May 2011

Making a profit while making a difference

Partnerships and collaboration the key to making Africa work

By Richard Andrews

Photo courtesy of MAW

Business strategist Pete Ondeng is an author and economic development expert who wants to reduce poverty in Africa and change the negative image of the continent by using global partnerships, modern technology and media. The charismatic 52-year-old Kenyan businessman is also co-founder and president of Making Africa Work, Inc. (MAW), a Vancouver- and Nairobi-based social enterprise established in 2010 to unlock Africa’s economic potential. Ondeng is seeking partnership with individuals, non-profit organizations, government agencies and corporations, including Canadian mining companies, to help develop initiatives that will create wealth for Africa and lift the continent from the throes of poverty. During a recent visit to North America, CIM Magazine spoke with Ondeng about Making Africa Work, and about how mining companies can improve their working relationships on the continent.

CIM: How does MAW work?

Ondeng: Making Africa Work is a catalytic organization that is positioning itself as a bridge between those who cannot and those who can. Our aim is to develop into a global platform where investors and philanthropists can learn and connect with viable initiatives that are having a real, positive impact on the lives of African people. We are particularly keen on working in really difficult places like South Sudan.

CIM: Where have you helped turn poverty into productivity?

Ondeng: We are still a relatively young organization, and our efforts during this inception period have been focused on the East African region. There are a number of exciting projects with which we are working. One example is a coffee project in Tanzania, where a private Norwegian company is linking small-scale coffee farmers to external markets. This company is not only creating value for coffee consumers in Europe, but they are also making the growers a part of a whole chain that will benefit them in ways previously unavailable. MAW has assisted the project owners to access financing to expand their program to a wider network of farmers.

CIM: What partnerships are you planning with Canadian mining companies?

Ondeng: MAW is not just working with the mining industry, but we certainly see this industry as key to the partnerships that we are trying to create. We want to develop a network of corporations that subscribe to the ideals of MAW and that recognize the value of strategic collaboration. In South Sudan, for example, we are designing a project that will marshal the CSR efforts of oil companies around a long-term economic development program in one of the most devastated regions of the country.

CIM: If I were the CEO of a Canadian mining company, how would you explain to me the value MAW can provide?

Ondeng: I want to believe that many of the mining companies mean well and would like to do good for the communities living around where they work, but due to the complex political, social and cultural factors, many of these companies simply lack the wherewithal and orientation to design and implement appropriate interventions. MAW is being positioned to serve those corporations as an intermediary and an honest broker.

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