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.
Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun
Dream Girl Global Founder, Precious Oladokun (Image source: Dream Girl Global)
The elimination of gender inequality and achievement of the United Nations SDG 5 on gender equality remains a pressing objective as the global community barrels towards 2030. In this interview, Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online spoke with the Founder of Dream Girl Global (DGG), Precious Oladokun about DGG’s work, gender inequality, and Covid-19. Excerpts.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about Dream Girl Global and the gap its filing?
Precious: Dream Girl Global is a non-profit organization that was set up to contribute towards the elimination of gender inequality, and empower young women as a contribution to the 5th Sustainable Development Goal. Specifically, we carry this out through mentorship projects in a bid to empower young girls, encourage them to dream bigger, and help give them excellent head starts at their careers. We are currently in operation in Nigeria and India.
Alaba: What sparked the interest and how are you funding this initiative?
Precious: I have always had a deep rooted passion for gender inequality partly as a result of my experiences as a female in Nigeria, and partly because of the experiences of many other women across the world. Many countries that are poor today have cultural norms that exacerbate favoritism towards males. Norms such as patriarchy and concern for women’s purity help explain the male skewed ratio in India and China, and low female employment in the Middle East, and North Africa. Also, issues like uneven access to education, lack of employment equality, job segregation, and lack of political representation are major reasons behind this initiative.
So far, we have not needed much funding to carry out our projects. However, when there is a need to, we are going to reach out to individuals and organizations with similar interests to help pursue this cause.
Alaba: How does your organization measure its impact?
Precious: Basically, we measure our impact by setting short terms goals, and once a goal is achieved, we mark it out. This gives a clear picture of our activities and generally helps to measure our impact.
Alaba: Kindly share some of your challenges and successes since you launched?
Precious: One major challenge is the refusal of some people to understand the concept of gender equality, resulting in criticism of the cause. Also, the management of data and information is another challenge (yet in a good way). I would rather prefer to refer it as a learning process.
So far, I have been thrilled by the successes that we have recorded. We have been able to reach out to a large number of people through our social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. This has provided an opportunity for us to educate the masses on the importance of gender equality.
Also, we successfully mentored twenty (20) girls in Nigeria and India during our Pilot Mentorship Project that ended a month ago. In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 8% of girls finish secondary school. Imagine what could be achieved if we could start to close this gap and educate more girls.
Alaba: What do you think are the key challenges regarding gender-related issues, both in the workplace and in the home? How might they be overcome?
Precious: In my opinion, the major key challenge is that people do not understand, or more preferably, have chosen not to understand the plight of women. This is particularly prevalent in rural communities. In most societies, there is an inherent belief that men are simply better equipped to handle the best paying jobs. This inequality results in lower income for women, and is one reason why women hardly get recognized among the most financially prosperous persons in the world.
Another challenge is that many men enjoy the dividends of patriarchy, and would prefer to continue to enjoy those. These may be overcome with more sensitization, empowerment of women, and with taking a stand (among other things). By the latter, I mean that people should by their actions and words support gender equality, and call out misogynistic practices.
Alaba: As a social entrepreneur, how has the pandemic affected your work and the organization? How are you prepared post Covid-19?
Precious: Well, the pandemic has not really affected our work per se. Most of what we do involves communication via social media platforms. However, the outbreak of the virus has disrupted our plans to visit secondary schools, low income communities, and households. It is our intention to fully take up these after the pandemic, and we are working earnestly to see that it becomes a reality.
Alaba: What are your three-work-from home tips for founders who are managing a remote team now for the first time?
Precious: Tip no 1: Take full advantage of the internet. The internet is an avenue to explore various opportunities.
Tip no 2: For a founder who is managing a remote team for the first time, you will need to have dedicated, reliable, and self-driven members. You will need people who understand the cause, and are willing to go any length in ensuring that the goals of the organization are achieved.
Tips 3: My last tip is patience. This is a virtue ignored by so many people. Start building, and be dedicated while building. It takes a little patience and it takes a lot of faith but it’s worth the wait.
Alaba: As a young female leader, what drives you?
Precious: I am driven by the possibilities of results, and I am confident that whatever I put my mind to do, I can achieve it. To me, there is no impossibility.
Alaba: What message would you give to younger men and women?
Precious: My message to younger men and women is simple. Build things, watch them grow, and never rush. The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it. Another message I feel necessary is the need for younger men and women to develop and build good relationships with people. It will help one go far in life.
Alaba: How do you relax, and what is your favorite tourist destination in Africa?
