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Civic society warns of shrinking space

CIVIC society in Africa is facing shrinking spaces to raise domestic resources, as private sector investment is being crowded out, it emerged at the recent African Development Bank’s (AfDB) annual meetings.

The shrinking space, according to civic society, is because governments are not playing their corrective role in terms of domestic resource mobilisation to provide an enabling environment for private funding.

This is happening as civic society in Africa is one of the leading sectors fighting against poverty.

Civic society on the continent also face many other challenges with, for instance, in Zimbabwe, the government grappling with the controversial Private Voluntary Organisations Bill which has been met with widespread condemnation and viewed as seeking to limit civic society operations.

Discussions at last week’s AfDB 2024 annual meetings in Nairobi, Kenya showed that civic society is a critical enabler in the fight against poverty and inequality.

“I believe that civic space is the oxygen for citizens’ voices and, therefore, a critical enabler in the fight against poverty and inequality … And in some ways as well, it’s related to protecting and promotion of human rights, being at the core or at the centre of this,” said one delegate, who did not want to be named.

“What I have not heard much of throughout this week and even in this space is how to deal with the issues of the shrinking and shifting civic space and I know some of you have alluded to it. I would like to bring you in and ask you, what exactly — perhaps it’s happening diplomatically — is happening? What are you doing to intervene or to address it all?”

Another delegate, Egyptian Business Women Association founder, Amany Asfour said it was important to mainstream the indigenous African private sector within the whole architecture of the non-State actors of civil society.

“Because what is lagging is that only the big multinational companies, the private sector, come and exploit our resources,” she said

“I just [arrived] from Geneva yesterday, [where I bought] one chocolate [for] €15; €15 euros for one chocolate! That Cocoa is coming from here [Africa]. Our gemstones all go to Jaipur, India, to be cut and polished there, while our small-scale miners here are suffering of all the exploitation of multinational companies. How can we, as civil society, advocate for the rights of the indigenous African private sector, including SMEs, women and Jews?”

However, AfDB Advisor to the bank’s vice president of finance and chief financial officer, Sijh Diagne said it was key to crowd-in the private sector to be able to overcome some of these challenges.

“Next thing is we have to work with our governments in order to have very good, well-prepared projects that can actually make use of these funds. So, the work starts now, but we have to do it collaboratively,” he said.

“And I think the other panellists mentioned the role that the government needs to play in terms of domestic resource mobilisation in order to provide an enabling environment to crowd-in private funding, because if we want to go from billions to trillions, we cannot do it alone.”

He said they had credit guarantees in place to take on losses experienced and allow for the de-risking of some of the investments to make a private sector more comfortable to invest.

Source | NewsDay


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