The concept of civil society evolved a longtime ago. According to Cerothers (1999), theconcept can be traced many centuries back in Western thinking with its roots inAncient Greece. The modern-day notion of civil society began around the 18thCentury, prompted by political theorists from Thomas Paine to George Hegel, whoadvanced the idea of civil society as a sphere parallel to but then independentfrom the state. Moreso, the 90s brought about rekindled interest in civilsociety, due to the trend advancing for democracy which unlocked space forcivil society and the necessity to cover rising gaps in social services whichhad originated from structural adjustment and other reforms in developingcountries (Cerothers, 1999).  According to World Bank (2012), civil societyincorporates a broad spectrum of non-governmental not-for-profit organizations whichhave a presence in public domain, voicing the values and interests of their affiliatesor others based on ethical, political, cultural,  religious, scientific or philanthropy factors.

Similarly, Boadi (2006) identifies civil society as the realm between thehousehold or family and the state, populated by voluntary groups andassociations formed on the basis of shared interests, and are separate and/orlargely but not necessarily completely autonomous from the state. However, despite theterm civil society being a victim of definitional pluralism, most definitionsconcur on some common characteristics of the notion. Ghaus-Pasha (2004)identifies key features of successful civil societies as including, amongothers, separation from the state and the market; formed by people who havecommon needs, interests and values like tolerance, inclusion, cooperation andequality; and, development-oriented through a fundamentally endogenous andautonomous process which cannot easily be controlled from outside. For Ghaus-Pasha(2004),civil society should not be equated to NGOs as NGOs are only but a part ofcivil society although they play an important and sometimes leading role inactivating citizen participation in socio-economic development and politics andin shaping or influencing policy.

It is a wider concept, comprising all organizationsand associations existing separately from the market and state. Examples ofcivil society organizations range from local and international non-governmentalorganisations; labour unions, religious groups; conflict resolutioninstitutions; cultural andeducational associations; youths and women associations; and, politicalinterest groups; to specialinterest groups; voluntary associations; pressuregroups; policy networks; professionalassociations; and business associations.