Oyetola Oduyemi is the Africa Regional Adviser (Public Affairs) at The END Fund, a private philanthropic organisation whose big goal is to see an end to the five most common neglected tropical diseases (NTD’s) that, together, cause up to 90% of the NTD burden in sub-Saharan Africa. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Oyetola shares insights on the organisation’s mission, some of it’s challenges, impact philanthropy, social development and sustainability in Africa. Excerpt.
Alaba: Tell us about The End Fund and the gap its filling?
Oyetola: The END Fund is the only private philanthropic initiative solely dedicated to ending the most neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). They are a group of parasitic and bacterial infectious diseases that affect over 1.5 billion of the world’s most impoverished people, including 836 million children. NTDs are diseases of neglected communities that do not have a platform to advocate for themselves and raise awareness. They can cause severe pain and long-term disability and lead to death for more than 170,000 people per year. Effects from NTDs such as deformed legs and blindness result in social isolation.
Since being founded in 2012, we have supported the delivery of over 724 million generously donated treatments for NTDs with a value of over $1.3 billion. In addition, over 1.8 million people were trained in NTD control and prevention methods and over 13,000 people have benefited from surgeries.
NTDs have held back human progress; and at the END Fund, we imagine a world free of diseases caused by worms. We are filling the gap by delivering treatments to communities in need. We achieve this by growing and engaging a community of activist-philanthropists, managing high-impact strategic investments, and working in collaboration with government, NGO, pharmaceutical, and academic partners.
There are many generous funders in the space including USAID and DFID, but the END Fund was created to help fill the funding gap specifically with money from the private sector. In some countries, we are even the only funder, and are able to go places that traditional funders cannot go due to instability and conflict. We are also able to move quicker than traditional funders thanks to our unique model.
Alaba: What is the mission and vision of this Initiative in Africa?
Oyetola: The END Fund’s mission is to end the five most prevalent neglected tropical diseases. In Africa, about 40% of the global NTD burden occurs here, affecting over 600 million Africans. In Nigeria alone, over 120 million people are at risk of one or more NTDs. We envision a continent, indeed a world where people at risk of NTDs can live healthy and prosperous lives.
Alaba: How have the priorities of the organisation evolved?
Oyetola: Due to improvements in disease mapping and much broader engagement by in-country and global stakeholders, the END Fund has been able to get key stakeholders and leaders in disease-endemic countries to make commitments around NTDs. There are many more partners with whom to collaborate and coordinate new opportunities. Also, there are more detailed maps of disease prevalence in high-risk communities, indicating an increased level of interest and sophistication. These additions to the space enable us to have more in depth discussions on extending the financing of NTDs and gradually requiring countries to self-fund treatment.
Alaba: How does the organisation measure the impact of its giving?
Oyetola: We convene savvy, international investors interested in impact-driven investments that make the most efficient use of their private capital – “the best bang for buck.” This enables us to ensure that our treatments are the most cost-effective. In addition, the progress that we make in countries when it comes to eliminating the prevalence of NTDs as a public health problem also enables us to understand our impact. Another way that we measure the impact of funds invested in the END Fund is through our ability to provide technical assistance and capacity building, as needed.
We seek to meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) requirements for treatment, but in many cases we look to exceed their targets and ensure the highest levels of treatment possible. We also work with governments and implementing partners to ensure the highest quality of data reporting. In 2018 alone, with our partners, we reached over 134 million people with more than 220 million treatments valued at over $430 million, trained over 745,000 people, and provided over 1,800 surgeries.
Alaba: What are the challenges and how are you overcoming them?
Oyetola: Raising awareness about what NTDs are and why they should be on the top of the agenda for governments, donors, and even those affected can sometimes be a challenge. People may be aware of one or two of them but are not necessarily aware of the health and economic implications. Thus, we want to put real-life stories forward, and hope that it would help us reduce the neglect of the attention and awareness about these diseases.
