AROCSA was founded in September 2015 in Accra, Ghana, under the auspices of the Association for Research on Non-Profit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), with the support of the Ford Foundation, to promote and advance a community of excellence in research and practice on civil society in the service of African development.
There have been multiple, stand-alone efforts to encourage research and knowledge-sharing on the ‘third sector’ globally, and this is evident in the existence of various organizations, conferences, academic journals etc. in various parts of the world. In Africa, the contemporary complexities of governance and relationships between sectors – public, private, non-profit, and academia — has led to a rise in the relevance of civil society and the citizen sector in general. It is therefore crucial to have a continent-wide organization that will serve as the bedrock of advancing knowledge and practice in civil societies across Africa; this is why AROCSA was set up.
In May 2016, a yearlong exploration on the formation of an association for civil society-focused research and scholarship in Africa culminated in a formal organizational launch and the successful convening of the new association’s first continent-wide conference. The organization, now legally registered in Nigeria and the United States, was been dubbed the ‘Association for Research on Civil Society in Africa’, with the acronym ‘AROCSA’.
The initiative came about through the leadership of the Ford Foundation’s West Africa Office. To guide this effort, Ford partnered with ARNOVA, a U.S.-based academic association with more than 40 years’ experience in convening non-profit practitioners, scholars, researchers, and students focused on civil society. Among ARNOVA’s many accomplishments has been the publication of Non-Profit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, a globally respected scholarly journal.
First Stop, Accra
The first major stop in the formation of AROCSA took place in September 2015, when a group of fourteen West African scholars, civil society practitioners, and “pracademics”—individuals whose careers bridge non-profit scholarship and practice—came together in Accra to explore the possibility of forming an association that could support their field. This core group was joined by a small delegation of non-profit scholars from the United States along with representatives from ARNOVA. Together, members of this group constitute the founders of AROCSA.
At this meeting, participants discussed and debated the value of creating a scholarly association focused on civil society, looking at potential strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats. These lively exchanges led to a collective sense that such an organization would indeed add value to the non-profit sector in Africa. Discussions turned to potential programmatic areas the new organization might focus on, and five were selected for further investigation:
At Accra, it was decided that the new organization should be continent-wide rather than West Africa-focused: AROCSA’s founders agreed that it is crucial that there be a continent-wide organization that can serve as a bedrock for advancing knowledge and practice in the civil society space in Africa. It was in this spirit that the group committed to moving forward collectively to formally establish AROCSA, and all left Accra with high hopes.
Next Stop, Chicago
The next major stop on the journey to creating AROCSA took place in Chicago in November 2015. There, following ARNOVA’s annual conference, AROCSA’s West Africa-based founders focused much of their time on issues of organizational development, including mission and values:
And Onto Lagos…
With greater clarity on AROCSA’s direction, founding members then turned to the organizing of the organization’s formal launch event; a conference to be held in Lagos in May 2016. While ARNOVA staff provided strong logistical support to the undertaking, a small group of AROCSA founders coordinated the development of the conference program as well as outreach to potential participants. To support these efforts and AROCSA’s broader launch, an organizational logo was developed and an AROCSA website was launched.
The AROCSA launch conference took place in Lagos from May 19th to 21st, 2016. The more than 80 registrants were largely West Africa-based, but participants from Malawi, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt and Cameroon helped to bring a more continent-wide perspective to the event. In plenaries and breakout sessions, the conference program explored a range of issues, including technology, corruption, cross-country collaboration, social entrepreneurship, public policy, impact assessment, and philanthropy.
Conference evaluations revealed a very positive response to the gathering among participants: On their overall experience, the conference program, networking and other broad conference elements, roughly 97% of participants were “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied”—exceptionally strong numbers under any circumstances but especially so given that this was AROCSA’s first conference. Most encouragingly, when asked, “Based on your experience here, do you expect to become more involved in AROCSA?”, 100% of respondents to this question answered “Yes”. At the final session of the conference, more than 40 participants showed up to share their ideas for AROCSA and to sign up to participate in a range of working groups established to move AROCSA forward.
Following the conference in Lagos,, AROCSA has hosted three more conferences in Johannesburg, Cairo and Kenya for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively, which were equally successful. Regrettably, the conference for 2020 was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and plans are in place to host a virtual conference event in 2021.
In an interview, Dr. Bhekinkosi Moyo, Chair of the AROCSA Board, describes the origins of AROCSA and how he became a part of the association. Click here to download the full interview
Dr. Pinkie Mekgwe is International IDEA’s Senior Regional Adviser for Africa and West Asia and her work focuses on strengthening programmatic and administrative coherence and performance. Before joining International IDEA in 2018, she was Executive Director of Internationalism at the University of Johannesburg for the past six years. She also previously served as Deputy Director at the Office of International Education and Partnerships of the University of Botswana and as Programme Officer for the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). Previously she was a lecturer at the University of Botswana, visiting researcher at the Witwatersrand Institute of Social and Economic Research, and a visiting lecturer at Malmö University in Sweden.
