Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

NGOs in developing countries

There is a sustained contestation of the role played by Non-Gorvemental Organizations (NGOs) in African countries and the same discussion has been gaining momentum in South Africa as the country heads towards a general election next year.
These not-for-profit organizations have for a long time come under the wrath of governments and political parties alike for their intended roles in advancing democratic principles but are often treated with suspicion.

NGOs continue to become leading players in an attempt to respond to poverty-stricken societies and the adverse aftereffects. In the African diaspora these organizations continue to muster a prominent role in ensuring that the current regime fulfill its promise to provide health care, sanitation, equal access to justice, education, protecting the rights of citizens and refugees, and more so, holding government accountable for its legal and developmental duties.

NGOs in developing countries like South Africa, have a vital role to play. They advocate policy change and they’re often well-placed to ensure that communities participates in policy and political processes. Where government lacks capacity or even political will, NGOs assists in rendering services and they’re well placed, given freedom to innovate and penetrate societies, to test new approaches to socioeconomic challenges. These organizations also serve as a conduit for financial and donations from first-world nations.

In South Africa alone, there are more than a 100 000 registered non-profit organizations and that number keeps increasing every year. Freedom Under Law (FUL), Lawyers for Human Rights, Equal Education and many others have continued playing a massive role in helping to change policy direction and ensure services are delivered to communities, while holding gorvenment accountable.

A series of articles titled ‘NGOs and Social Justice in South Africa and Beyond’, represents the voices of NGO workers, academics and social activists to ponder a salient question, can NGOs ultimately help fix socioeconomic challenges in Africa?. The collated contributions raises a range of ideas of how material transformation could be brought about through the assistance of NGOs. Could those changes be completed while working within existing structures and organizations?

In South Africa, NGOs under the old regime of Apartheid were able to help reduce the dire effects of inequality and oppressiveness of the systems. Today, South Africa having one of the highest levels of inequality in the globe, its need for a strong social movement is as vital as ever and NGOs are well-placed to assume that role.

NGOs assist in being a voice for the ostracized in society, including children, old age, disabled and those discriminated based on gender, sex, colour or creed. But they equally support essential services like educational development, which is a key feature for developing states like South Africa.

There is a need to develop the leadership aptitude of NGOs as the current crop is aging. Funding for these NGOs comes primarily from three sources: government subsidies, corporate social investment, and donors/foundations (both foreign and local) and it should be sustained to ensure that their work is not hampered.

Sally Matthews, Senior Lecturer in Politics at Rhodes University wraps it up succinctly when he said: “Perhaps, as is the case with some of the most dynamic NGOs, workers need to operate in the cracks of the current system in ways that challenge injustice and open the door to new possibilities.”

AFRIC Editorial Article.

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