Alaba : What’s the future for the organisation in Africa and what steps are you taking towards achieving them?
Oyetola: In the future, I see the END Fund continuing to work with its partners to not only improve the health of underserved communities but also contribute to Africa’s growth. Research has shown that deworming treatment, for example, has the potential to increase an adult’s earnings by 20% and reduce a child’s likelihood of school absenteeism by 25%. Alleviating the NTD burden would not only improve lives, but it would also have a ripple effect on the community, nation, and continent.
We are very strategic and intentional in the steps that we are taking towards achieving our preferred future. We are working tirelessly in bringing together local and global philanthropists to control and eliminate NTDs. Our CEO, Ellen Agler recently co-chaired the 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa and participated in key dialogues on how addressing health inequalities – for example, scaling up treatment for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and achieving Universal Health Coverage – can help catapult Africa into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I also believe that more investments would be seen as one and the same – instead of being seen as either good for business or humanity.
The END Fund hosts the Reaching the Last Mile Fund – a ten-year, multi-donor fund, initiated and led by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, with additional support from other funders. It works to eliminate river blindness and lymphatic filariasis across the Middle East and Africa. By working to eliminate these two NTDs, our goal is to break the cycle of poverty by reducing their footprint.
We were also named an Audacious Project in 2019 – a philanthropic collaborative hosted by TED. This project aims to eliminate the public health burden caused by parasitic worm infections in four countries in Africa. In these countries, where local leaders have already made trailblazing commitments to their national deworming programs, the Project’s “Deworming Innovation Fund” will support and amplify these commitments with the goal of eliminating childhood sickness caused by the most prevalent parasitic worms, a feat which has not yet been achieved in Africa.
Alaba: What’s your view on the development of impact philanthropy in Africa?
Oyetola: At the heart of philanthropy, is giving. Africa, and indeed Africans generally have an embedded culture of giving or charity, which some would argue is philanthropy in its most basic form. We believe in the concept of giving back, of being your brother’s keeper, and of sustaining your wealth and happiness by helping others. So it is a familiar concept.
Having said that, impact philanthropy is nuanced to reflect a desire to make specific impact, rather than just seemingly random giving. To that extent, it is a practice that the continent is catching on to quickly. It is being practised more by high net worth individuals and activist philanthropists, rather than corporates. The latter are increasingly embracing strategic social investments, which also varies from philanthropy simpliciter.
Alaba: Why are you personally passionate about the work of The End Fund Initiative?
Oyetola: My passion about our work stems from my personal interest in driving the social development of Africa. I have worked in this space for about 15 years now, and the reality is that as more is achieved, more comes to light as needing to be done. For instance you take on education as a cause, and then realize that the health space needs support. And then it is the environment; or infrastructural development. etc. However delivering on the mandate of the END Fund, which is to end the neglected tropical diseases, has positive ripple effects across quite a number of indices – poverty, malnutrition, education, health, sanitation, and partnerships for development (Sustainable Development Goals 1,2,3,4,6 and 17).
As a mum myself, I am passionate about children, they are our future; and the brightness of any nation’s future is determined in large part by the state of her children today. I am passionate about advancing the cause of my nation and continent, and so I have an interest in her youth. As a woman, I am eager to tackle diseases that disproportionately affect women, We are typically the home-makers and primary caregivers. So when family members are unwell, we are the ones with careers or work opportunities that suffer, while we nurse them back to health. We are the ones that are open to STDs and related secondary infections, as a result of urogenital schistosomiasis. Schistosomiasis by the way is the second most deadly parasitic infection globally after malaria, and Nigeria has been reported to have the biggest global burden of this disease.
Our work at the END Fund seeks to end the suffering, illness and debilitating conditions caused by the NTDs, and both the sought impact and picture of success, serve as impetus to do and love the work I do.
Alaba : As an expert in the CSR, sustainability and impact philanthropy ecosystem in Africa, can you share your experience?
