Can commercial organisations provide the vital support the non-profit sector needs...27.10.2014

Rarely can the difficult issues presented in the world be solved without the input of money. This is especially true of the not-for-profit sector where the availability of funding too often becomes the pivotal factor in defining the success of charities, all too often reliant on public donations and ever dwindling government grants.

Recently an urgent need for alternative funding has led many charities to develop working relationships with private sector companies, often keen to polish their own, or their industry’s image. If an issue represented by a non-profit organisation can be proven to be within the interest of a private sector company then it is feasible for them to help with funding, or to provide professional services in kind.  Whilst it’s easy to be cynical on the motives behind corporate social responsibility initiatives, for many not-for-profit organisations it is a lifeline that cannot be ignored. Securing long term financial commitment from a reliable private sector source can guarantee the sustainability needed to undertake longer-term, larger-scale or more economical viable projects. In return, companies can find themselves sharing the limelight with those making a positive social impact.

There have been a whole host of successful CSR private-public sector partnerships at a local level but few can say they have made a difference globally. Ecobank Group, the leading pan-African bank, is hoping to change this through their innovative partnership with the Global Fund to tackle Aids, TB & Malaria and Accounting for International Development; to build the financial management capacity of national partners delivering healthcare services across Africa. Global Fund’s work has been nothing short of miraculous with a proven track record of working closely with local healthcare organisations in over 140 countries. They provide the medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, funding and in some cases even bring in expert personnel to provide a greater access to life-saving healthcare.

On the 19th December 2013, Ecobank Group pledged US$3 Million to Global Fund, an international initiative to eradicate preventable diseases across the developing world – with a special focus on the problem of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The main objective of the partnership is to leverage private sector resources and skills to help fight the three diseases. The bank are not just offering financial support, they are also providing Global Fund’s local partners access to their own financial expertise and that of AfID’s skilled volunteer accountants. This will help to facilitate stronger financial reporting, more efficient uses of capital delivering more effective programmes and crucially an improvement to grant management at a local level.  

The reasoning behind this partnership is clear, with better fiscal security and management; Global Fund projects can expect a higher rate of success and much greater longevity. The nature of improving healthcare infrastructures is often a long-term commitment and as such requires the financial stamina that Ecobank and AfID are able to help to provide. On the other hand, Ecobank are keen to see standards of living improve in Africa for the sake of their customers and employees. As Philip Chikwuedo Asiodu, Chairman of the Ecobank Foundation, notes, “Access to quality healthcare for all is vital to the growth and prosperity of Africa.” From beyond the obvious humanitarian need to ameliorate the healthcare infrastructures across Africa, it is also an imperative for the development of the banking group’s business to ensure the wellbeing of their clientele.

To date Ecobank and AfID volunteers have been supporting 8 national programmes in Nigeria, combining the experience and professionalism of staff and volunteers from two respected international institutions with the philanthropic expertise of Global Fund.

AfID put together a team of 4 experienced accountants from around the world; bringing a composite mix of skills, drawn together by a shared interest in the international development sector.  Hailing from Nigeria, Bristol based FC Temi Garrick (ACMA) provided the team with a wealth of good local knowledge gained from his time in Abuja working with UK charity The Malaria Consortium. Augustine Entonu (ACCA), a highly accomplished project manager and lecturer in the City of London had worked with a number of high profile clients and multiple stakeholder projects and was well equipped to deal with the complex demands the Global Fund’s national partners would present. Having dedicated much of his career to working with non-profit organisations, commercial accountant and project manager George Meacham (FCCA) travelled from Australia bringing years of financial management experience. The final member of the AfID team was British ex-patriot and CFO Peter Ellis (ICAEW), who was keen to make the best use of his successful career and a wealth of experience working across Africa in the metals industry.

The team quickly found they were able to complement one another’s talents in order to navigate the complex structure and demanding nature of this innovative private-public venture. Pooling their skills and experiences they were able to tackle the broad spectrum of technical and operational challenges; building the capacity of local Nigerian accountants through the provision of high quality one to one and group training sessions.

Building on the successes in Nigeria, Ecobank and Global Fund have agreed on a 3 to 5 year plan to further develop the national healthcare infrastructure of South Sudan – with the United Nations Development Programme a key local partner. With the stabilising force of the UNDP, Ecobank and Global Fund have again enlisted AfID’s highly skilled volunteer accountants to provide specialist training and guidance at a local level. Further proof that a collaborative approach by the private and public sector can not only enhance the great programmatic work of national and local partners but also create more sustainable stakeholder partnerships.

For more information on Global Fund, Ecobank and AfID’s partnership, click here.

Meet the AfID Nigeria Team – Read our Q&A with volunteers Peter and George for insights into their Abuja experience.