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  1. 1. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at The Changing Orientation and Practice of Northern NGOs: Implications for African Development Chrispin Radoka Matenga Development Studies Department, University of Zambia P.O Box 32379, Lusaka. E-mail: mmatenga Paper presented at the Southern African Universities Social Science Conference(SAUSSC) 22nd Biannual Conference, “Debt Relief Initiatives and Poverty Alleviation: Lessons from Africa”, 1 - 5 December, 2001, Windhoek, Namibia. © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  2. 2. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at the history of NGOs goes back to the 1940s, it is largely since the 1980s that theybegan receiving a high profile as development role-players offering an alternativedevelopment approach to poverty alleviation and long-term sustainable development to poorcommunities in developing countries (Drabek: 1987).The present emphasis on the development role of NGOs is firstly related to the difficultiesexperienced by government development interventions in rural and peri-urban areas ininitiation of income generation activities and provision of services such as health, water andsanitation. There are also perceived problems with large, donor funded rural developmentprojects, which are said to lack the desired level of ‘participation’ of the intendedbeneficiaries (Dennis: 1994).More recently, the institution of structural adjustment programmes in many developingcountries has contributed to the emphasis on NGOs. The effect of structural adjustmentprogrammes on particular social groups has led to the identification and growing involvementof NGOs in the development process on the understanding that the latter contribute to socialrequirements of structural adjustment programmes because it is believed they have thequalities to deliver services effectively and have greater ability to target the poor or thevulnerable groups (Fowler: 1991). Another significant factor that has catalysed theexpansion of NGO involvement in development is the anti-state intervention nature ofstructural adjustment policy measures whereby governments of developing countries areforced to withdraw from some socio-economic spheres of involvement due to governmentalbudget constraints, and the ideological views that development programmes should not betotally controlled by donor and recipient governmental agencies (Schneider: 1998).The greater role of, and support for NGOs in the developing countries is also largely due totheir own capacity in contrast with the limitations of the now discredited official agencies.NGOs have a comparative advantage over governments and official aid agencies. Theirinterventions are largely as a result of requests for collaboration with communities, therebymaking development a community-based activity and getting the community to define theirneeds and empowering them to achieve these. Since their interventions are usually on asmall scale it is also possible to adapt them to the requirements of communities (Fowler:1988). This flexibility, such as the ability to change in the light of changing circumstances orcommunity needs, the ability to involve beneficiary participation, and their relative cost-effectiveness have made NGOs an attractive alternative to donors who perceive them aseffective instruments of development.Since the 1980 decade, there has been a considerable growth in numbers and influence ofNGOs, particularly northern NGOs engaged in poverty-alleviation and development inAfrica (Riddell, 1992, 17). The worldwide growth in numbers, influence and importance ofthese NGOs in the 1980s led one author, Alan Fowler, to suggest that the 1980s be termedthe development decade of NGOs (Fowler, 1988, 1). Obviously, the entrance by NGOsinto the development debate and practice is as a result of a particular development approachdemonstrated by their activities. In their more traditional activities i.e. emergency relief andwelfare, it is said that NGOs demonstrated their value in their capacity to respond rapidly, 1 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  3. 3. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at and efficiently to emergency relief needs. It is generally assumed that NGOs respondquickly because they are perceived to be unencumbered by bureaucratic formalities thatcharacterise official agencies (Robinson: 1991: 171-72; Browne: 1990: 84). Thus, as NGOsmove from relief and welfare activities to long-term development, they are said to be able todemonstrate the same approach. As a result of their successes (actual or claimed) indevelopment activities and their placement at the grassroots, it is claimed that they are ableto respond to the needs of the poor. Because of the comparative advantages NGOs arethought to have, some individuals and institutions began advocating that more developmentaid be channelled through NGOs. Instrumental in this direction has been the World Banksince the early 1980s (Hellinger: 1987: 136). Individuals like Desmond McNeill, forexample, writing more than two decades ago alleged that NGOs: "offer the opportunity ofalleviating the problem of absorptive capacity which is the most serious in the poorestcountries" (McNeill: 1981: 94). Goran Hyden, one of the most ardent early advocates forgreater NGO role (Hyden: 1983: 186) had this to say: The advantage that NGOs have, is that they can help to warm up the funds,thus giving it a final temperature that is likely to ensure greater success than ifpassed through the cold governmental channels (italics mine).Northern NGOs are believed to be the fifth largest donor when their resources areconsidered collectively (ActionAid/ICVA/EUROSTEP/: 1994:21). NGOs are also nowparticipating in implementing official donor programmes/projects (Clark: 1991) in mostAfrican countries because they are thought to embody an approach that makes it easier todeliver community development programmes that the large-scale bureaucratic donor officialagencies cannot easily handle.Northern NGOs, particularly those concerned with poverty alleviation and development inthe Third World, conduct their operations in a number of ways. These organisationsundertake their activities in developing countries either directly or indirectly. Directintervention involves the actual execution of a development activity in the South by theNorthern NGO. Examples of those agencies involved directly are CARE, World Vision andPlan International in the USA, and ActionAid, and Save the Children Fund in the U.K.Other organisations involved indirectly in the South do so by assisting in funding localorganisations often referred to as partner organisations (UNDP, op.cit., 88-89; Fowler,1991b, 10). Christian Aid, CAFOD and SCIAF are just a few such examples. It is alsocommon, however, to find organisations that do not maintain a strict demarcation betweenthe two methods. These often involve a mix of both methods. A notable example of suchorganisations is OXFAM (UK), which is, however, moving in the direction of shedding itsdirect involvement in the South.The purpose of this paper is to examine the role performed by Northern NGOs in sub-saharan Africa in the context of emerging wider international trends. A critical analysis of the 2 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  4. 4. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at for these NGOs orientation and practice is presented. This study is largely aliterature review.This paper is divided into four sections. This section is an introduction. Section twoexamines the magnitude of the resources they disburse to the South. In this section,particular attention is drawn to the magnitude of the financial resources channelled to Africa.Section three analyses the wider international trends and shows how the evolvingrelationship between official donors and Northern NGOs are influencing the orientation andpractice of these agencies. This section is divided into two parts. The first one looks attrends in increasing official donor resources to the NGO sector and the implications. Thesecond part examines the emergence of a donor/NGO two-tier welfare system as aNorthern policy towards Africa. It is argued in this section that Northern NGOs are nowtaking a public service contracting role on behalf of official donors both bilateral andmultilateral. The section concludes that these organisations are are more or less replacing theAfrican state, as they become the main providers of essential social services. Section four isa conclusion. The section draws on the findings and makes recommendations.How Much Do They Give?Owing to the significance and authority Northern NGOs have gained in the developmentdebate and practice, it is pertinent to find out how much financial resources they commandand disburse to the South. Figures on exactly how much these organisations transfer to theSouth are not precise. This difficulty is largely because there exists no up-to-date inventoryof these agencies. Further, the amount they transfer to the South is not at all static as it isoften increasing.John Clark states that in 1989 Northern NGOs transferred $6.4 billion to the Southaccounting for about 12 percent of the entire Organisation for Economic Co-operation andDevelopment - Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC) aid inclusive of bothpublic and private (Clark, 1991, 47). On the other hand, it is indicated in the report by anindependent group of NGOs The reality of Aid that Northern NGOs in 1991 transferred$5.2 billion and accounts for 13 percent of official Western aid which stand at $60 billion(ActionAid/ICVA/EUROSTEP, 1994, 2, 21). Similarly, the Human Development Reportputs the figure at $7.2 billion as the amount transferred to the South in 1991. Further,ActionAids report already referred to above states that other estimates put the figure on theamount currently transferred by Northern NGOs at between $9 and $10 billion. With all thedifferences in figures provided in the literature, it is therefore safe to state that, collectively,Northern NGOs channel at least above $5 billion to the Third World countries annuallyaccounting to between 2.5 and 3 percent of total resource flows to the developing countries.In monetary terms NGOs have obviously expanded substantially in recent years. Whenprivate and government contributions are put together, Northern NGO transfers to theSouth have increased from just $1 billion in 1970 to about $7 billion in 1990 (UNDP:op.cit.: 88). Nonetheless, the rapid increase in the amount handled by these agencies is notnecessarily a result of growth in Northern donor publics donations, but is due to increasedofficial funding to them (Clark: op.cit: 47). 3 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  5. 5. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at order to provide a clear picture on the amounts handled as well as transferred byNorthern NGOs to the South, we provide a few individual case examples. Oxfam (UK),now Britains largest overseas aid charity, in 1981-82 financial year had income of £16.2million (Whitaker: 1983: 40). This figure rose to £48 million in the financial 1985-86(Oxfam:1986: 2). During the financial year 1992-93, the agency handled a record sum of£78.9 million (Oxfam: 1992-93a: 16). Oxfam operates in more than 70 countries around theglobe mostly but not only in the Third World. Of the £78.9 million income handled by theagency in the financial year 1992-93, Oxfam disbursed just over £48 million to its overseasprogramme (Oxfam: 1992-93b: 2). Africa was the main beneficiary of all the regions of theThird World. The region alone received £24.5 million just over half Oxfams total overseasdisbursement for that financial year. This larger share of grants to Africa is a testimony of thescale of poverty and human suffering in that part of the Third World because of the conflictand civil wars, drought, famine, and economic deterioration and the impact of IMF andWorld Bank Structural adjustment programmes. Oxfam diverted £10.4 million out the total£24.5 million transferred to the region during that financial year towards emergency relief(ibid.).In its Annual Review 1992-93 ActionAid states that it raised total income of £32.9 millionfor the financial year 1992. Just over £23 million of that amount was transferred toActionAids overseas programmes in 19 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America(ActionAid, 1992-93). There are several scores of other much smaller Northern NGOs,which also transfer development aid to the South. The Scottish Catholic International AidFund (SCIAF) is one such example. In 1993, SCIAF handled a total income of £2.1million. About £1.5 million of that amount was channelled towards the agencys overseassupport for long-term development and emergency activities (SCIAF: 1993). Similar toOxfams disbursements to overseas programmes in 1993, Africa received £880,000, morethan 50 percent of SCIAFs total overseas disbursements for the year 1993. SCIAF alsoattributes this lions share for Africa to the scale of poverty and suffering due to drought, civilwars, and the