Oyetola: This is a richly multi-layered ecosystem indeed, with different stakeholder groups, interests, and expectations. The good thing is that the foundational principle of corporates and HNIs contributing to the development of their locations, is here to stay. Having said this, the practice of CSR is not without its criticisms and issues, and Africa is no exception to this. However with issues, always come possibilities and opportunities. For Africa, CSR or social investment, and impact philanthropy present opportunities to drive sustainable and inclusive development; especially given the relatively high levels of inequalities and poverty found here. There is the creation of shared value, when CSR is properly practiced.
The field also goes beyond the social aspect, to companies doing business responsibly, and with sound corporate governance structures firmly established. These also benefit the communities in which they operate, and stakeholders such as employees, regulators, investors, etc. Furthermore, these drive sustainability, of the companies, their host communities, and the environment.
Pertinent to serve as a guiding thought, is that a sense of mutuality is key, between businesses and host communities. And so combined effort, the pooling together of resources, and the mainstreaming of a sense of responsibility – individual as well as corporate; are all critical to finding sustainable solutions to our developmental challenges as a continent.
Alaba : What is your advice to aspiring impact philanthropists?
Oyetola: Anyone can be an impact philanthropist, high networth individuals as well as people with comparatively lower income. Technological developments, innovative offerings and the emergence of digital platforms such as crowdfunding, have paved the way for a new crop of impact philanthropists to emerge. Things to bear in mind in becoming an effective impact philanthropist, include efficient resource management, motivational picture of success or desired impact, innovation and scalability, where applicable.
Kindly click the link to watch how The End Fund is using football to tackle the NTDs – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSZJye2aeN4
A great place to start is by joining us to end the neglected diseases!
For more information, please visit The END Fund
B I O G R A P H Y
Oyetola Oduyemi was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2003, and has more than sixteen years working experience. During her time in the Nigerian Law School, she interned at Kyari Chambers, the law firm of JK Gadzama (SAN). Subsequently, she worked at Babalola chambers, law firm of Dele Adesina (SAN).
‘Tola is a qualified member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators UK, and also a member of the Nigerian Society for Corporate Governance. She holds an LL.M. degree from the University of Warwick, with dual majors in Corporate Governance and International Economic Law. ‘Tola has broad experience across sectors, having worked in real estate, banking, oil servicing, and telecommunications industries.
Her specialty is building sustainable brands that have stood the test of time, wearing different though inter-connected hats, including public policy manager keeping employer organisations abreast of policies with an impact on their respective business; corporate communications lead with responsibility for ensuring effective internal and external engagements; and sustainability expert advising business leaders on required and best-practice measures to adopt; all with the focal objective of creating strategic and sustainable value.
For her work in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), ‘Tola was recognized as the most outstanding CSR practitioner, at the Sustainability, Enterprise & Responsibility Awards (SERAs) for Africa, 2016. Her passion lies in driving business transformation, providing leadership and finding innovative solutions to business challenges, successfully managing multi-layered key stakeholder groups, and developing and executing best-in-class management strategies to drive business sustainability.
She also enjoys driving ideation of the construct that eliminates barriers between entities and possibilities. In seeking to accomplish this bridge-building, she has discovered that empowering people, communities, companies, even the planet; to survive and flourish, enables all to make possibilities, realities.
‘Tola is an alumnus of the University of Lagos – Nigeria, and University of Warwick, UK. She has also attended numerous training programmes at the Lagos Business School.
African Women in GIS (AWiGIS)- Our Story
African Women in GIS (AWiGIS) is a community of African women around the world who either study, work or are interested in the geospatial industry. This community was borne out of the desire of two young women, Cyhana Williams from Ghana and Chidimma Umeogu from Nigeria, to create an association that fostered community and encouraged other African women to pursue GIS careers. They also sought to display the application prospects of the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) field for Africa.
