Over the past years, a worrying trend has set in across Africa: civil society space has been shrinking in what has been called “the biggest crackdown on civil society since the end of the Cold War.” This crackdown manifests itself in “verbal hostility from politicians, new laws and regulations that curtail their ability to operate, and outright violence.” Legal restrictions, as well as outright state harassment and intimidation, are on the rise across the continent.
In addition to the normative case for the role of CSOs in society, another line of reasoning exists for removing the restrictions on CSOs that have arisen across the continent: the value of CSOs in improving policy decisions and protecting national interests. The following case study on the Nigerian trade negotiations demonstrates this point. The study assesses the level of participation and effectiveness of Nigerian NGOs in the EU-West African EPA. The aim is to first identify key successes of Nigerian NGOs in the EPA negotiations so as to make a case for their usefulness and support in policymaking; and second, highlight key issues that constrained a more vigorous participation of CSOs, with corresponding recommendations for future CSO engagements in policymaking.