social impact of IMF and the World Bank structural adjustment programmesimposed on many countries (ibid.).Having illustrated with a few examlpes the overall and individual quantities of fundsdisbursed by Northern NGOs, the question that now begs an answer is: how significant arethese transfers to the South? Perceptions about the significance in terms of quantities andimpact of the NGO aid transfers vary. In quantitative terms, even though total NGO aidtransfers to the South are dwarfed by official development assistance (official western aidstands at over $60 billion per annum), as already pointed out, collectively, they constitute thefifth largest donor (italics mine) above all donors except the United States, Japan, Franceand Germany (ActionAid et al: 1994: 21; Clark: op.cit: 45-47). When viewed from thequantitative viewpoint, then few would deny the fact that these NGOs transfer quitesubstantial amounts of funds to the South.Other commentators, however, hold contrary views. For example, Paul Mosley (1987)argues that despite their alleged advantages, the amount NGOs currently transfer (about 3percent of the total resource flows to the South) is insignificant in scale. Accordingly, Mosley 4 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  6. 6. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at 6) sees little prospect in these agencies handling larger resources since, according tohim, NGOs do not have the capacity to handle resources of the magnitude of official aidflows.But is it only the magnitude of funds that counts? Ben Whitaker (1983) does not believe so.He argues that the budgets of NGOs individually or collectively may seem small given thescale of world poverty, but the impact of the ideas of such organisations is what matters.Whitaker maintains that NGOs play a vital role in pioneering innovative methods that largerofficial agencies quickly copy. Not only that, NGOs give quick and flexible assistance tomany communities, which they would not have hoped to get anywhere. Whitaker (ibid)further argues that: Several million people feel the effects of voluntary organisations like Oxfam. Besides those who benefit directly from their programmes...the work does something to alter the nature of the relations between nations...In the 1980s it is estimated that the number of people assisted in the developing countries byNorthern NGO aid transfers in the South was 100 million, distributed as follows: 60 millionin Asia, 25 million in Latin America and 12 million in Africa (UNDP, op.cit.: 6; Clark, op.cit:51). Taking into account that NGOs are scaling-up their activities in part due to increasingofficial funding, it was visualised that about 250 million around the Third World wereassisted. Authors of the Human Development Report 1993, however, stated that eventhough 250 million were currently reached by NGO transfers, that figure only represent afifth of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty in the Third world.Northern NGOs: emerging wider international trendsSince the 1980s, the neo-liberal economic ideology of adjustment and the emphasis on theneed to promote enterprise has dominated the Third World (Fowler: 1991b, op.cit.: 5). Thisalso coincided with the end of the cold war when the Eastern bloc collapsed in the later partof the 1980s and early 1990s. The emergence of the ‘new world order’ in which the marketand private organisations are expected to play a greater role in economic activities has led tosignificant increase of official aid to the NGO sector. In this system, NGOs represent a newprivate sector initiative in which governments are being removed from certain spheres ofinvolvement while at the same time NGOs are getting official funds to fill in the gaps (Twose:1987: 9).These trends and the effects thereof, take on a special dimension in sub-Saharan Africancountries. Because of the scale of poverty and the economic decline, many African countrieshave been prodded to institute neo-liberal economic reforms by the IMF and World Bankinstitutions and also the international donor community as a condition to receiving moredevelopment aid in order to achieve stabilisation. The effect of the new wisdom of structuraladjustment on particular social groups has led to the identification and involvement of NGOson the understanding that the latter contribute to the social requirements of SAPs. It isbelieved these organisations have the qualities to deliver effectively services and have greater 5 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  7. 7. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at to target the poor or the vulnerable groups (Fowler: 1991a, op.cit.: 56). At the sametime, the scale of emergency requirements in Africa due to the numerous and recurrentdisasters of drought, famine and war has led to the interventions of relief and rehabilitationefforts in which Northern NGOs are playing a major part (ActionAid op.cit: 13).Northern intervention in Africa through SAP-type system and emergency relief has resultedin the emergence of what Mark Duffield (1992, op.cit: 140) has called donor/NGO two-tiersystem of public welfare. The Northern NGO role in development programmes in thissystem does affect the state in Africa. Trends in increased official funding for NGOsIn section three we discussed the magnitude of funds Northern NGOs handle and expend inthe Third World. We noted that the amounts these NGOs disbur se have increasedsubstantially since 1970, from a figure of $1 billion to over $7 billion in the 1990s. It wasalso pointed out that the increase in NGO funds comes about, principally, because ofincreasing funding from their governments. It is this trend and its implications that this paperexamines in this section.The rate of growth of official aid to NGOs has far outstripped the rate of growth of theofficial development assistance (ODA) itself (Fowler: 1992, op.cit : 15). From 1975 - 85,official aid of member countries of the OECDs DAC to NGOs is said to have increased by1400 percent (Fowler: 1991a: op.cit: 55). It is also indicated in the Human DevelopmentReport 1993 that from 1970-1990 government funds channelled through Northern NGOsincreased from $200 million to $2.2 billion (UNDP: op.cit: 88).However, it is important to note that different donor governments have different policiestowards funding NGOs. So do their agendas differ too. Some donor governments commitsubstantial sums of funds to NGOs in their countries while others extend only a smallpercentage of their aid budgets to these agencies. For example, the US known to be thelargest NGO