This week, President Obama has been meeting in Washington, D.C. with 50 leaders from African countries. This is the first time an American president has convened a group of leaders from the world’s second-largest and second most populated continent – one billion people live in Africa.
Counterpart International has several programs in Africa, and we talked with Counterpart’s Vice President for Programs Alex Sardar about the goals and opportunities of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit:
Q: What does Counterpart International hope will come out of this U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit?
AS: Having been involved in some of the planning discussions for the Summit, and certainly in line with our own program philosophy, this Summit is focused on providing a platform to jumpstart the solutions of the next few decades, based on the investments that have been made in Africa in recent years.
At the epicenter of this Summit is a key question: “How do we connect and leverage the incredible human capital in the form of cross-sector citizen leaders, social sector organizations, and private interests to move our collaboration with our partners in Africa from an aid-based model to a co-investment and innovation model?” We see in Counterpart’s programs what can happen when the social sector and emerging citizen leaders have a voice at the onset of designing solutions for communities across Africa. That’s a model that we want to see replicated across Africa.
Q: What’s the importance of CPI’s work in Africa: Why are we there? What’s the impact we are seeking?
AS: Counterpart’s work is the stuff of tomorrow. We are in Africa because rural and urban communities, rich and poor, large and small organizations are recognizing that they own the solutions to their own challenges. We’re there to offer advice on how to create the right process, with know-how from our global work, and to make sure that we not only deliver food, hygiene necessities etc., but also create the social sector infrastructure in the countries where we work so that the initial solutions continue to bear fruit over the long term. We collaborate with our African partners to create solutions that live on far longer than our presence. The Cameroon school feeding programs, Mauritania food security and education initiatives, the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI, are a few examples.
Q: Senator Christopher A. Coons, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on African Affairs noted that, “I think history will show Africa to be the continent of the greatest opportunity this century.” What opportunities does Counterpart hope local communities will realize through our partnerships?
AS: At our core, and in our program approach, Counterpart International is committed to unleashing the power of individuals, organizations and the assets that lay dormant in any community we work in. In Africa, we’ve seen that providing a platform for mothers to teach others about healthy practices, girls education benefits, and nutritional food intake will in fact lead to far greater progress than just addressing a single, specific problem. Every day we help communities realize that having the voices of women, youth, and otherwise disenfranchised people (HIV patients, disabled persons) at the table brings about bigger and more fundamental change – lasting change.
Check back this week for more from Alex Sardar about some of Counterpart’s programs in Africa.