The nine countries that comprise Francophone West Africa have some of the highest maternal fertility rates, lowest contraceptive rates, and highest number of maternal deaths of any region in the world. Yet they receive less investment from international donors—particularly for family planning—than other regions in sub-Saharan Africa. The Hewlett Foundation gave an initial grant to organize the “Population, Development, and Family Planning in West Africa: An Urgency for Action” conference in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in February 2011. The conference launched the Ouagadougou Partnership between governments, donors, and technical partners to increase family planning use in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.

Since then, the Hewlett Foundation’s strategy for reproductive health in Francophone West Africa has focused on supporting this kind of regional collaboration, increasing contraceptive use, providing better data on the extent and impacts of and reducing unsafe abortion, and strengthening in-country advocacy. The foundation commissioned an independent evaluation of the strategy, including whether the Ouagadougou Partnership is helping mobilize resources and increase family planning services.

Global Impact Advisors’ evaluation says there was a “nearly unanimous” perception that the Ouagadougou Partnership’s collaboration between donors, governments, civil society organizations, faith leaders, and implementing organizations has created significant momentum for family planning in the region. They credit the partnership for a 36 percent increase in donor funding for family planning in Francophone West Africa and helping more than 1.6 million addition women use modern contraceptive methods.

The evaluators highlight the important ways private donors can convene others to bring more resources to a common cause, and by coordinating, can more closely align funding with the countries’ own priorities. While the evaluators applaud the role a smaller foundation can play as a catalytic funder, they say focusing on big outcome numbers or scale is better suited for large funders like the U.S. Agency for International Development. Global Impact Advisors recommend strengthening the Ouagadougou Partnership, continuing to support religious leaders’ advocacy efforts, and increasing opportunities for family planning and reproductive health organizations to learn from each other.