funder with its total disbursements to US-based NGOs accounting for almosthalf of the total official funding of the NGO sector. The actual cash contributions to projectssubmitted by NGOs is, however, believed to be relatively small while the bulk of this aid isin form of food aid and NGOs playing a subcontracting role within that countrys own aidprogramme (Clark: op.cit.: 47-49). In the financial year 1993 for example, US basedNGOs implemented projects in developing countries that accounted for 16 percent of USsofficial bilateral aid (ActionAid op.cit.: 126). Britains official aid to NGOs in 1980stood at 2.8 percent and rose to 4.1 percent in 1988. Belgiums NGOs are 88.7 percentfunded by their government. In Ireland on the other hand, NGOs dependence on officialfunds is said to be only 1.4 percent (Fowler: 1992: op.cit.: 15).It i also important that we look at individual examples of NGO official aid receipts. Oxfam sfor example has more than doubled receipts from official sources during 1985-1993. In1985, official contribution to Oxfam from the British government and the EC amounted to£5.5 million out of a total income of £51.1 million. In 1993, official contribution rose to£13.1 million out of a total income of £78.9 million (Oxfam, 1986, 4; Oxfam, 1992-93c, 6).ActionAid in 1992 received £5.9 million from the British government and other official 6 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  8. 8. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at out of an income of £32 million (ActionAid, 1992-93, op.cit.). Similar trends arediscernible from many other NGOs.Donor governments channel official funds to Northern NGOs through a number of methods.The most common method is the various versions of co-financing schemes in which thegovernment and the NGO contribute in a ratio of 50:50 towards an NGO proposed project(ODA: 1990: 48; Mustard: op.cit: 115-16). Other methods include direct funding . Anexample are the bilateral contracts involving Canadian NGOs and the CanadianInternational Development Agency (CIDA) (Brodhead, Herbert-Copley, and Lambert:1988: 57). It is common for donor direct funding to NGOs during emergencies. It has alsobecome common, particularly in the US, for NGOs to participate in implementing officialbilateral aid programmes (Clark, op.cit.: 49). The British government through its official aidagency Department for International Develpoment (DFID) formerly the OverseasDevelopment Administration (ODA) has been contemplating to increase collaboration withNGOs in the implementation of DFID aid programme (Fowler: 1992: 16).Rising from a marginal situation just over two decades ago, NGOs have taken the centrestage on the development arena. Some NGOs and their supporters have argued that it isnecessary to keep abreast with the changing needs of the time if they were to effectivelycontribute to development. The development approaches followed by many NGOs havegenerally been taken as workable and appreciated by governments and conventionaldevelopment agencies. Therefore, NGOs are being urged to assume a wider role by linkingup with official structures in order to make a wider impact and also not to remainmarginalised. In that vein, official funding to the NGO sector has greatly increased as notedabove. Further, NGOs have been co-opted into official donor programmes in which theyimplement particular components of the projects. These trends have brought bothopportunities and problems for the sector. To understand the balance between theopportunities and the problems that may arise or have already arisen depends on onesinterpretation of what opportunities and problems are, in the first instance. The opportunitiesthat arise out of these trends, according to Heijden (1987: 104) are: ...the possibility for NGOs to make a more significant contribution todevelopment and poverty alleviation in the Third World through the enlarged availability ofde- velopment resources.The degree to which this resource increase can be regarded as a significant contribution todevelopment and poverty alleviation is, however, debatable. First and foremost, the raisondêtre of NGOs is poverty alleviation, and it is hoped, the eventual elimination of poverty indeveloping countries. The focus of NGO aid is, thus, on the poor sections of societies.There are some incompatibilities with poverty alleviation objective of NGOs that arise out ofthese organisations’ reliance on official funds and their participation in official programmes.Whereas the concern of NGOs is with broad objectives such as social and politicalmobilisation that empower the poor (UNDP: op.cit.: 83), donor governments are concernedwith concrete programmes that have identifiable socio -economic benefits. These 7 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  9. 9. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at are, nonetheless, the type found within the conventional developmentmodel that NGOs desire to offer an alternative to. As Charles Elliott (op.cit., 59) observes: ...the greater the dependence of Northern NGOs on government fundingthrough co-financing, the greater institutional weight is likely to be given tomodernisation- type projects- and the more difficult the organisation is likely to find the restof the spectrum.Alan Fowler, notes that most community-oriented projects in Africa funded by the WorldBank as well as bilateral aid agencies emphasise modernisation-type projects such asprimary (preventive) health care, family planning, credit etc. (Fowler, 1991a, op.cit., 70). Itis observed that in such a scenerio, NGOs are steered away from activities of social andpolitical mobilisation of the poor towards activities of service delivery (Fowler, ibid;Robinson: 1991: 169). It is also argued that these modernisation-type projects whoseconcern is with economic material improvement do benefit not so much the very poor butthe relatively wealthier elements of the Third World communities (Clark: op.cit.: 49).Increased availability of official resources to NGOs has also encouraged the proliferation ofa kind of NGO that is supply-driven i.e. created in response to greater and easieravailability of official funding (Robinson: op.cit.: 166). These emerging NGOs, which arecreated in response to little more than the opportunity to pursue the available resources,have a questionable agenda and integrity. Since they largely depend on funds from officialsources, their programmes do not conform to the needs of the poor as they mainly subscribeto the interests of the donors. Further, greater competition for funds among these NGOs hasarisen