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Civil Society Risk Spotlight: Africa

Civil Society Risk Spotlight: Africa

CSOs in Africa are experiencing moderate to extensive government regulation.


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In recent years, CSOs with operations in the majority of our sample countries in Africa have faced increased government pressure, particularly in their political advocacy and human rights programming. Of the 10 African countries in the Civil Society Risk Matrix, eight have experienced moderate to extensive amounts of government activity against CSOs in the form of recently enacted or forthcoming legislation or regulations. While CSOs continue to find relatively open operating environments in Senegal and South Africa, the majority of African countries included in the Matrix demonstrate a shift toward greater government restrictions on CSOs.

Africa heat map

The chart below summarizes the key types of legislation affecting CSO operations in Africa.

Africa regulation chart

The regulations highlighted above cut across countries of all income levels and types of government. However, based on our sample, the possibility of these laws being enacted are higher in countries where conflict and national security concerns are more prevalent. This is especially the case in the fragile states of South Sudan, Sudan, and Somalia. For example, in Somalia, access to foreign funding has been severely limited by neighboring Kenya’s decision on April 2015 to revoke the licenses of 13 Money Remittance Providers (MRPs) that facilitate funds from Kenya to Somalia as part of its counter terrorism strategy.1 In South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, the National Security Service Law of 2015 enacted by Parliament in 2015 authorized warrantless arrests, detentions, and interrogations for unspecified periods of individuals or groups deemed a “threat to national security.”2

Outside of fragile states, CSOs in Tanzania, Uganda, and Nigeria are also experiencing tightening government restrictions. For example, the recently adopted Tanzania Statistics Act 2015 restricts the ability of NGOs to produce official data by requiring approval by the National Bureau of Statistics. Though the government has recently released a statement of clarification defending the law, many CSOs argue that the law will continue to undermine their ability to contribute to government policymaking.Ethiopia, one of the region’s fastest growing economies, has passed a host of laws limiting media freedom as well as human rights programming through its Charities and Societies Proclamation.4


Survey of KPMG CSO Professionals, July 23, 2015; Open Letter to the Central Bank of Kenya

Draft copy of the now active National Security Service Bill of 2014.

What the Statistics Act 2015 Stands For, December 1, 2015. 

Ethiopia Economic Outlook.” African Development Bank.

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