, then there would be no need for CSOs.
“The pandemic of violence and hunger has only been exacerbated by COVID-19; we have seen an increase in human rights abuses and domestic violence as women and girls can no longer escape their abusers,” Salihu said.
On his part, Jude Ilo, the Country Officer and Head of Nigeria Office for the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) said COVID-19 presented an unprecedented opportunity for creativity.
He said, “What COVID-19 has done is to amplify what is already in existence. We should not just focus on COVID-19 but what has made COVID-19 look this bad and demand change.”