Christian Aid – Written evidence (ZAF0038)

1.   Please could you describe your organisation’s activities in Sub-Saharan Africa

1.1.                     Our work in Africa covers long-term development and humanitarian activities. We normally work through local partner organisations but also in some cases directly implement projects ourselves.  More than 80% of our funding in Africa is given on a restricted basis by institutional donors. This kind of economy means that we need to managing different types of contracts with varying risk thresholds, accountability and compliance models.

1.2.                     In Sub Saharan Africa, Christian Aid’s work focuses on five main thematic areas across 10 country programmes:

1.3.                     Economic Justice - Financial institutions rarely serve the extreme poor, despite increased commercial banking and investment funds. Finance is considered too risky and services are scarcer or inappropriate for users in rural areas and among the very poor. Wider availability of affordable financial products and services such as loans, payments, savings, credit and insurance would be beneficial and Christian Aid is supporting Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) across 10 country offices in Africa.

1.4.                     We are active in the food, nutrition security and agribusiness support sector, where agriculture remains a priority agenda for Africa.  Partners are seeking to hold governments to account in setting aside 10% of GDP for agricultural development. Climate Smart agriculture, such as solar-powered on farm processing and drip irrigation is a priority across the continent and this sector requires (public) investment to bring finance, technology and education to rural areas. 

1.5.                     Other programmes in Africa focus on promoting youth employment, building skills amongst this group and holding government to account to do the same. We help small scale producers to diversify their products and their markets as this remains one of the best risk management strategies for smallholders, and helps to increase income, food security and resilience .

1.6.                     In a number of conflict situations, we work mainly with faith leaders to build peace. We are also responding to humanitarian need in countries such as Nigeria and South Sudan, providing lifesaving interventions while strengthening communities to take charge of their own needs.

1.7.                     Christian Aid has a focus on challenging and reducing inequalities in access to essential health care and nutrition for the most vulnerable particularly women, children and adolescents. We support community health systems strengthening programmes, policy engagement and advocacy. We use community led participatory vulnerability and capacity assessments to increase the involvement and agency of communities in driving the changes they want to see and ensure health services are relevant and responsive to their priorities, through the engagement of key community structures as agents of transformation including faith leaders, community health workers and traditional birth attendants

1.8.                     All of our programmes work with faith actors at community and national levels, as change agents and advocates for social justice, shifts in health attitudes and behaviours, and policies particularly around maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, nutrition and gender justice. We are increasingly moving away from linear, single issue health programmes to intervention that address multiple interrelated health priorities e.g. integrating nutrition in maternal and child health, Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in reproductive health,  We take a resilience building approach to our health programmes to ensure that they build capacity of communities to respond to health shocks through addressing wider determinants of health – social protection, food and nutrition security and public health emergencies. Our programmes invest in strengthening the capacity of communities and local partners to exert accountability from their duty bearers at local, sub national and national levels.

1.9.                     CA is also proactively engaging in advocacy platforms on accountability for universal access to healthcare and nutrition security at national, regional and global levels.

1.10.             Gender equity and social inclusion is a priority that runs through all of our work. We focus on gender inequalities in health provision, economic empowerment and political participation in DRC, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Burundi. We ensure that humanitarian responses are gender aware and seek to tackle gender based violence in many of our programmes.

2.   From your perspective, what are the biggest development challenges facing the countries in which you work?

2.1.        Africa’s biggest development challenges include weak governance structures and systems which often lead to conflict. In addition, Africa is reeling from the impacts of climate change which drives conflict for resources and vulnerability to natural shocks. Gender and inequality is a main development challenge, with a great proportion of women not accessing resources and condemned as unpaid labour. According to Africa’s Agenda 2063 “The 2030 Agenda alludes that sustainable development is complex and integrated and can only be addressed holistically and systemically.” Multi-dimensional poverty is found in all developing regions of the world, but it is particularly acute in Sub-Saharan Africa. Multidimensional poverty is much more intense in rural areas. The increasing numbers of youth across the continent present both challenges and opportunities for the growth Africa economies. A young population that is to a large extent better educated, more entrepreneurial than former generations and with access to modern forms of information is open to new technologies and provision of services. But the fragmentation of local markets discourages local entrepreneurs (farmers, processors) from investing, because they lack sufficiently stable and profitable outlets to markets, or have high transaction costs.

2.2.        High burden of disease remains a big challenge for the African continent (Africa Union, 2016), with women, children and adolescents being most affected. Sub- Saharan Africa, home to 11% of the world’s population, bears 24% of the global disease burden with many countries still contending with high levels of child and maternal mortality, poor reproductive health outcomes including high unmet need for family planning, HIV and TB and Malaria. Malnutrition is far too common, and most health systems are threatened by epidemics and the growing burden of Non-Communicable Diseases. However, the continent accounts for less than 1% of global health expenditure, with only six countries having met the Abuja target of 15% of government’s spending on health, creating huge inequalities in access to health care with 11 million people being pushed into poverty every year due to high out-of-pocket payments on health.

2.3.        The continent also bears a high debt burden due to external loan servicing by most Sub-Saharan countries which will be exacerbated by the current COVID-19 crisis. African countries also lose an estimated $150 billion annually in illicit financial flows which could provide essential services for masses of its population. In Christian Aid’s report  Trapped in illicit Finance, we profile how Ghana loses billions yearly as an example of what most African countries and other developing regions face.