The community’s major objective is to create a forum that gives women of African descent (whether living in Africa or in the diaspora) the freedom to create connections, gain mentors, learn new skills, access education in GIS-related schools as well as job-related advice and opportunities.
The African Women in GIS community first started out as two separate country groups. Chidimma created her group on 29th July, 2017 for Women in GIS- Nigeria whiles Cyhana formed hers in April, 2019 called Women in GIS – Ghana. Together, these groups had members who were students and workers in the GIS field. It was a little tough garnering women in Ghana since the visibility and awareness of GIS was low. Thus, some students especially women who studied GIS in their undergraduate studies switched to a different career path after graduation due to the difficulty in getting a sustainable GIS job.
In June 2019, Chidimma and Cyhana met on LinkedIn and discussed their efforts in creating platforms for women in their individual countries. This led to a conversation of collaboration and increasing the group coverage to pan the entire African continent. Hence, the genesis of the African Women in GIS community on October 2019. It started out with forty-one (41) Nigerian members, a member from Burkina Faso and eleven (11) Ghanaian members. Nigeria is the group’s headquarters country with Ghana as the second.
Members were encouraged to invite other women with the same interests or practice to join the group. The founders researched and reached out to women on LinkedIn who were in the same field. As time went on, members became acquainted with one another and shared their views on how the community should progress with their ideas for activities. Connections groomed and the group became larger.
In January 2020, the African Women in GIS was introduced to the rest of the world. It launched its social media platforms (LinkedIn and Twitter) and used these platforms to reach out to more women. The platform also highlights the profiles of members in order to motivate other women who are practicing, studying or just enthusiastic about GIS. By the end of January 2020, AWiGIS had reached about one thousand (1,000) followers on LinkedIn and two hundred (200) followers on Twitter with over one hundred (100) members in its member group.
By February of 2020, the founders engaged a few members of the group as volunteers as well as a secretary who assist in the task of creating content and planning group activities in order to improve the member and public engagement. In May 2020, AWiGIS gained about 2,500 followers on LinkedIn with almost 200 active members from Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia , Kenya Cameroon and the Diaspora. It also launched its membership transition to Slack where a variety of channels for members to discuss, share relevant information and host tutorial activities operates efficiently. Although membership is strictly for women, other activities are open to the public.
In all enthusiasm and excitement, we have a number of activities planned out for the next few months as well as into the future. Members of the community proposed some activities whilst others were opportunities gotten from key individuals and organizations who reached out to the community.
For starters, AWiGIS has an upcoming volunteering project with Ibisa Network – an Organization that aims to aid small-scale farmers with satellite images of their farms to help them get insurance covers. The community collaborates with Ibisa Network by providing the AWiGIS members a volunteering opportunity with Ibisa where they will be assessing satellite images of farmlands. Through this volunteering project, the members get to add this work experience to their CVs as well as other incentives.
After the pandemic, AWiGIS plans to encourage the members to host outreach programs to schools and other groups. There, the members will help educate students about GIS and show them some impressive visualizations of GIS application as well as some roles of this technology in the real world. In addition, the official AWiGIS website will be launched and it will serve as a platform to display African GIS applications. It will also be a job recruitment site for geospatial roles in Africa.
We are excited about the various plans we have in place for the community, Africa and for the world at large. Follow us, join us and view the geospatial world through the eyes of African Women.
Author: Esther Moore
Irene Mbari- Kirika- inABLE.org, Career and Impact
Irene Mbari- Kirika is the Executive Director at inABLE.org, a NGO that empowers the blind and visually impaired students in Africa through computer assistive technology. Recognized as a dynamic, global strategic leader and an executive-level innovator who has created technology-powered special-educational environments to positively affect the lives of blind, visually-impaired, and multi-disability youths in Africa. She is also a sought-after consultant and public speaker who has collaborated on training, evaluation, research, and policy projects with the World Bank, the government of Kenya, multiple international universities, and many global corporations.