thereby encouraging secrecy and even hostilities instead of co-operation. It is correctto argue, therefore, that these supply-driven NGOs are eroding the reputation of the NGOsector (Fowler: 1991b: 9; Clark: op.cit.: 64).Generally NGOs are regarded as small-scale operators, which allows them to be flexible.As they grow in size, due to handling of more funds made possible by official donors, thereis a risk of NGOs becoming more bureaucratic and rigid- the characteristics they oncecriticised in governments and other official agencies. While individual projects may remainrelatively small-scale, however, the sizes of the budgets of some larger NGOs arecomparable with those of certain bilateral aid donors. As Clark (ibid, 50-51) instructivelynotes: ...aid from Catholic Relief Services (of USA) was $439 M in 1985compared with $426 M of Belgian government aid), that of CARE was $274 M (comparedwith Austrias $258 M], and in 1989 the budget for Oxfam (UK) was $119 M,higher than that of the New Zealand governments aid budget ($104 M). 8 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  10. 10. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at As NGOs grow in size partly as a result of increased availability of official funds, they aremoving towards the use of conventional management procedures thereby developing thesame bureaucratic characteristics (UNDP, op.cit., 90) found in official structures. Anincrease in official funding through NGOs has provoked an interest in greater accountabilityof spending public funds from the taxpayer. Thus, NGOs are increasingly becoming subjectto same financial controls and reporting requirements of official donors. A demand made onNGOs for accountability naturally distances them from their main constituency towardsinstitutional donors (Edwards: 1994: 120; Heidjen: op.cit.: 106).Another problem that arise from greater NGO reliance on official funds is the tying of aid toprojects. The project mode of funding is bemoaned on grounds that it inhibits participation,an essential tenet for the realisation of sustainable development. It is argued that the projectmode of intervention treats participation by beneficiaries as a mere cost-reduction input(Fowler, 1992, op.cit., 17). Since there is a propensity for NGOs to satisfy donorrequirements, there is a danger that NGOs will take a top-down approach to developmentprojects thereby denying the beneficiaries effective participation. For example, John deConincks Ugandan study of poverty alleviation projects implemented or funded byNorthern NGOs found that although NGOs attached importance to beneficiary participationin the implementation of activities, in practice, however, the opposite was the case. He (DeConinck, 1992, 111) observes that: Accountability to donors is in practice often of greater importance thanaccountab- ility to beneficiaries often because of the need to continue to increase theflow of fundsIn addition to the problems of increased official funding of NGOs is the tendency ofidentifying official aid with government foreign policy and economic interest (Heidjen, op.cit.,106). The case of the US is instructive on this point. The US government through its officialaid agency, USAID, has put in place collaborative mechanisms between itself and manylarge US based NGOs in which NGOs are more or less enhancing the USs foreign andeconomic policy and official aid objectives (Clark, op.cit., 49). Donor/NGO systemThe paper has earlier alluded to the prevalence of SAPs and relief needs in sub-SaharanAfrica. This section carries the discussion further by arguing that the Norths large-scale aidintervention in Africa since the 1980s has coalesced into the Norths regional policy for thesub-region (Duffield: 1993). Mark Duffield, through his study of the Norths intervention inAfrica and especially in the conflict prone areas, has formulated a theory of the formersinternationalisation of public welfare. This theory is referred to as the two-tier system ofpublic welfare. Northern NGOs play a major role in this system. The participation of NGOsin this system has transformed these agencies from autonomous organisations striving tobring a new vision of development, into public service contractors (PSCs). PSCs are 9 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  11. 11. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at driven non-government and non-profit organisations that serve public purposes andmainly implement components of official aid programmes. Brett (1993) maintains that anumber of concerns arise out of this public service contracting role many NGOs are nowperforming. It is felt that Northern NGOs cannot properly identify local needs and that theirdirect developmental interventions often marginalizes the local state.Duffield traces the development of the two-tier welfare system that has now been globalised,in the neo-liberal restructuring of the welfare state in the North. According to him, thesystem is composed of a dualistic pattern of provision of welfare services in which theeconomically active segment of the population must seek welfare services in the marketplace, while the remaining section of population often so-called underclass receive their dueby way of a safety net put in place through contractual relations between local authoritiesand voluntary agencies (Duffield: 1992: 147).With the ascendancy of the neo-liberal ideology of SAPs and the related market reformpolicies, and the prevalence of emergency relief needs due to the high incidence of drought,famine and political conflict, a similar safety net system has emerged in Africa. The welfaresystem is being provided in form of contractual or project agreements linking internationaldonors and NGOs. According to Duffield (1993), the safety net system in Africa is dividedinto compensatory or development programmes, and targeted relief activities. In this system,NGOs act as implementing agents for the donor, be it bilateral or multilateral. We havealready mentioned elsewhere in this paper how far this system has developed in the case ofUSA between USAID and US NGOs. Another example that clearly illustrates thisDonor/NGO system is the contractual relations that exist between Canadian NGOs and theofficial aid agency for Canada, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).CIDA and Canadian NGOs are involved in two main types of funding relationships in whichthe latter is contracted to implement projects for the former. One is what is termed bilateralcontracts. This involves a competitive bidding process in which NGOs compete amongthemselves