'How has AFAWI and other Ngo’s been affected by Ghana becoming a lower-middle-income country (LMIC).' - by Isla Leckie, 28.11.2022
Currently, a pressing issue for AFAWI as a grassroots Ghanian based NGO is funding. AFAWI uses four main funding streams: project-based funding by partner institutions, private and corporate donations, membership programme and fundraising. A majority of this funding is received from outside Ghana, though this has been recently seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing Ukraine war, rising inflation and the intensification of other global crisis’ such as Coups in Burkina Faso and Mali which contribute to the instability of the region, making it seem less attraction for (social) investment.
Another notable issue in AFAWI’s funding began in 2010 when Ghana became a LMIC. Ghana has, for a long time, been considered a ‘donor darling’ country for bilateral and multilateral donors (Arhin et al, 2018). However, the changed classification of Ghana as an LMIC led to a change in the nature of aid as under ‘Ghana Beyond aid’ (GHBA), the government sought to reduce aid dependency by instead promoting structural economic and social transformation (Kumi, 2020). Yet Ghana becoming a LMIC has led to considerable aid withdrawals, funding cuts and policy shifts by donors and international NGOs. For example, the net ODA in Ghana declined by almost half from US $2.1 billion to US $1.1 billion between 2009 and 2014 (OECD, 2017; Kumi, 2019: 1333).
However, this withdrawal of funding has been largely problematic for AFAWI and other Ghanaian NGOs as they still largely rely on external donors for their survival. It has led to more pressure and competition for funding, and the for NGO’s to mobilise alternative funding (Kumi, 2017). Yet this new status pushes Ghana above the eligibility criteria for international development assistance and donors are being used as a criterion for funding projects, made problematic by the withdrawal of donor support (Kumi, 2019). Additionally, this has meant that mainly large multi-lateral agencies are left to provide aid, this is problematic for smaller NGOs, like AFAWI, who do not have the capacity to run with huge donations (Kumi, 2019: 1333). Additionally, if there is no empirical evidence conducted in Ghana on a proposed project, then AFAWI has to conduct empirical research before writing the application, without funding. Therefore, even applying for funding is expensive and sometimes unattainable.
This change in aid has led to donors changing their funding modalities to having a high preference for providing support through international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) rather than local NGOs (Arhin et al, 2018). Despite evidence that local actors, such as AFAWI offer more efficient and more sustainable solutions, showing the advantages to localise funding. AFAWI has experienced this as most grant applications do require an online partner in the global north to qualify as ‘trustworthy’. Yet, gaining a partner is laborious. This highlights a wider problematic trend in development finance in Africa as most funding is given to Northern-based headquarters outside of Africa (Kumi, 2019), presenting resource and funding inequality between Northern and Southern-based NGOs. Additionally, Ghanaian registered NGO’s lack access to or are blacklisted certain resources and platforms (e.g. paypal or Go Fund me), like many other countries in the Global South.
With the withdrawal of donor support, it is harder for NGOs to hire and retain experienced staff, especially when projects end. For this reason, AFAWI has a few core staff including administrative directors and project managers but also relies on Volunteer Interns due to the absence of funding. A study by Emmanuel Kumi (2019) has shown that ‘formal’ volunteers, like interns, at small/medium NGOs such as AFAWI are a crucial resource to undertake NGO activities and to help ensure sustainability. On the other hand, volunteers can be problematic due to reduced commitment levels and reliability which can affect the organisation's survival.
Unfortunately, NGOs are not supported by the Ghanaian governments during crises’, hence AFAWI struggles with crisis affectedness and resilience, like many other Ghanaian NGO’s.