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Interview With Oyetola Oduyemi On The END Fund, Impact Philanthropy And Sustainability in Africa

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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. 

A football competition organised to tackle the NTD’s

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

Also Read: I Encourage all Corporates To Identify Avenues for Incorporating CSR into their Business Strategies – Bekeme Masade

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.

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NGOs - SDGs

The ELMA Group of Foundations Commits ZAR 2 Billion to COVID-19 Response in Africa

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Unjani Clinics in South Africa received their shipment of much needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for their nurses and staff, made possible with support from The ELMA South Africa Foundation (Pic credit: Unjani Clinics)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa- The ELMA Group of Foundations has announced a commitment of ZAR 2 billion to respond to COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on under-resourced and vulnerable communities in Africa. A minimum of ZAR 500 million of this commitment is for South Africa, and includes an immediate contribution by The ELMA South Africa Foundation of ZAR 250 million to The South African Solidarity Response Fund. The remaining ZAR 250 million will be used to fund a wide range of projects to mitigate the country-wide effects of COVID-19.

Bernadette Moffat, Exec. Dir.,The ELMA Philanthropies Services (Africa)(Pty) Ltd. and Chair of The ELMA South Africa Foundation, states, “ELMA has been investing in initiatives to improve the health, education, and well-being of children and the families and communities that support them since 2005. This new commitment to respond to the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates our absolute commitment to Africa and to Africa’s children.”

Commenting on the donation to the South Africa Solidarity Response Fund, Nomkhita Nqweni, CEO of the Solidarity Fund said, “We wish to extend our gratitude to The ELMA South Africa Foundation for the spirit of partnership they have displayed in working with us towards bolstering South Africa’s resilience against the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaboration and partnerships such as this are testament to the possibilities that exist when we combine efforts.”

Also Read: COVID-19 Testing: Aliko Dangote Foundation engages 54gene Laboratory

In addition to the ZAR250 million donation to the South Africa Solidarity Response Fund, ELMA is collaborating with other funders and partners on a variety of COVID-19 response initiatives across the continent. One such initiative is supporting community health workers and community care workers as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Ensuring that these essential workers have sufficient personal protective equipment, food, access to testing, and psycho-social support is a priority if we are to overcome COVID-19.

As such, The ELMA South Africa Foundation is collaborating with The South African Solidarity Response Fund, The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach ProjectJohnson and Johnson, The Horace W Goldsmith Foundation, to support an initiative led by the DG Murray Trust to provide personal protective equipment and other critical support to more than 120,000 community care workers delivering crucial health and social services across South Africa.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis for the African continent and requires a momentous response if we are to recover from the devastation it has and will cause,” adds Moffat. “We must come together in solidarity, especially those with means, so that Africa can overcome and rebuild. ELMA is proud to combine forces with other philanthropists, governments, and civil society organizations who are taking bold actions against COVID-19.” 

The ELMA Group of Foundations

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NGOs - SDGs

Sahara Group Highlights Critical Role Of Intra-Africa Led Covid-19 Interventions

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300-bed COVID-19 Isolation and Treatment Centre in Abuja (Credit: Sahara Group).

Lagos, Nigeria– Intra-Africa led collaboration and interventions by the private sector can help the continent bolster ongoing efforts geared towards containing the spread of COVID-19 as well as promote sustainable development across the continent, Temitope Shonubi, Executive Director, Sahara Group has said.

Speaking while taking journalists on a tour of the completed over 300-bed COVID-19 Isolation and Treatment Centre in Abuja, Shonubi said leading African businesses can leverage their membership of trade associations, the Private Sector Advisory Group platform of the United Nations and the African Influencers for Development (AI4Dev) platform of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to drive a more cohesive and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.

“Sahara Group, through our operations across Africa, has consistently demonstrated its support for intra-Africa led approach to promoting economic prosperity and sustainable development on the continent. Sahara Foundation, our corporate citizenship vehicle conceptualized the Abuja Isolation Centre project, partnered with the This Day media group and worked with other partners to deliver a world-class facility that will help save lives. Sahara is also supporting COVID-19 interventions across Africa and is exploring areas of further collaboration with other partners for the benefit of over 1.3 billion people that call Africa home,” he said.