as well as with the private commercial firms for projects/programmes to beimplemented on behalf of the CIDA in developing countries (Brodhead, Herbert-Copleyand Lambert: 1988). Unlike other bilateral funding mechanisms to NGOs, bilateral contractsrequires no dollor-for-dollor i.e. matching grant, but the project/programme is 100 percentfinanced by CIDA. Accordingly, CIDA sets all the programme priorities (ibid.).Another type of funding arrangement for contracts between CIDA and Canadian NGOs iswhat is known as the Country Focus Funding’, which began in 1981. This system,according to Brodhead et al (1988: 59), was specifically designed "to offset the limitations ofthe typically large-scale, capital-intensive bilateral projects directly administered by CIDA".Generally, the contractual role NGOs have come to play is criticised on grounds that itdiverts these agencies from pursuing development goals as they strive to meet and satisfydonor priorities. Brodhead et al (1988: 62-63), however, argue that in the case forContractual relationships between CIDA and Canadian NGOs, their study found, to thecontrary, no evidence, particularly for the country focus funding contracts pointing toalteration of NGO priorities. They argue that in fact NGOs presented their own projects for 10 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  12. 12. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at It is, however, difficult to generalise the same for other such Donor/NGOcontractual relationships.From the foregoing analysis, therefore, NGOs could be regarded as simply implementers ofdonor policy. The globalisation of social welfare, through public service contracting, afeature of international aid in Africa, according to Fowler (1992, op.cit., 26), will continue tobe allocated by the northern donors through institutions they see fit to be able to best deliver,in this case- the Northern NGOs. While African government structures may, and often areinvolved in the safety net or project agreements, they only play a symbolic or sleepingpartner role. Therefore, because of their financial clout and power of implementation,foreign agencies retain a significant measure of influence on development priorities in Africa(Duffield: op.cit: 141) giving outsiders power over the lives of the African people.There are a number of concerns about this donor/NGO welfare system. Generally, NGOsclaim to represent an alternative radical approach to development that aim to empower thepoor of the South. However, the neo-liberal logic of the donor-led welfare system, requiresthe provision of a minimalist welfare (Duffield: 1992: 149) through careful targeting. Thistargeting for minimum welfare provision serves no development purpose at all. Suchschemes as food-for-work where poor are made to dig trenches or make small rural roadsand bridges (often washed away during the rains due to lack of technical backing) orprogrammes for the prevention of malnutrition do not uplift the living standards of thesepoeple. Some NGOs are now beginning to realise the incompatibilities of the donor/NGOsystem. In one report by Northern NGOs (ActionAid, op.cit., 13) it is indicated thus: More and more, NGOs are being called upon to play a critical part inimplementing relief programmes in areas of instability. They are also heavily involved in the aftermath of war and disaster, helping families and communities rebuild their lives. Many are concerned that increasing provision for humanitarian relief is being found from aid budgets to the detriment of long-term development programmes.These concerns, however, are not only with diverting development aid budgets to welfaresafety-nets, but NGOs increasing participation in the donor funded programmes/projectsalso takes much of their time and energy to the detriment of their long-term developmentefforts.Similarly, an international forum of NGOs held in Washington which included African NGOssome years ago (quoted in the Review of African Political Economy 1992, op.cit., 6-7)commented that: ...NGOs were being called on to help implement social programmes - butwho decides what kind of programmes these will be ? Participants agreed thatthey had no role in decision-making either on the adjustment process or on these 11 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  13. 13. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at social programmes....that government promises for aid for the very poorpeople were pure politics: this is a method to forestall and weaken opposition, nota sign of intent to provide real assistance.Further, the donor/NGO system presents another problem vis-à-vis Africans States. Thesystem has been imposed unilaterally without negotiation with any African government(Duffield, 1992, op.cit., 150). As the system involves donor shift from channelling fundsthrough governments towards NGOs, roles previously played by governments are nowbeing taken over by NGOs. Rossiter and Palmer (1990, 48) through their field experience inSouthern Africa as Oxfam employees observed that both Northern NGOs and Northerngovernment agencies were now performing a neo-colonial role "taking over whole districts,or sections of once functioning government ministries especially in health and socialservices". This process is enhanced as SAPs take their toll.Instead of working through normal governmental structures Northern NGOs and officialagencies are creating parallel institutional structures in service delivery because governmentsare viewed as lacking the required approach, skills and resources. There is also a growingtendency by these foreign agencies to rob the public service of vital personnel whom theypay handsomely to implement their projects (Lele and Adu-Nyako: 1991: 14). Thistendency already can be observed and is growing considerably in Mozambique (Hanlon:1991) and Uganda (De Coninck: 1992). One justification for most foreign agencyintervention in Africa is the claim that there is lack of skilled personnel and, therefore, ofabsorptive capacity for development aid. Yet these agencies use the same local personnelfor their projects simply because they pay well. The assumption that African governments orpublic service are starved of skilled personnel is misplaced and should, therefore, not beused as justification for Northern agencies whether governmental or non-governmental tooperate through parallel structures to those of the state. Bypassing government, contradictsthe very general policy of extending assistance on the terms of the recipient countries.Further, the policy defeats the overriding aid objective of institution building for sustainabledevelopment, which must include making the governmental bureaucracy work better for thepeople (Tostensen and Scott: 1987: 201).The proliferation of project mode of development has, thus, reduced the role of thegovernment in economic planning to little more than an exercise in co-ordinating the diverseproject interventions of the growing community of official donors and NGOs (Morss: 1984:465-70). This has also increased administrative burdens on already strained civil service.Tonstensen and Scott (op.cit.) thus questions "whether NGO activities are warranted,economically and otherwise in relation to their results".ConclusionIt was the objective of the study to examine the changing role of Northern NGOs within awider perspective. We paid particular attention to how the evolving international trends are 12 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  14. 14. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at and changing their role. The paper claimed that the role these NGOs are nowperforming is incompatible with development or the eradication of poverty in Africa.Despite the perceived comparative advantages of NGOs, the changing socio-economic,cultural, and political world is slowly reshaping (whether by design or otherwise) the mannerof operation of these agencies. It is within this emerging new world order that the role ofNGO activities in Africa ought to be reconsidered. While NGOs continue to play animportant role in development activities in many African societies it must be realised that theycannot be substitutes for African states. The paper does not suggested here that NGOs areconsciously engaging in a worked out conspiracy to subvert African states. Rather, as notedin the editorial of the Review of African Political Economy (1992, No.55: 3-7): "...thestated or implicit aims of NGOs are likely to be less determinant of their actual role thanchanges in the global political economic context". Thus, whereas NGOs original ideal wasto present a radical alternative approach to development, they are finding their role, in theemerging world order, paradoxically, as being that of agents furthering the interests of theworld capitalist agenda.Emerging trends influenced by changes in the international capitalist system have reshapedNorthern NGOs’ orientation and practice with the result that their original worthy agendahas been usurped, and they are now used more or less as agents to further the interest of theinternational capitalist system. In as far as NGOs are diverting from their social mission, theycan largely be viewed as becoming irrelevant vis-à-vis authentic development. Therefore, thepromotion of Northern NGOs to take a predominant responsibility in development is illconceived and grossly undermines long-term prospects for national capacity to manageAfrican development.While it is difficult to come to firmly establish what specific effects the wider internationaltrends have had on the orientation and practice of these agencies, the paper rather makes aspeculative assessment on what is perceived as the negative impact of these trends onNGOs role as well as the effects on the host governments. The impact of the widerinternational trends - has not been empirically researched although the trends obtainingthrough the literature reviewed seem to support the assertions made.The paper noted a trend in global increase in NGO financial resources. Today a goodnumber of Northern NGOs are now managing multi-million budgets. While generally NGOshave had at least 70 percent of their budgets raised from private donations, a significantproportion of their income is now coming from official donors both bilateral and multilateral.It was observed that over the years, official resources disbursed through NGOs has faroutstripped the increase in official development assistance. It was also argued that NGOshave been co-opted into official donor programmes.It was argued that an increase in official resources to NGOs and the increase incollaboration in official donor programmes are turning NGOs into public service contractors.This has changed the nature of their orientation and practice. Generally speaking, NGOs, atleast those concerned with poverty alleviation and suffering and to promotion ofdevelopment are considered to be value-driven and often their mission is to offer an 13 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  15. 15. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at development approach to the conventional development approach. However, aspublic service contractors, they have become instruments for the imposition of westernparadigms on Africa, which are incompatible with poverty alleviation or development.NGOs have now lost track of the empowerment approach to development, as they nowbecome implementers of donor modernisation projects/programmes that emphasise onlyidentifiable socio-economic benefits. Modernisation projects as is already known do notlend themselves to beneficiary participation, although this is one of the central tenets ofNGOs. Issues of accountability in such projects become predominant and, therefore, NGOsbecome concerned with satisfying donor requirements rather than beneficiary community.We also hypothesised that the internationalisation of public welfare has emerged as aNorthern donor policy towards Africa. This policy seem to have arisen due to the highincidence of the numerous reform programmes imposed by the IMF and the World Bankand supported by major donor governments, as well as the numerous disasters sweepingacross the sub-region. Thus, NGOs have been identified by donors and placed at thedistributional end of social services in African countries because they have been consideredto be an efficient mechanism of delivery than state structures. The shift away from publicsector in favour of NGOs has brought some concerns that it is encouraging institutionaldestruction of the state structures. Because of the need to push through with the reformpolicies, donors have placed NGOs to take the responsibility of social sector management.Aid recipient governments are prodded by donors to create alternative poverty-alleviationmechanisms (Sollis: 1992: 168). In Africa such mechanisms are essentially operated byNGOs, instead of the normal civil service. This weakens the institutional capability of thegovernments to manage national development. If NGOs willingly assume this role, then theirusefulness in as far as the objective of institution building in Africa is concerned should beput under question.While