Can foreign donors build social capital? : civil society assistance and civic participation sub-Saharan Africa

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Donors have been using various strategies to promote democracy in developing countries. One of the strategies is to support civil society organisations to foster vibrant civil society that can hold government responsive and accountable. Sub-Saharan Africa is no exception, in that all sub-Saharan countries except for the Seychelles were the recipient countries of civil society assistance. This research tests whether donors' civil society assistance is related to the changes in the level of civic participation in the 18 sub-Saharan countries. Firstly, I measure civil society assistance between 2005 and 2009 employing OECD aid statistics, and measure the subsequent change in the level of civic participation by comparing the civic participation level in 2005/6 and 2011/3 using Afrobarometer survey Round Three and Round Five. Then, I investigate whether there is a positive correlation between the two variables. The findings show that the level of civic participation did not change significantly over time. However, further analyses indicate that there is a partially positive correlation between civil society assistance and the change of civic participation. Also, the positive correlation between the assistance and the specific type of civic participation, communing activities, is sustained even when an endogenous factor, the political environment of the countries is hold constant.