Shonubi said Sahara Foundation’s concept for the project was driven by the desire to make a difference in how nations respond to the pandemic in terms of physical, mental, and socio-economic well-being of all Africans. “In addition to playing a major role in delivering the centre, Sahara and its entities have been involved in providing personal protective equipment and relief materials to help medical personnel and the vulnerable cope with the impact of the pandemic. We believe the ‘Africa for Africa’ message is one that can bring hope and succor to Africa at this time.”

According to Shonubi, who is also a member of UNDP Africa’s AI4Dev initiative, Sahara Group is also providing dry and cooked food to over one million beneficiaries, face masks, hand sanitizers and relief materials to communities where its power affiliates (Ikeja Electric, Egbin Power and First Independent Power Limited), upstream and other Sahara affiliates operate across Africa.

In Zambia, Asharami Energy Limited Company donated tens of thousands of hand-made fabric/Chitenge masks to shore up access to PPE and slow the spread of the virus. The company also publishes materials in English, Bemba, and Nyanja to facilitate the dissemination of information about the pandemic. In Kenya, Asharami Synergy Limited donated thousands of 5 litre jerrycans of hand sanitizers, whilst oxygen has been donated to hospitals in Ghana as well as Cote d’Ivoire to boost life support operations.

Sahara’s Downstream entity, Asharami Synergy, working in collaboration with other members of the Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPMAN), is providing support towards the completion and equipping of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in Abuja.

Located at the THISDAY Dome in Abuja, the centre was delivered by a coalition of partners including Sahara Foundation, THISDAY, CCECC, Arise News, The Presidency, Egbin Power, Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, Federal Capital Territory Authority, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, the Federal Ministry of Health, the African Finance Corporation, Central Bank of Nigeria through CaCovid. Wood Factory, the Regents school, the three fashion brands of Ebewele Brown, Traffic Clo and Syari Clothiers, Kenol, Mama Cass, 54 Gene and Central Park.

Also Read: Redshift – Connecting South African small retailers with shoppers during lockdown

The Centre which will be overseen by the FCTA under the supervision of NCDC has a capacity of a minimum of 300 beds with provision for additional 8 Intensive Care Unit beds, ventilators, dialysis machines, protective equipment, and mobile facilities for testing.

Visit: Sahara Group

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Afripreneur

Erica Tavares: Passionate About A Greener, Better Future

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Erica Tavares is an Environmentalist, Co-Founder and Executive Director at EcoAngola. A 100% bootstrapped startup increasing awareness of the civil society, local government and policy makers regarding local and world environmental problems, conservation and sustainability whilst trying to creatively find realistic solutions to tackle these problems. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, she shares her sojourn in to climate change advocacy, social entrepreneurship and EcoAngola journey. Excerpt.

Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about what sparked the launch of EcoAngola?

Erica: EcoAngola was founded by me and two other Angolans, Paulo Pizarro and Leonardo Pizarro. We did not know each other until the day I received a call from Paulo, days before graduating from my Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology. He shared their idea about launching a philanthropic project that would promote environmental conservation and sustainability in Angola, which immediately raised my interest.

He explained that they had been looking for partners for quite some time but were unsuccessful. Although some people expressed interest to join the initiative, none of them actually had the energy, time and passion to develop the idea of EcoAngola from scratch, because it was time consuming and without any immediate return. They were looking preferentially for a young and enthusiast person, with a background in biology or an environment related field, because none of them had much experience or further understanding about the subject, besides being conscious about the world ecological crisis we are currently living and the critical environmental problems in Angola.

Being born and raised in Angola, I have always been connected to nature. After concluding high school, I then decided to study biology, and that was the start of my journey through environmentalism. Studying biology and environmental science, made me extremely aware of how important initiatives such as EcoAngola are to make a positive change in developing countries.