Precious: I relax by watching movies, swimming, and going to nice restaurants. Regarding my favorite tourist destination in Africa, I would go with Ghana. I have been to a couple of places in Africa, but I find Ghana very interesting because of the people, the culture, and generally everything. But to be honest, there is no place like home. East or West, home is the
P R O F I L E
Precious Oladokun is the Founder of Dream Girl Global; a non profit organization that seeks to empower young girls as a contribution to the fifth sustainable development goal and is currently in operation in Nigeria and India. She also sits on the international board of Uriji, London, a social media company that helps to record dreams for as many years imaginable and help users earn while promoting their passion. She is the youngest and first Nigerian on this Board.
Precious is currently pursuing a career in Law, and is currently a Bar Candidate at the Lagos Campus of the Nigerian Law School. Prior to this, she interned at notable law firms across the Country including Olaniwun Ajayi LP, Templars, Banwo & Ighodalo, and Aluko & Oyebode. She has also served as an external support personnel at global Law Firm, White & Case.
In her spare time, she loves to watch movies, swim, travel, learn French, and taste exquisite dishes.
World Humanitarian Day 2020: A Tribute to Real Life Heroes
Onyeka Akpaida, Rendra Foundation Women in the Kuchingoro IDP camps (Image Source: Onyeka Akpaida)
“You have not started living until you start giving”-Onyeka Akpaida
The humanitarian crisis has always existed and sometimes when it is not close to home; it is easy to ignore. The Covid-19 pandemic is definitely one that has in a morbid way, united us globally.
In the face of this global pandemic, increased poverty and growing insecurity, humanitarians and front-line workers are going beyond their duty call to make life bearable for those who have been most affected by the pandemic and insecurity crisis.
Many of us grew up watching cartoons and movies of action heroes like Voltron, Captain America etc and we all strived in our imaginations to be like them because they were super cool; however, the front line workers and humanitarians knee-deep in responding to this pandemic are definitely the Heroes worth celebrating today as their needs, pains and challenges have taken a back seat to serving others in need.
Let me introduce you to some of our real-life heroes:
Dr Marie-Roseline, a field coordinator with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and an epidemiologist has a first- hand experience in fighting epidemics under harrowing conditions. She led her team during the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo amid a series of violent attacks and this year, WHO sent Marie to the Central African Republic (CAR) to help set up the COVID-19 response.
“Here in CAR we have a health crisis in the middle of a protracted humanitarian crisis,” she explains. “We have to build a health system while dealing with an emergency. It makes it very complicated. As doctors, we have committed ourselves to save lives. This is what we do. We cannot leave people to die.”
Nkem Okocha, a social entrepreneur and founder of fintech social enterprise Mamamoni Nigeria went above and beyond for low-income women living in rural and urban slum communities in Lagos state. During the lockdown, Nkem and her team gave relief food packages to these women week after week, putting their safety on the line. As the lockdown gradually eased up, they launched a COVID 19 emergency grant for female micro-entrepreneurs whose businesses were negatively impacted by the pandemic. The grant would help them restart their businesses.
Adaora “Lumina” Mbelu started an accountability group- The Switch-On Bootcamp in April 2020 to teach enhance focus and productivity; ensuring that people could still execute their ideas in the middle of the pandemic. Since its inception in April 2020, the Bootcamp has hosted 2 cohorts and helped over 200 ‘Tribers”. The best part of this story is the group decided to do a Fund-The-Flow campaign as part of their team project aimed at providing sanitary products to adolescent girls and women in underserved communities in Nigeria.
“Given the priority to food distribution during the pandemic, sanitary needs are ignored and it is important for these women to manage their menstruation and associated hygiene with dignity and ease”
They have given out over 6,000 sanitary pads across 12 communities in Nigeria and they intend to continue this campaign.
The WIMBIZ group and Rendra Foundation focused on forcibly displaced women and their families in Northern Nigeria. The WIMBIZ group and Rendra Foundation provided food palliatives to 290 women in the Durumi IDP camp and 130 Women in the Kuchingoro IDP camps respectively.
Today, World Humanitarian Day, I join the rest of the world to applaud and honour every one working in their little corner of the world, going through extraordinary lengths to help the most vulnerable people whose lives have been upended by COVID-19 pandemic. Your response through commitment, sacrifice and tenacity has gone a long way in managing the increase in humanitarian needs triggered by this global pandemic.
Author: Onyeka Akpaida is a financial service professional with 9+ years of experience in financial inclusion, consumer-centric digital banking and public sector engagement in a top tier leading International Bank and the founder of Rendra Foundation where she works to promote financial inclusion for low-income and migrant women in northern Nigeria.
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