Africare’s second annual CODA Corporate Summit was this past weekend at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Both the venue and the timing are significant. CODA stands for “Creating Opportunities for Development in Africa,” and it is held during the annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund spring meetings in Washington, D.C. when so many African leaders are in town. We’ve held the event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for the past two years because the Chamber is synonymous with global investment and development, both tenets of CODA.
This year, major corporate sponsors included long-time Africare partners ExxonMobil, the African Development Bank, Chevron, Coca-Cola, UPS, Xerox and Pan African Capital as well as a number of newer partners Africare is beginning to work with such as Phase One, MotaEngil Bechtel, Bolloré and ArcelorMittal. These corporate partners help us expand our sustainable development programs and help us ensure our programs make positive, tangible, lasting impacts. Africare has worked in 36 African countries and for nearly 50 years. We know we cannot do it alone. Decades of experience has shown us that developing thoughtful, strategic partnerships is the way to get things done, and that’s what CODA is all about – helping Africare build lasting partnerships with corporations and individuals to help Africans improve their quality of life.
Such partnerships have never been so important because we must diversify our revenue sources. To subsist, Africare must evolve, but to grow, we must innovate! No longer can we depend on USAID to keep our programs operating. As USAID’s funding policies and focuses have changed, vying for federal dollars has become increasingly competitive and uncertain, spurring Africare to explore and exploit new opportunities – some traditional and others avant-garde. We are incredibly excited about this new direction because it’s energizing and empowering. It’s also a lot of hard work.
It’s hard work because we need to convince prospective partners that working with Africare is mutually beneficial. Gone are the days of corporations giving to non-profits just to punch their social responsibility ticket, and frankly, that’s not what Africare is looking for. We are seeking a blend of operational and programmatic funding from our corporate partners to implement programs efficiently and effectively, while maintaining our operational tempo. It’s a delicate balance to strike, because like governments and foundations applying increasingly tight overhead margins to grants, companies also strive to contain overhead costs – frequently so aggressively that basic non-profit operating costs are undercut, making it very difficult for non-profits to cover costs and implement programs effectively. The result is a losing proposition. A program may be implemented well and yield positive results, but the non-profit might lose money in the process. That’s not a recipe for success or sustainability, but it is the current funding climate.
Through events like CODA, Africare introduces corporate, foundation and individual partners to our work. We strive to find like-minded organizations that understand investing in communities is crucial to improving lives and to improving business. The benefits to companies working alongside Africare in countries we’ve operated in for decades are numerous and diverse: making key introductions to local governments, providing a historical perspective on what has worked and what hasn’t, conducting efficient, accurate pre-project assessments, helping companies integrate their business goals with local development goals and more.
Last week, Africare and private sector partner Phase One signed a long-term partnership agreement to provide Africare with the capabilities to improve citizen services using technology in Africa. This alliance is groundbreaking for Africare – it is a quantum leap into the future that is frankly overdue. Africare prides itself on keeping pace with key advancements in Africa, but the application of technology across the continent in every imaginable way is moving at the speed of light. We’re looking to Phase One to help us keep up! Together, we will identify new ways to apply technology to advance our impact.
Partnerships like this are exciting, and opportunities to collaborate abound because with the scope of Africare’s work there are so many potential intersections of interest. Africare’s staff of 1,000, who are 98% African, work in 17 African countries on nearly 100 programs ranging from food security, nutrition and entrepreneurship training to youth empowerment, maternal and child health, HIV and AIDS, clean water and sanitation, and much more. If a company is working in sub-Saharan Africa chances are there are multiple, mutually beneficial ways they could partner with Africare. We welcome exploratory discussions with private sector companies and invite potential partners to learn more about our work.
Our partnership with Phase One is one of many partnerships, and it epitomizes what CODA heralds – the notion that through collaboration we are stronger, more effective, more efficient and more impactful.
Africare Chief of Staff and Chief Development & Communications Officer