The USAID CSOSI for South Africa

governance ngos sustainability
Wednesday, 4 March, 2015 - 10:39

USAID continues to use CSOSI to assess the sustainability of the CSO sector in 29 countries in Europe and Eurasia

The Civil Society Organisation Sustainability Index (CSOSI) has been used by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) since 1997 to assess the sustainability of the CSO sector in 29 countries in Europe and Eurasia.

The CSOSI was first applied in sub-Saharan Africa in 2009. USAID's implementing partner in South Africa, the Cooperative for Research and Education (CORE) – a non-governmental organisation - lead the process of organising and convening a diverse and representative panel of CSO experts. All scores and narratives are then reviewed by a Washington-based editorial committee, assisted by sub-regional civil society experts. With the information provided by the expert panels along with desk research CORE undertook then developed a narrative report.

The CSOSI measures the strength and overall viability of civil society sectors. Seven different dimensions of the CSO sector are analysed in the CSOSI.  These are:

Legal Environment

For a CSO sector to be sustainable, the legal and regulatory environment should support the needs of CSOs. It should facilitate new entrants, help prevent governmental interference, and give CSOs the necessary legal basis to engage in appropriate fundraising activities and legitimate income-producing ventures. South Africa placed in first position with a score of 3.3, followed by Botswana (3.8) and Ghana (3.9), while the worst performing nations were Sudan (6.3), Zimbabwe (6.3) and Ethiopia (6.5).

Organisational Capacity

A sustainable CSO sector will contain a critical mass of CSOs that are transparently governed publicly accountable, capably managed, and that exhibit essential organisational skills. South Africa and Uganda both scored 3.8 and are jointly the strongest in this dimension, while Burundi is the weakest scoring 5.9.

Financial Viability

A critical mass of CSOs must be financially viable, and the economy must be robust enough to support CSO self-financing efforts and generate philanthropic donations from local sources. South Africa continues to have strongest score (4.2) in this dimension, although even this is in the lower half of the Sustainability Evolving category, while Gambia, Ethiopia and Angola all scored (6.2) in those nations the least financially viable


The political and advocacy environment must support the formation of coalitions and networks, and offer CSOs the means to communicate their messages through the media to the .broader public, articulate their demands to government officials, and monitor government actions to ensure accountability. Kenya placed first with 3.3; and South Africa scored (3.4). Kenya reports the strongest score in advocacy and showed further improvement in 2013. Meanwhile, Ethiopia remains the weakest in this dimension (6.1), as the legal environment severely restricts CSOs’ ability to engage in advocacy.

Service Provision

Sectoral sustainability will require a critical mass of CSOs that can efficiently provide services that consistently meet the needs, priorities, and expectations of their constituents. South Africa placed first with a score of 3.2 followed by Kenya (3.4) and Tanzania (3.4). Angola (5.3) has the weakest score resulting in little to no service provision by Angolan CSOs.


A strong sectoral infrastructure is necessary to provide CSOs with broad access to local CSO support services. Intermediary support organisations (ISOs) providing these services must be able to inform, train, and advise other CSOs; and provide access to CSO networks and coalitions that share information and pursue issues of common interest. Kenya placed in first position with a score of 3.6 followed by South Africa with 3.8, whilst Sudan (507) and Angola (5.8) placed in the last two positions.

Public Image

For the sector to be sustainable, government, the business sector, and communities should have a positive public image of CSOs, including a broad understanding and appreciation of the role that CSOs play in society. Public awareness and credibility directly affect CSOs' ability to recruit members and volunteers, and encourage indigenous donors. The public image dimension looks at the extent and nature of the media's coverage of CSOs, the awareness and willingness of government officials to engage CSOs, as well as the public's knowledge and perception of the sector as a whole. South Africa was placed in first position with a score of 3.6, followed by Senegal with 3.7, while Sudan (5.1) and Angola (5.5) placed in the last two positions.

Overall CSO Sustainability

South Africa placed in first position with regard to overall CSO sustainability for 2013 with a score of 3.6, Kenya follows with a score of 3.9, and Tanzania scored 4.1. In terms of the CSOSI, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania have the most well-developed civil society sectors on the continent. On the other end of the CSOSI scale, the three worst-performing nations were Guinea (5.1), Ethiopia (5.2) and Angola (5.4).

- Phiroshaw Camay is a director at the Cooperative for Research and Education. For further information call +2711 836 9942 or email to

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