Irene has been a featured speaker at several high-profile educational events, including the UNESCO Mobile Learning week in Paris and ICT Connected Summit in Kenya, as well as an invited participant at the Zero Project Conference 2020 held at the Vienna headquarters of the United Nations in Austria, and TechShare Pro 2019, which took place at Google UK headquarters in London England.
As the Executive Director at inABLE.org, Irene Mbari- Kirika has researched, developed, and executed the organization’s accessibility of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategy, and has led and facilitated discussions on best practices in the accessibility space and international nonprofit operations. She has championed initiatives related to global policy, advocacy, and international development.
She has also co-authored research reports- A Comprehensive Report on the Nationwide Baseline Survey of Technology Skills for Learners with Vision Impairment in Kenya by the Georgia Institute of Technology – and A Computer Training Program for the Schools for the Blind in Kenya published by the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research.
Irene holds a Business Management degree from Kennesaw State University in Georgia and a Global Master’s of Arts (GMAP) in International Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, USA.
Impact & Philanthropy
The inspiration for inABLE began when Irene attended a reading day at the Kenya National Library. A group of students who were extremely competitive, smart, and outgoing captured her attention. This group stood out in the reading challenge for the day.Yet, to her astonishment, Irene learned these students were all blind or low vision.When she inquired about these youths and learned that they were from a nearby blind school that had a shortage of Braille books and paper and without access to computers and the Internet.
This disparity in education sparked an urgent drive to connect these students to the rest of the world by destroying the barriers to communication and employment. The inABLE organization can truly be described as “visionary,” because its mission is to empower blind and visually impaired students in Africa through technology. From the very beginning, inABLE has watched blind and visually impaired primary and secondary students transform as they learned how to access online educational resources, research homework assignments, communicate with new friends worldwide, use social media, host blogs and develop employable skills, such as JAVA programming and HTML website design.
What is unique is that the inABLE computer lab is a complete technological solution that removes barriers to learning with an innovative educational platform that promotes information computer technology as an integral classroom tool. With assistive-technology computer skills, students gain independence to use multiple devices, access eBooks and online educational resources, real time news and the ability to communicate and interact with the rest of the world.
Over the last 10 years, inABLE has set up eight computer assistive technology labs at special schools for the blind across Kenya and enrolled more than 8,000 students. inABLE’s programmes are designed to have the following lasting and transformative impact on the lives of beneficiaries:
- Bridging the gap between the blind and sighted in Kenya through technology. Our graduates will be able to seek lucrative employment in fields that would otherwise be completely closed to them.
- Contribute to increased feelings of self-worth, self-esteem, and independence for our graduates.
- Societal transformation where blind children are viewed as assets to their families rather than liabilities, which will in turn result in more families believing in and investing in the children’s future.
- Transformation of social attitudes toward the blind and visually impaired as they begin to be seen as productive members of society.
- Augmenting the Africa’s workforce with highly trained and highly motivated blind contributors.
- Engage in policy change related to digital accessibility to ensure everyone has access to information on the Internet, including people with disabilities.
Additionally, Irene has led inABLE to a position of leadership in inclusive tech in education, accessible computer skills training, and assistive technology research by forging foundational relationships with charitable partners, foundations, and global technology leaders, including Safaricom Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Microsoft, Google, Mastercard Foundation and many more.
While working through inABLE’s start-up and growth, Irene Mbari- Kirika grasped another critical factor which lead to the establishment of Irene’s most recent venture Technoprise Consulting. Technoprise promotes inclusive technologies as well as hiring of people with disabilities in the tech industry. Its primary goal complements inABLE’s — increasing employment of persons with disabilities in the tech industry in Africa, while providing digital accessibility services to public and private sector clients around the world.