3.   To what extent and how do you work with the UK Government? Is there complementarity in your objectives in the region?

3.1.         Christian Aid has relationships with UK government ministers and officials and is in regular contact with the Ministers and officials working in areas where we have expertise including climate justice, humanitarian policy, economic justice and health justice.

3.2.         Given the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of calls and requests from finance ministers and governments around the world for debt cancellation, CA is calling on the UK Chancellor to help broker a debt relief deal for the poorest countries, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

3.3.         Our particular focus in the House of Lords is the Lords Spiritual. We support these Bishops and Archbishops in their parliamentary roles, largely by ensuring they are informed about key issues and countries which are of interest to them and their dioceses and/or which appear in the business of the Lords. Relevant issues that have been covered include gender justice/gender-based violence, the arms trade, the climate crisis, economic justice and most recently COVID-19. In terms of countries, where a Bishop has a particular interest in a country we are able to provide insights and experiences from our colleagues and partners in those countries.

3.4.         We are also in regular contact with the Civil Society Liaison team at DFID, where we have a dedicated liaison point, and were part of a working group advising DFID on its Faith Partnership Principles in recent years.

3.5.         Our country managers and staff in different countries have relationships with DFID and FCO officials and in some cases this is through a funded relationship, but this relationship differs from country to country and depends on where our strategic aims align most closely. Over recent years we have noticed a decrease in UK funding for local civil society organisations in Africa.

4.   What do you see as the role of religion in development policy in Sub-Saharan Africa?

4.1.         From Christian Aid’s 75 years in the humanitarian and development sector, our experience is that religion plays a crucial role and should continue to be central in the discussions of development policy and practice in Sub- Saharan Africa in particular.

4.2.         In Sub-Saharan Africa, most people engage in some form of religious practice and many profess membership of some formal religious organisation, traditional, Muslim, Christian or otherwise. 

4.3.         Christian Aid conducted a scoping study on the role of faith actors in policy advocacy across the world and we documented several instances faith leaders and institutions have influenced development outcomes through policy influencing and programming from sub-national to continental levels and with global institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations. The unique role and ethical voice of faith leaders in particular was affirmed by many as their grounding as a moral voice worthy of audience in policy discussions.

4.4.         Reverend Suzanne Matale an independent member of the clergy in the region, said; “History records that faith actors have achieved many results at all levels; national, regional, global in relation to liberation struggles for independence, emancipation of many countries especially in Africa. They rose to the occasion until the job was done. Post- independence faith actors have campaigned and advocated for human rights, gender justice, economic justice, climate change, children’s rights, early marriages, teenage pregnancies.  While the struggle continues because these problems are on- going, it can be noted that some gains have been recorded.  Added to the list is now advocacy for fair taxation especially from extractive industries. Faith actors and other like-mind organizations have worked together towards the achievement of developing countries recouping their fair share of resources from their mineral wealth to invest in developing countries for a better tomorrow for the people who are wallowing in poverty but however surrounded by great wealth. This work is possible because of the involvement of faith actors and other organizations and the many supporters and partners globally”.

4.5.         Our scoping report documented the various influencing strategies employed by faith actors on development issues which ranged from livelihoods, women’s economic empowerment, Gender-Based Violence (GBV), climate justice and peace and security.  In some instances, the faith institutions and leaders monitor the relationships between the state, politicians and citizens and try to influence politicians in the right direction with regards to policies. They also undertake programming including social accountability projects at sub-national levels. At global levels, faith actors in the region have joined influencing efforts aimed at the UN and World Bank by submitting letters and inputs, joint statements at key moments and conferences/round table discussions and side events. Faith actors in the region also campaign in solidarity with social movements and other organisations. For instance,  The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) is a continental ecumenical organisation which accounts for over 140 million Christians in 42 African countries joined in solidarity with the Fight Inequality Alliance to issue a statement of support during the campaign Global Protest to #FightInequality as the Davos talks were held. This statement was also supported by the Fellowship of Christian Councils of Southern Africa and the National Christian Councils of Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.

4.6.         Other examples documented include:

4.7.         The AACC has a permanent observer status with the AU, perhaps another recognition of the important role religious actors and religion play or should play in development policy formulation, implementation and monitoring.

4.8.         As well as influencing development policy, faith based organisation also obviously have a huge impact on development outcomes. As the Keeping the Faith report (2016, Christian Aid, Tearfund, CAFOD and Islamic Relief) on the Ebola pandemic outlined, in that pandemic, faith communities had a huge potential to influence social norms, hygiene and health practices, and were also the main providers of health care an assistance in many communities. This is definitely worth bearing in mind as we consider responses to COVID-19 in Africa and beyond.

5.   How important are UK-based diaspora communities in your fundraising?

5. 1 Christian Aid has 41 sponsoring churches in Britain and Ireland and many of these churches have large diaspora congregations. We work closely with these churches to raise funds, the focal point of which is the annual Christian Aid Week, where church members go house-to-house to collect for the organisation’s work, or engage in other community fundraising activities.

Received 15 April 2020