So, EcoAngola was really the kind of organization that I have always imagined myself working with but never thought that I would be part of it so early, as Executive Director, and that it would grow so fast and become so relevant, as it is right now.

Alaba: What is the main focus of your startup and the gap it’s filling? 

Erica: Angola is a resource rich country, with vast land and diverse ecosystems. However, the country faces various environmental challenges, such as deforestation, desertification, draught, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity and pollution. The climate change, population growth, poverty and lack of environmental education programmes, aggravate the problem and accelerate the degradation of the ecosystems, with serious economic, social and environmental consequences.

The main focus of EcoAngola is to increase awareness of the civil society, local government and policy makers regarding local and world environmental problems, informing and educating about environmental conservation and sustainability whilst trying to creatively find realistic solutions to tackle these problems. We write articles on relevant environmental topics and publish them on our website (ecoangola.com) and social media.

We also organize events and campaigns such as beach cleanings and reforestation. We promote discussions involving experts from the public and private sector, within the Angolan community, so that we could start finding solutions that are best adapted to our reality and that could serve as a basis to develop new national environmental policies. We also noticed that there was no collaboration between existent environmental organisations, so we started supporting and collaborating with other environmental organisations and related initiatives, building bridges between all of them, and working for the common good.

Unity is very important if we want societal change to happen, particularly because the country is so big and the initiatives are so few that it is easy to assume that nothing is being done and a lot of these initiatives actually die due to insufficiency of collaboration in our society.

Alaba: How are you funding your startup?

Erica: So far, we have been mostly funded by ourselves. Human capital is actually the biggest treasure we have, and the volunteers who continue to join our organisation are the ones catalysing the fast growth of EcoAngola. There is an incredible amount of ideas that we could implement and that would have a great impact, but we have now prioritised environmental education and awareness initiatives, because they build the foundation of consciousness and drive the change of mindset and attitude.

We started recruiting volunteers, most of them young university students, who do not have much working experience, giving them some exposure and the opportunity to contribute and be part of the EcoAngola team. I usually say: “we are growing together”. Our campaigns and events are normally supported and funded byvarious organizations that collaborate with us. For example, for our first beach cleaning campaign, each partner organisation made a different contribution, from water, to gloves, bags, the trash collection and disposal.

We will soon be able to receive donations and funding for our events, campaigns and projects, but we also stand to our values, so will not accept funding from companies that consistently damage the environment and promote green washing. Financial support will help us to expand our project and have a much broader and bigger impact.

Also Read: Volunteering For An Inclusive Future

Alaba: What are the challenges and how are you overcoming them?

Erica: One of our biggest challenges is definitely funding, as this limits us on the implementation of our projects. In the short term, we are prioritizing the ideas and projects that need the least financing and that can have the greatest impact.This has worked well so far and has made EcoAngola progress and grow faster than we anticipated.

Another challenge is the difficulty to recruit and maintain volunteers motivated because there is no financial motivation and no immediate results.

To motivate our volunteers, we give credit to their work, offer certificates of appreciation and give recognition for their dedication to EcoAngola. I feel that the progress of EcoAngola itself has been a self-motivation for the entire team of volunteers working with us. We also try to constantly show some of the positive changes that are already happening as a result of the collective effort of our volunteers.

Lastly, we noticed that most people assume that EcoAngola is an enormous, well-funded organisation because of our mobilization and online presence – but we are not. We have a small executive team, a team of volunteers that help to coordinate our campaigns, events and activities, and a group of volunteers that write articles on relevant topics.

Alaba: How does your startup measure it’s impact?

Erica: We measure our impact from the feedback we receive about our articles, events and activities, through the number of people visiting our website and engaged through social media, the growing number of people that want to join our Green Movement (environmental awareness initiative), the growing number of people and organizations that want to work or partner with EcoAngola, and through the societal and governmental behaviour change we notice.

We have also noticed an increase in the amount of similar initiatives and the changes that happen with the people who join us. There is more hope and therefore, more energy that transcends society and makes us believe that we are causing a positive and material impact.