Ms. Kareman Shoair has a Masters degree (MA) in Economics from the American University of Cairo in Egypt. She is an Adjunct Faculty in the American University of Cairo’s Economics Department and a Research Manager at the John D. Gerhart Centre for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement. She is also a board member for the Arab Foundations Forum (AFF).
Dr. Esi Ansah is a founding partner and the current CEO of Axis Human Capital Ltd. She is an Assistant Professor at Ashesi University College. Esi is active in her community and currently serves as the Executive Director of two non-profit organizations – the Paul A. V. Ansah (PAVA) Memorial Foundation and the Association of Ghana’s Elders (AGE), which she co-founded. She is a fellow of the Aspen Institute’s Africa Leadership Initiative – West Africa (ALIWA) and was in July 2015 appointed as a member of the West Africa Board. She was honoured by the New York-based The Network Journal (TNJ) as one of the journal’s “Forty under Forty” African Achievers in 2010.
David Kode is the Advocacy and Campaigns Lead for CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. In the past, he has worked with the organisation as a Policy and Research Officer. He has worked with UNICEF South Africa in the Office of the Deputy Representative. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science from the University of Buea, Cameroon and a Masters Degree in International Relations from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.
Dr. Godwin Murunga is a historian and political analyst of Kenyan origin. He is the Executive Secretary of CODESRIA. He has lectured at the Institute of Development Studies of the University of Nairobi. He was the director of the Africa Leadership Centre in Nairobi. He was a member of the Executive Committee of CODESRIA for two consecutive terms (2005-2011). Dr. Murunga has many years of robust scholarship under his belt, evidenced by the incisive analysis that characterized his numerous scholarly publications. He also has valuable teaching and management experience and a deep knowledge of the higher education landscape in Africa.
Dr. Ijeoma Nwagwu earned her doctorate in Law (S.J.D) and Masters in Law (L.L.M) degrees from Harvard Law School and was awarded the Landon H. Gammon prize for academic excellence. After attending the Nigerian Law School, Ijeoma worked as legal counsel for the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), where she also produced documentaries on law, human rights, and development themes with Channels Television, Lagos and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA). Ijeoma taught International Trade Law and Human Rights at St. Mary’s University College, London and was on the research team for the World Bank Assisted Science and Technology Education Post-Basic (STEP-B) project in Nigeria. She has also conducted research training for the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in Senegal. Ijeoma is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association.
Dr. Bhekinkosi Moyo is a writer, author, researcher, and thought leader with keen interest in questions of African resources, democracy, and governance. He has championed the African discourse on philanthropy, contributed to the growth of many African civil society formations and has taken part in most of the continental processes of development and governance. He has written extensively on African philanthropy, civil society, and governance. Equally, he has gained considerable experience in management, leadership, and strategic roles over a significant period.
Shani began his development sector career in 2011 leading rotating multicultural teams on face to face fundraising campaigns across the entire NorthEast of Scotland on behalf charities such as Oxfam, Marie Curie Cancer Care, and the Anthony Nolan Trust. Prior to that, he successfully managed the delivery of high-end residential and hospitality development projects valued at over $50M along the Lekki corridor.
He joined ActionAid in 2013 where he drew on fundraising experiences acquired in the UK to drive the launch and implementation of ActionAid’s structured individual regular giving fundraising program; a ‘first-of-its-kind’ by an international charity in Nigeria which sought to raise unrestricted funds locally. This in addition
In 2016, he joined the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG); Nigeria’s leading member based business policy advocacy organization as Donor Relations & Fundraising Manager where he initiated the development of the organizational strategy for 2016-2018, in addition to supporting the hosting of several events including its flagship annual Nigerian Economic Summit, and driving fundraising across its 9 active policy commissions covering economic sectors ranging from Agriculture and Food Security, to Science and Technology.
He has also provided fundraising consultancy services to indigenous NGO’s including recently working with an agricultural technology start up funded by Propcom Maikarfi to define its business and revenue models.
He holds an MSc in Corporate Communications & Public Affairs from the Aberdeen Business School in Scotland, and a BSc in Estate Management from the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-ife, Nigeria. He also holds a PRINCE2 Foundation certificate in Project Management and has benefitted from several in-house trainings in Rigorous Programme Management delivered by the Boston Consulting Group in Lagos, as well as several fundraising trainings covering individuals, corporates’ and institutions in Aberdeen, Bangkok and Johannesburg.
He is passionate about protecting people and the environment, and enjoys reading, listening to world music, playing chess, pool, and travelling.
Amina T. Banu is a media producer. She has worked across the media industry for almost a decade in the UAE and Nigeria in writing, editing, public relations, online content creation, and filmmaking. She began her professional life in the Marketing and Public Relations industry in 2013 in Dubai, UAE. Most notably, she worked for a boutique public relations firm – The PR Professionals – where she was tasked with communications, client relations, and talent and event management. Since then she has honed her skills in communication, media production, and event management across industries from fashion to IT.
She has also had experiences in the civil society sector in Nigeria. In 2015 in Abuja, Nigeria, Amina headed a social media team with the Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) during Nigeria’s presidential and gubernatorial elections. In the run up to the election she worked as YIAGA’s online content creator and co-hosted voter education radio programs.
She has a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Communications Studies and an MA in Media Production.