We are tremendously proud to announce the three finalists for the 2014 ONE Africa Award, a $100,000 USD annual prize that celebrates the innovations and progress made by African civil society organisations towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa.
It was an incredibly tough decision to shortlist these three, who applied along with more than 250 other well-deserving organisations from all corners of Africa, representing a number of development sectors.
Here’s the first of our 3-part interview series with this year’s finalists, talking about the inspiration behind their programmes and what motivates them to keep on spreading the good that they are doing.
Friends Africa was founded in 2006 with a vision to create an African continent free of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. We were founded as an African voice in support of the Global Fund efforts to combat these pandemics on the African continent. We realised that there were little or no strong indigenous voices advocating for these issues in Africa at that time, and Friends Africa wanted to become that credible voice for change.
What do you think is the most important issue facing Africa today?
A major important issue facing Africa today is increase in the spread of communicable and non- communicable diseases, increased marginalisation of women and girls and most importantly high mortality rate affecting women and children. These issues in addition to several others including a weak health system and inadequate, skilled technical health practitioners directly impact the life expectancy of Africans.
If the people in Africa continue to suffer due to communicable diseases that can be easily prevented, how do we expect to have a healthy nation whose impact can create a ripple effect in every other sector of the economy? Only a healthy people can build a healthy nation. We sincerely strive to reduce mortality in every way and increase life expectancy of the average African.
As a young African, you must identify a development challenge within your immediate community that if addressed will greatly increase the quality of life of your people.
How does your organisation address this?
Friends Africa addresses these issues by implementing community based interventions that help reduce mortality and increases life expectancy of the average African. Our work is carried out on 4 pillars, they are: Advocacy, Capacity Building, Documentation and Technical Assistance. Under these pillars, several interventions are carried out to help address this issues ensuring impact on different levels.
What is it about Africa that holds the key for its development?
At Friends Africa, we believe addressing Africa’s health is a key path to unlocking its wealth. We believe that only in the use of innovative, impactful and sustainable solutions for Africa’s health can we make progress in the fight against decades of institutional challenges. We believe that operating with the highest standards of transparency, integrity and accountability will precipitate change and advance development at a faster level. We strongly believe that civil society coalitions and forming strong partnerships with the government and an under-utilised African private sector is the key to development. Africans hold the key to solving the problems in Africa.
What’s your best memory working for your organisation?
There are several unforgettable memories working for the organisation, however one that stands out for me is seeing the impact of an innovative campaign (The Superstars Play for Life Campaign) that leverages the convening power and love for football to address stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV/ AIDS. Seeing the community of people living with HIV, orphans and vulnerable children and entertainers and very successful international football players bonding and promoting the anti-stigma campaign is forever etched in my memory. The amazing results recorded as well as the increase in the number of people who agree to get tested and are provided with a better understanding of the pandemic shows what we can achieve when we work together in groups.
What’s your proudest achievement as an organisation?
There are so many, but some of the biggest achievements of the organisation include; securing the commitment of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (Nigeria’s President) to co-chair the Global Fund’s 2013 Replenishment, mobilising several African leaders, private institutions and organisations to raise over $5 million for the Global Fund to support their efforts in combating health pandemics in Africa and training over 2700 Small to Medium Enterprises and 60 NGO’s from several countries in Africa on the need to implement a strong workplace health policy, as well as focus on income generation and development training.
What’s the biggest struggle you’ve come up against as an organisation?
Our biggest struggle as an organisation remains funding. As we know funding remains a key challenge for civil society groups. Diverse community based development programmes cannot be implemented without funds. This has remained a major challenge to date.
Why did you apply for the ONE Africa Award?
We applied for the ONE Award because we believe that ONE is a credible organisation, interested in promoting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and new Sustainable Development Goals. Working together with such an organisation will enhance coalition among civil society groups, as well as advance the attainment of these goals.
How will winning help your organisation?
Winning will better position the organisation to be seen as a credible organisation of choice. It will further position the organisation to increase impact and extend our reach to other parts of Africa. It will also provide visibility and draw more attention to the work that we do.
Do you have a message for any young Africans who are thinking of starting their own charity or NGO?
As a young African, you must identify a development challenge within your immediate community that if addressed will greatly increase the quality of life of your people. You must remain resilient and very focused, position yourself to be mentored by leading experts and remain true to your vision.
Find out more about Friends Africa.
We’ll be announcing the two other finalists later this week.