Original Research

Donor–NGO partnerships in South Africa: A qualitative case study of five NGOs in Gauteng

Limkile Mpofu, Kaymarlin Govender
African Evaluation Journal | Vol 10, No 1 | a619 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aej.v10i1.619 | © 2022 Limkile Mpofu, Kaymarlin Govender | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 February 2022 | Published: 27 October 2022

About the author(s)

Limkile Mpofu, Health Economics HIV and AIDS Division (HEARD), Faculty of Humanities, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Kaymarlin Govender, Health Economics HIV and AIDS Division (HEARD), Faculty of Law and Business Management, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


Background: Donor–nongovernmental organisation (NGO) partnerships may enable earlier infusion of implementation science principles into developing evidence-based interventions. Yet, donors and NGOs often report difficulty leveraging resources, personnel and expertise to create beneficial outcomes for all. Drawing from a PhD thesis, the authors report how the asymmetrical nature of the relationships manifests in practice in the work of NGOs. The study focused on human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV and AIDS) NGOs in Gauteng province in South Africa.

Objectives: This study examines whether the asymmetrical relationships can be termed partnerships and highlights the potential for such a discourse to reinforce existing relationship inequalities.

Method: Qualitative data were collected through in-depth individual interviews with key informants from five purposively selected HIV and AIDS NGOs. A total of 28 interviews were analysed deductively using thematic analysis. The Dóchas Partnership Assessment and Development Process framework guided this analysis. The NGOs under study have implemented various HIV and AIDS programmes and policies in their workspace.

Results: The findings have revealed that ‘partnership’ is a false representation of the actual relationships between donors and NGOs.

Conclusion: The study concluded that although the notion of partnerships accurately describes the intention of ‘donors’ and ‘NGOs’ to collaborate in ways that ensure improved services and outcomes, the unintended consequences of how partnerships are managed and run inhibit that common agenda. The article concludes with suggestions to build and sustain effective working relationships between partners.

Contribution: Assessing how donor-NGO partnerships are operationalised can assist in determining the extent to which their relationship is operating and point to areas where partnerships practice can be further developed.


partnership; collaboration; relationships; donors; non-governmental organisations; accountability mechanisms; accountability


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