Alaba: What is the future of EcoAngola?

Erica: I am a dreamer and I consider myself to be farsighted. I imagine EcoAngola expanding to all of Angola with several environmental and social projects being developed. I believe that we can have a great impact in the future of Angola and Africa, especially when it comes to tackling pollution, poverty, biodiversity conservation and climate change.

We are starting with the foundation of development, which is education, but we aim to really influence public policy and build a more sustainable and ecological way of thinking for the entire nation. For our Green Movement, we aim to reach at least 100,000 people in the next 2 years. It will be a long process, but the hardest part is behind us already, which is to start.

Alaba: How is your business contributing to the development of Africa?

Erica: By raising environmental awareness in Angola, I strongly believe that we can give an example to other nations that sustainable development can be a reality. It is hard to do it, especially because the Angolan economy is based on oil and gas production and exports, but I believe it is feasible and realistic. We are considering expanding the EcoAngola project to other African nations, starting with the Portuguese speaking first.

We need to leave the theory and start practicing, adapt the challenges that we face with our reality, and implement creative and sustainable solutions. We have enough information and understanding about what the ecological crisis can do the life on earth and a base of sustainable actions that we can use to change that. So, we need to act, and we need to act now.

Alaba: How do you feel as an African social entrepreneur?

Erica: I feel very proud of myself for taking the first step and being bold and fearless. I really appreciate the support and trust that our volunteers have on me. I admire everyone who joins us in this wonderful project, because that means that just like me, they have hope and they do believe that we can make the world a better place. It has to start with us, otherwise, who will do it?

This is one of the questions I ask myself, when things get harder. I imagine how the future will be, if we continue to make Angola a more sustainable and fair country to live. I am actually the youngest one in the Team, I am only 22 years old and they believed in me since day one, and have given me the chance to show what I am capable of doing. This boosted my confidence and I believe in myself and I believe in us more than anything.

One of the best feelings ever is to watch change happen and this makes me believe even more in EcoAngola. It is always a good feeling when I am able to mobilize and recruit new people into volunteering, and when I can show them that we can all do better, even if there is no direct reward given to us. Little by little, step by step we can do greater things, together.

It has been a challenge to do all of this, while I am still studying far away from Angola, and also working to sustain myself.

Alaba: What is your advice for government, social entrepreneur and investors in Africa?

Erica: My advice is that we need to build solid bridges of communication and participation between government, social entrepreneurs, investors, research institutions and civil society. There is so much that needs to be done and so many things with a huge potential that could help us bring positive changes, such as ecotourism, for example. We need to leave the word ‘potential’ behind and we need to use that potential for the good, for growth, for sustainable prosperity.

Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?

Erica: At this moment I am studying a Master’s in Ecology and Evolution, I work part-time at a restaurant, and I am a mobilizer for ReGenesis, a platform and community for global support in local actions through art activism- so it has been really challenging to manage my time with my professional and student life with my relaxing time. But I am the type of person that believes in balance. I maintain my physical and mental health stable. I used to read more sci-fi books, but now I am more focused into motivating myself because of the challenges I face daily.

I am currently reading the book ‘Originals’ by Adam Grant which was a Christmas gift – it has been an easy read because I have actually been connecting a lot with the theory shared in this book, especially the part about believing in ourselves. Because I am doing a Master’s in research, I spent most of my reading time reading research papers which I find interesting and mostly fascinating for new discoveries in the world of science, particularly ecology.

B I O G R A P H Y

Erica TavaresEnvironmental Biology graduate, currently studying a Master’s of Research in Ecology and Evolution. Passionate about people, nature and science, particularly because they provide us tools to understand the world. Using the knowledge I am gaining for fair biodiversity and human rights.

My mission is to raise awareness about environmental exploitation and degradation, promoting sustainability and environmental conservation. To accomplish that, I have co-founded and now direct EcoAngola. I am also a mobilizer for ReGenesis, a platform and community for global support in local actions through art activism.

Visit EcoAngola

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