Thursday, May 26, 2005

AFRICA NOW Is About Business

A UK based NGO working to alleviate poverty in Africa, Africa Now was founded in 1981. Its primary focus originally was on improving the security of individuals' livelihoods and the well being of communities through small business development and the creation of income generation opportunities.

Currently based in Kisumu, western Kenya, Africa Now has worked in a number of countries, including Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Swaziland, the Gambia and Egypt. Though much of their current operations are still based western Kenya, they also have offices in Nairobi, Kenya and Harare, Zimbabwe.

Over the years Africa Now has concentrated on business development and income generation, this organization has a wider scope that also focuses on work ranging from helping farmers to construct and manage small-scale dairies, to training groups in spring protection and water tank construction. This they do, in addition to assisting those same farmers in the development of clients and markets.

Appropriate technology is deemed important for Africa Now and it encourages its use for income generation. One example of their putting appropriate technology to good use has been their establishing businesses producing manual seed presses, which extract high-value oil from sunflower seeds.

In the area of providing financing to these individuals and communities they have managed a number of projects delivering microcredit and business development advice to disadvantaged and isolated communities.


The Vision of Africa Now is:
A world of enterprise and opportunities in farming, business and paid employment in Africa so that people can realize their full potential and achieve a decent standard of living.

And its Mission is:
To develop equitable and sustainable work and jobs for poor people through projects, advocacy and partnerships with individuals, businesses, non-government organisations and public agencies

Africa Now's Strategy is to build on its strengths in small-scale enterprise development to improve access for small businesses to finance, training, appropriate technology and other business services. In addition, Africa Now wants to use its knowledge of the social and economic conditions facing small-scale producers and workers to ensure that poor people receive competitive prices for their goods and labor.

In order to do this, they intend to:
- help small scale producers and entrepreneurs increase their ability to identify and produce appropriate products for the market
- improving the access of organized groups of small producers to appropriate markets
- promoting rules based equitable trading relations between producers and their suppliers and buyers
- building local capacity in Africa to develop and audit codes of conduct on social and environmental conditions
- building capacity in Africa to plan and set up production systems that comply with current codes of conduct in force
- helping workers and producers have an effective say in codes of conduct development and application
- demonstrating the advantages of fair prices and sustainable business practices in Africa to consumers and businesses in Europe

Believing that strategic and operational success in their chosen field depends on having projects and programs that are well-rooted in local communities in Africa. Africa Now keeps it UK base small and bases as much program support as possible in Africa. Though small, the UK base is of sufficient size to manage fund-raising and donor relations, review strategy, manage advocacy and research in the UK and Europe and provide overall financial control.

Using its Vision, Mission and Strategy, Africa Now feels confident that it will reach its Goals, which are:

- Small scale producers integrated into stable and appropriate markets, receiving competitive prices for their goods
- Codes that ensure high quality products produced under conditions that safeguard and improve livelihoods
- Producers and their workers adhering to well worked out codes of conduct that help create safe and sustainable livelihoods
- Buyers and international supply chains ensuring that the goods they buy are produced under conditions that are regulated by codes that have been written with regard to local conditions and with the participation of those affected

The impact it hopes to have is to place more people in jobs and businesses that are sustainable, non-exploitative and which provide secure and predictable livelihoods for them and their families. They are also hoping that there will be a wider understanding and adoption of business codes among workers and businesses so that both have tools to negotiate, assess and ensure compliance with negotiated standards.

With trustees who have expertise and experience ranging from business development, international development, conflict resolution and community development, finance, agricultural economics, international economics, Africa Now has the brain power to put its plans into action.

Africa Now relies on funding partnerships with a wide range of donors including government bodies, individual donors, companies and private trusts. The grants and donations they receive help to develop projects and to research new ideas. Among their donors are:

Beatrice Laing Trust
Comic Relief
Department for International Development
John Ellerman Foundation
European Union
Allan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust
Finnish Embassy in Nairobi
Fulmer Charitable Trust
German Embassy in Nairobi
Marr-Munning Trust
McKnight Foundation
Meditor Trust
Oakdale Trust
Swedish International Development Agency
Water for People
World Bank Development Marketplace
Zochonis Trust

Aiming to place eighty percent of their expenditures directly on programs, Africa Now makes its summary of accounts available for inspection on the internet at its website.
Summary of accounts 2002/03 (81k)

Stating that as a small organization, they have limited staff that they employ as well as limited volunteering opportunities, they do post such opportunities on their web site when they arise. They also post paid and volunteer positions for development organizations on their web site as well.

Their project ideas a may originate from one of several sources, an official body, a local organization or community in Kenya or Zimbabwe requesting our support, or it could be from a piece of research conducted by Africa Now. But all of their projects tend to focus on the areas of:

Enterprise development
Fair and ethical trade

Enterprise development
Since its inception in 1981, much of Africa's activities have been grounded in work with small-scale farmers looking to diversify their income sources or improve the technical and production skills. And they also worked with small businesses to improve their marketing capacity and their ability to develop new products.

However, Africa Now believes that it is equally crucial that farmers, producers and businesses also have reliable and sustainable markets available to them, through which they can sell their products. Because of this belief much of their current work places an emphasis on developing market access and opening new markets for producers and businesses in Africa. These efforts can range from helping rural hardware stores in Kenya market locally produced equipment to farmers, or assisting honey farmers in their efforts to access national and international honey markets.

Fair and ethical trade
In addition to improving market opportunities for producers and businesses Africa Now also aims to ensure that producers not only have access to markets, but that producers get a fair deal for their work, are treated equitably in the supply chain, and are able to represent their interests to buyers at a local, national and regional level.

Africa Now believes that embedding socially responsible principles in the supply chain, trade between Africa and Europe has the potential to improve working conditions, job security and income for workers in Africa. So Africa Now is working to support the development and implementation of appropriate codes of practice in the supply chain. It is doing this by working with European buyers to ensure these codes do not compromise product quality, and by ensuring that workers in Africa have a say in their own working practices and how trade develops

Because it sees the lack of access to credit as one of the greatest obstacles to small businesses and entrepreneurs in Africa, Africa Now Microfinance is of great importance in the progress of development in Africa.

According to their web site, Africa Now's microfinance schemes have been successful throughout Africa, and a recent initiative in Zimbabwe achieved a 99% repayment ratio. This group is constantly testing new systems for providing loans, and working with major banks to develop suitable packages for start-up enterprises.

At their "What We Do" web page, Africa Now has a list of its Projects and concepts:

AFRICA NOW maintains its web page at:

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