the paper has speculated the effect on institutional destruction of state structures, ofthe use of NGOs as alternatives for the provision of social services in more general terms,the author wishes to make a more speculative conclusion on what is obtaining in Zambia.Speculative Conclusion on ZambiaZambia has a relatively underdeveloped indigenous NGO sector. Apart from local church-related NGOs, there is a large presence of Northern NGOs. Agencies such as Oxfam,SCF, CARE, World Vision International, Plan International and a myriad of other smalleragencies have established themselves in the country. Since 1991 when the country revertedto democratic governance, an ambitious IMF/World Bank structural adjustmentprogramme has been imposed on the country. Zambia has witnessed heavy cuts ingovernment public expenditure, elimination of food subsidies, privatisation of governmentcontrolled companies, public service retrenchments etc. These measures have weakened thepublic sector while the social costs have fallen heavily on the poor or vulnerable groups. Dueto the ceilings imposed on public sector spending, government agencies and line ministrieshave found it extremely difficult to operate. 14 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  16. 16. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at a way to mitigate the social costs of the current SAP in Zambia, NGOs have beendesignated as the appropriate providers of social services. As donor conditionality,alternative delivery structures have been created. Schemes such as the Programme toPrevent Malnutrition (PPM), the Food-for-Work programme and the Programme for UrbanSelf-Help (PUSH) have emerged and are operated by Northern NGOs. In its 1994 budget,Zambia provided for such programmes under the Ministry of Community Development andSocial Welfare. According to the budget speech: The resources that are being provided for support of the vulnerable groups under the Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare will be channelled through Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). For proper accountability, the NGOs will be required to submit their accounts for periodic audit (Times of Zambia, 29th March 1994, 3).This is the stark reality of the role NGOs have began to perform in Zambia i.e. replacing thegovernmental bureaucracy. It is, therefore, not an accusation from without when critics arguethat NGOs are replacing the African governments in development or provision of socialservices.While there has not been much research done into the institutional impact of creatingalternative structures to normal civil service, it is possible to speculate that such a policy willhave long-term consequences in eroding the capability of the civil service to manage nationaldevelopment.In conclusion, I recognise that much efforts are being put into place as regards evaluating theimpact of NGO projects in poverty alleviation in Africa and the rest of the Third World.However, there is little known about the impact on governmental bureaucracy of creatingalternative structures composed of NGOs and international aid agencies. Suffice to say astudy done over a decade ago by Morss (1984) revealed that institutional destruction wasoccurring in many African countries, most conspicuous in Zambia, as economic managementby the bureaucracy has been reduced to managing a large number of donor aid projects.We now see the intensification of the donor/NGO projects in most sub-Saharan Africancountries. In view of what has been discussed in this paper, the following recommendationsare made: 1.) With the donor/NGO system in place in many African countries it is common sense toassume that civil service institutions are being destroyed as NGOs take over. As long asSAPs are the order of the day in these countries, this trend is going to continue. From theforegoing analysis, it is, therefore, recommended that more research be conducted into theinstitutional impact of such a system;2.) The emerging donor/NGO system has been imposed on many Africa countries as adonor condition or policy. NGOs ought to operate within a negotiated framework betweenall the parties concerned- host government, NGOs and official donors (both bilateral and 15 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
  17. 17. Electronic Publications from the University of Zambia, Lusaka Published on the Internet by the SAP - Project at It is, therefore, recommended that the division of labour between the partiesmentioned above be properly negotiated and a consensus reached;3.) National development plans are indispensable to more effective efforts to improve thequality of life of the mass of the rural poor in Africa. Co-ordination of efforts withgovernments is imperative if NGO activities are to be sustainable in the longer-term.Therefore, it is recommended that NGO projects be placed to fit within nationaldevelopment plans. Not that they should be integrated into government but effectivecollaboration is necessary to avoid duplication of efforts and to replicate successful ones.BIBLIOGRAPHYACTIONAID, (1992-93) ActionAid Annual Review (ActionAid, London)ACTIONAID, EUROSTEP, & ICVA, (1993), The Reality of Aid (Action Aid, London)ACTIONAID, EUROSTEP, & ICVA, (1994), The Reality of Aid (Action Aid, London)ANTROBUS, P., (1987) "Funding for NGOs:Issues and Options" World DevelopmentVol.15, supplement (Autumn): 95-102ARELLANO-LOPEZ, S., & PETRAS J. F., (1994) "Non-Governmental Organisationsand Poverty Alleviation in Bolivia" Development and Change Vol.21: 555-568ARNOLD, S. W., (1988) "Constrained Crusaders? British Charities and DevelopmentEducation" Development Policy Review Vol.6, No.2: 183-209 ABDEL ATI, H. A., (1993) "The Development Impact of NGO Activities in the Red SeaProvince of Sudan: A Critique" Development and Change Vol.24: 103-130AVINA, J., (1993) "The evolutionary life cycles of non-governmental developmentorganisations" Public Administration and Development Vol.13, No.5: 453-474BERG, R.J., (1986) "Foreign Aid in Africa: Heres the Answer-Is It Relevant to theQuestion?" in Berg, R. J., & Whitaker, J. S., (eds.) Strategies for African Development(Univ. of California Press, London)BOURNANE, N, (1991) "What is the Future of Africa? An Alternative Approach to theDominant Afro-Pessmism" in Southern Africa Political and Economic Monthly Vol.4, No.9:9-15BRATTON, M., (1989) "The Politics of Government-NGO Relations in Africa", WorldDevelopment, vol. 17, No. 4:569-587 16 © by the author: Chrispin Radoka Matenga - University of Zambia
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