Bill Gates’ recent visit to Nigeria is both important and significant. His visit precedes that of Malala Yousafzai and other global figures scheduled to be in the country this month. Bill is therefore the first global development leader to visit Nigeria under the new leadership of President Bola Tinubu. Bill Gates’ commitment to Nigeria’s development is long-standing and personal. On his many visits to Nigeria, he is one of the few global leaders who interact, directly, with innovators, youth, students, women and the health sector community. Bill Gates’ visit also came at a time when the biggest issue facing the donor community in Nigeria is the challenge of how to localize development so that more Nigerians participate directly and benefit exponentially. Just last month, Abt Associates, a USAID/Nigeria implementing partner held a convening at the Hilton Hotel with leading local Nigerian NGOs to engage around big issues of localizing partnerships. But localization is not only a Nigerian issue; it is a global challenge to all donors on the best way to do development.
The new focus on localized development will put youth, local communities, beneficiaries, and civil society organizations in the driver’s seat. This is an old aspiration of development actors, finding new expression as nations of the world head to the midpoint of the SDGs in 2023. Unsurprisingly, development partners such as USAID, FCDO, Global Affairs and the EU have signalled their commitment to going local by signing on to global compacts and principles such as the Grand Bargain. But what exactly is localization and how do we know true localization when we see it? Is it an International NGO registering locally in Nigeria? No, it is not. Examples include increased direct funding to local civil society organizations to implement projects. Examples also include providing NGOs with core, unrestricted funding, and another example is supporting local organizations and communities to design interventions for themselves and by themselves.
Localization delivers on innovation, ownership, the increased representation of excluded communities of women and youth and most importantly it delivers on sustainability. Any donor-funded project area can be localized – agriculture; technology; health; business; and others. Development projects can be localized and humanitarian interventions can be localized too. While localized project areas may differ, the key success factor that they must have to be effective is capacity strengthening. Without investment in strengthening the capacity of local organizations, to innovate and to contribute to development in Nigeria’s dynamic and growing CSO sector, it is unlikely that the benefits of going local will be achieved. The 20,000 Corporate Affairs Commission registered CSOs as well as the locally registered and unregistered ones, employ more Nigerians as key personnel, part-volunteers, ad hoc staff and interns than even the public sector.
Recent research by the dRPC published on the Devex platform shows that while the Nigerian CSO sector distinguishes itself by producing development services and conducting advocacy, the sector’s biggest challenge continues to be organizational capacity development and financial viability, leading to weakening sustainability.
The Sustainability Center, Lagos Business School conducted in-person and virtual capacity-strengthening events for PAS CSOs and followed up to assess the impact of training by engaging recipients of the CSOs’ advocacy encounters in government. The SC/LBS learned that policymakers acquired new respect for CSOs when finding themselves on the receiving end of high-powered evidence-informed advocacy by PAS CSOs. Most policymakers were persuaded to take action by the advocacy pitches and many did.
As Bill Gates listened, learned and interacted with innovators, students and change agents during his 2023 visit, it is important to know that he did so within an ecosystem strengthened by a deep investment in the sustainable development of indigenous civil society organizations in Nigeria. Catalytic non-profits such as the Sustainability Center, Lagos Business School and the development Research and Projects Center are a few in Nigeria’s development space. Over the years, such local organizations have developed training modules and developed trainers and performance assessment templates linking capacity strengthening to measurable development outcomes and impacts. At the recently concluded Association for Research on Civil Society in Africa (AROCSA), Conference in Dakar Senegal, the SC/LBS and dRPC collaborated on an African civil society panel to share experiences from the Gates Foundation-funded PAS project about the impact of capacity building for health policy advocacy where CSOs are able create champions within government. It is perhaps coincidental and significant that two PAS project champions from the Nigerian government present at the AROCSA Conference have now been appointed as leading decision makers in the health space, Rahila Mukhtar as the Executive Director, Kano State Hospital Management Board and Salma Kolo as the Special Adviser to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Health. The emergence of these two champions is further evidence of the power of strategic policy advocacy building collaborations for change within government around evidence, data and measurable outcomes. This is a success story for CSO capacity strengthening with strong public sector engagement components powered by the Sustainability Center, Lagos Business School and the development Research and Projects Center
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.Donate
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999