Nigeria on 27 February 2020 became the first Sub-Saharan African country to record the coronavirus1. Today, all the 15 ECOWAS Member States have now recorded over 30,000 cumulative cases of COVID-19, several deaths, and an encouraging number of recoveries. Nonetheless, the confirmed cases continue to rise rapidly across the region with potentially devasting public health challenges, underscoring earlier observation by ECOWAS that the region is a high-risk for COVID-19.
The outbreak of COVID-19, however, represents more than a public health crisis. Its impact is crosscutting, disrupting a host of important aspects of the West African society including social networks and livelihoods, operations of civil society, regional (and internal) trade and free movements of people and goods, just to mention a few. The pandemic’s impact on our very own civil society space cannot be overemphasized. And while there have been varied conversations on COVID-19 and the various responses (and impact on civil society), these have been uncoordinated at best in the region.
The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), therefore, in line with its mandate and under the auspices of its regional dialogue series platform, West Africa Policy Dialogue Series (WAC-PODIS), initiated a monthly webinar series to coordinate and engender regular civil society discussion and debate on the different impacts of COVID-19 on civil society and development effectiveness. Scheduled every third Wednesday of each month (beginning in May 2020), the regional WAC-PODIS would also explore the intersection of COVID-19 with other thematic and crosscutting issues such as civic operations, civic space, gender equality, democratic and political governance, political economy, human rights, resource mobilisation, digital technology, etc.