During the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19, Irene had to pivot and launch the Inclusive Africa Conference as an online event next fall- Inclusive Africa. Without missing a beat, Irene gathered global leaders in inclusive education, design, and employment to participate in the Inclusive Design Africa monthly webinar series, including a Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) program – Inclusive Africa Webinar.
In recognition of her many accomplishments, Irene Mbari- Kirika has received both The Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya (OGW) in 2016 and the Humanitarian Award, Kenyan Diaspora Advisory Council of Georgia in 2013.
The Coca-Cola System and The Coca-Cola Foundation commit $17m to fight COVID-19 in Africa
Helping those most vulnerable, preventing the spread of the virus and contributing to the recovery of local economies
Across Africa and in partnership with NGOs, Coca-Cola in Africa, and its bottling partners (the “Coca-Cola System”) and The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF), have been deploying a range of resources, including capabilities, funds and products to support governments, communities and local economies in their urgent efforts to contain the spread and impact of the Coronavirus since its outbreak on the continent.
The Coca-Cola System is committing US$13million to support the continent through the various phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF) has granted just under $4 million to international and local NGOs, such as the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Amref Health to procure and distribute personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other critical needs for frontline workers and to help fund ICU-enabled ambulances for example in Mauritius and Madagascar.
The Coca-Cola system also donated to National Solidarity Funds in South Africa, Morocco and Djibouti and additional funds were allocated to boost awareness and mobilization to help stem infections in vulnerable communities across several countries.
In addition to suspending all commercial advertising of its brands and deploying its marketing and trade assets, including social media channels, product labels and point-of-sale materials, to amplify COVID-19 messaging, the Coca-Cola System is providing funding and other forms of support to help bolster the micro, small and medium enterprises in the retail, hospitality and recycling sectors, who have been among the hardest hit businesses across countries.
Coca-Cola company is also working with some NGOs and social enterprises, including Givefood.ng in Nigeria, Gift of the Givers in South Africa and National Disaster Management agencies to provide food parcels for vulnerable families whose livelihood has been disrupted by the lockdown and other restrictions.
Coca-Cola’s bottling partners on the continent, on their part, are making significant contributions to the fight against the pandemic throgh a variety of interventions, including lending their distribution capability to help deliver medical supplies, food parcels, 3-D printed face masks and other PPE as well as donating cash, beverage products and food items.
In response to the critical need for the hand sanitizer, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa in Uganda and Ethiopia, Bralima in DRC, Les Brasseries du Congo in Congo, and Nigerian Bottling Company in Nigeria have deployed their technical expertise and facilities to produce over 30,000 litres of alcoholic sanitizer in line with World Health Organization (WHO) standard which were distributed to governments and vulnerable communities free of charge.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to all those impacted by this virus and their families. We are leveraging on the experience and capabilities the Coca-Cola System has built in over 90 years of serving consumers and making a difference across Africa, in the planning and deployment of our resources to effectively support governments in the efforts to contain the spread, support vulnerable communities and get local economies back up and running,” explains Bruno Pietracci, President of Africa & Middle East for The Coca-Cola Company.
In some countries such as in Eswatini, Ethiopia, Uganda and Zimbabwe, Coca-Cola in Africa provided its marketing expertise either directly or through its partnership with Project Last Mile, to support Ministries of Health simplify and amplify health and safety messages. Additionally, in Egypt, Coca-Cola decorated its bottles with messages of gratitude and appreciation to every doctor in the country’s “white army”.
The Coca-Cola system has leveraged its years of experience in water access, sanitation and hygiene through the Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) to develop unique emergency hand-washing stations (some foot operated, some using jerrycans), which are now set up in high traffic areas, border points and in vulnerable communities.
“The Coca-Cola system has been through many global crises during our 134 year’s history. Making a positive difference during times of crisis is in our DNA. We are in this together with our communities. Going forward, supporting micro and small businesses who are the fabric of our communities and the backbone to Africa’s resilience, will be a key priority for us,” added Pietracci.
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