Aid and International Development ForumFor the last three years, South African companies in the business of international development have “saved” Africa’s face at the Aid and International Development Forum. In 2010, The Standard Bank of South Africa and Enviro Lo showcased their prowess in banking and hygiene and sanitation respectively. Both did not return in 2011.

Among the newcomers this year to exhibit was “Kwikspace” that manufactures, erects and furnishes prefabricated buildings for quick deployment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Found in 28 African countries, the South African company has 40 years experience under its belt setting up personnel camps, site offices, kitchens, clinics to oil & gas industry, power generation, construction, mining and government sectors where short deadlines and rapid deployment oblige.

ADESO (African Development Solutions) – a Kenyan based NGO rebranded from Horn Relief –which promotes a cash-based approach to development also had a place at the exhibition. Its central philosophy is based on the principle that cash empowers poor people especially women to be able to make decisions. Ubah Hamud, Program officer is based in the organization’s DC office.

Besides NGOs, there are always individuals present from Africa. Among the handful present at the 2010 event were Ugandan citizen, Francis Bainomugisha, director of Copiange Education Initiative and Joseph Peters, Country director of Make Poverty History, Nigeria. Both sponsored themselves to the event and both did not return in 2011 and 2012.

Taking advantage of the scandalous absence of Africans and African organizations in the aid and international development forum, Femi Akinbi, a DC based Nigerian born entrepreneur and trade expert quickly convened an impromptu meeting of all Africans he could convince in the room.

The presence of such a high level personality as Mrs. Malango, Chief of External Relations and Partnerships, UN OCHA gave an incredible boost to the meeting. She described the forum as “wasted opportunity” for Africa given that Africa happens to be at crucial and strategic point in her development. Seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa, she said. Africa needs to play a more robust and active role in developing capacities.

It was regrettable that local governments, which are often the first responders to various crises were absent from the such events where they could forge badly needed public private partnerships, Rosa added.

Times have changed and the global environment too. Countries that traditionally defined Aid and development are no longer in charge. The example of the BRICS must stand out to African countries who unfortunately rely too much on foreign aid.

We need more people at the table and not just governments but also civil society and regional organizations. The missing piece is the private sector.

Malango cautioned the group to avoid the lame duck distraction that says, “It cannot be done.” This is not true “for it is already being done even though not by the usual suspects.”

She also recommended that policy leaders must come to such forums to see the actual solutions. Ministers should come and meet with decision makers and learn about opportunities in energy such as electrification of villages etc.

On a grand scale, experts from the UN and the World Bank should be brought to the table so they can discuss and share ideas with local government partners on cost effective ways of responding to crises.

Femi floated the idea of the creation of an African Trade Center in DC, which could help broker some deals and also look for opportunities for African governments.

The enthusiasm in the air was palpable and the commitment real. This coterie resolved to continue the discussions online and help put Africa on the map of the Aid and International development forum.