The sixth annual AROCSA conference interrogates the role of African civil society in safeguarding and supporting human and environmental health on the continent in the face of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic exposed the fragility of health infrastructure across Africa, as well as the increasing menace of climate change and how it threatens the existence of not only whole communities and ecosystems, but also how it impacts physical and mental health, livelihoods, food security, biodiversity, resource governance, and economic development on the continent.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition, according to Hanna and Coussens (2001), should serve as a reminder that redefining the view of environmental health and the natural environment requires many shifts in thinking, as well as a willingness to pursue diverse approaches.
Individuals do not exist separate from their environment and advances in the field of environmental health have taught us much about human health hazards. We are a lot more aware of how (global) climate change is likely to fuel the spread of infectious diseases, for instance. This latter point brings into sharper focus the nexus between human and environmental health. While the trend on COVID infection and death rates in Africa has remained relatively low to date in comparison with other regions of the world, reference to dealing with infectious diseases such as COVID-19 especially given the issues of vaccine inequity and double standards when it comes to vaccine distribution and production on the continent is key to a proper elaboration of the conference theme.
In 2015 the UN launched the SDGs with the promise to ‘leave no-one behind’ in achieving sustainable development by 2030. Given the traditional role civil society organizations have played in Africa’s development, there is a need for increased engagement with government and private sector in order to achieve this goal. Unforeseen events such as the pandemic have stalled progress. But the challenges we face, unfortunately, including the threat of climate change have not abated during the intervening period. In many respects, they have actually grown even worse. Thus, these twin threats demand more active and imaginative civil society, state, and non-state collaborations in order to find long term solutions. They require African civil society organizations to be more active in advocating for and working with state actors to establish climate friendly policies that protect both human and environmental health, and ultimately remove barriers to achieving sustainable development for all Africans.
Therefore, AROCSA welcomes proposals connecting these contextual issues in the themes and sub-themes without necessarily excluding work on other key civil society related agenda.
Dr. Pinkie Mekgwe is International IDEA’s Senior Regional Adviser for Africa and West Asia and her work focuses on strengthening programmatic and administrative coherence and performance. Before joining International IDEA in 2018, she was Executive Director of Internationalism at the University of Johannesburg for the past six years. She also previously served as Deputy Director at the Office of International Education and Partnerships of the University of Botswana and as Programme Officer for the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). Previously she was a lecturer at the University of Botswana, visiting researcher at the Witwatersrand Institute of Social and Economic Research, and a visiting lecturer at Malmö University in Sweden.
Ms. Kareman Shoair has a Masters degree (MA) in Economics from the American University of Cairo in Egypt. She is an Adjunct Faculty in the American University of Cairo’s Economics Department and a Research Manager at the John D. Gerhart Centre for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement. She is also a board member for the Arab Foundations Forum (AFF).
Dr. Esi Ansah is a founding partner and the current CEO of Axis Human Capital Ltd. She is an Assistant Professor at Ashesi University College. Esi is active in her community and currently serves as the Executive Director of two non-profit organizations – the Paul A. V. Ansah (PAVA) Memorial Foundation and the Association of Ghana’s Elders (AGE), which she co-founded. She is a fellow of the Aspen Institute’s Africa Leadership Initiative – West Africa (ALIWA) and was in July 2015 appointed as a member of the West Africa Board. She was honoured by the New York-based The Network Journal (TNJ) as one of the journal’s “Forty under Forty” African Achievers in 2010.
David Kode is the Advocacy and Campaigns Lead for CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. In the past, he has worked with the organisation as a Policy and Research Officer. He has worked with UNICEF South Africa in the Office of the Deputy Representative. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science from the University of Buea, Cameroon and a Masters Degree in International Relations from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.
Dr. Godwin Murunga is a historian and political analyst of Kenyan origin. He is the Executive Secretary of CODESRIA. He has lectured at the Institute of Development Studies of the University of Nairobi. He was the director of the Africa Leadership Centre in Nairobi. He was a member of the Executive Committee of CODESRIA for two consecutive terms (2005-2011). Dr. Murunga has many years of robust scholarship under his belt, evidenced by the incisive analysis that characterized his numerous scholarly publications. He also has valuable teaching and management experience and a deep knowledge of the higher education landscape in Africa.
Dr. Ijeoma Nwagwu earned her doctorate in Law (S.J.D) and Masters in Law (L.L.M) degrees from Harvard Law School and was awarded the Landon H. Gammon prize for academic excellence. After attending the Nigerian Law School, Ijeoma worked as legal counsel for the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), where she also produced documentaries on law, human rights, and development themes with Channels Television, Lagos and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA). Ijeoma taught International Trade Law and Human Rights at St. Mary’s University College, London and was on the research team for the World Bank Assisted Science and Technology Education Post-Basic (STEP-B) project in Nigeria. She has also conducted research training for the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in Senegal. Ijeoma is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association.
Dr. Bhekinkosi Moyo is a writer, author, researcher, and thought leader with keen interest in questions of African resources, democracy, and governance. He has championed the African discourse on philanthropy, contributed to the growth of many African civil society formations and has taken part in most of the continental processes of development and governance. He has written extensively on African philanthropy, civil society, and governance. Equally, he has gained considerable experience in management, leadership, and strategic roles over a significant period.
Shani began his development sector career in 2011 leading rotating multicultural teams on face to face fundraising campaigns across the entire NorthEast of Scotland on behalf charities such as Oxfam, Marie Curie Cancer Care, and the Anthony Nolan Trust. Prior to that, he successfully managed the delivery of high-end residential and hospitality development projects valued at over $50M along the Lekki corridor.
He joined ActionAid in 2013 where he drew on fundraising experiences acquired in the UK to drive the launch and implementation of ActionAid’s structured individual regular giving fundraising program; a ‘first-of-its-kind’ by an international charity in Nigeria which sought to raise unrestricted funds locally. This in addition
In 2016, he joined the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG); Nigeria’s leading member based business policy advocacy organization as Donor Relations & Fundraising Manager where he initiated the development of the organizational strategy for 2016-2018, in addition to supporting the hosting of several events including its flagship annual Nigerian Economic Summit, and driving fundraising across its 9 active policy commissions covering economic sectors ranging from Agriculture and Food Security, to Science and Technology.
He has also provided fundraising consultancy services to indigenous NGO’s including recently working with an agricultural technology start up funded by Propcom Maikarfi to define its business and revenue models.
He holds an MSc in Corporate Communications & Public Affairs from the Aberdeen Business School in Scotland, and a BSc in Estate Management from the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-ife, Nigeria. He also holds a PRINCE2 Foundation certificate in Project Management and has benefitted from several in-house trainings in Rigorous Programme Management delivered by the Boston Consulting Group in Lagos, as well as several fundraising trainings covering individuals, corporates’ and institutions in Aberdeen, Bangkok and Johannesburg.
He is passionate about protecting people and the environment, and enjoys reading, listening to world music, playing chess, pool, and travelling.
Amina T. Banu is a media producer. She has worked across the media industry for almost a decade in the UAE and Nigeria in writing, editing, public relations, online content creation, and filmmaking. She began her professional life in the Marketing and Public Relations industry in 2013 in Dubai, UAE. Most notably, she worked for a boutique public relations firm – The PR Professionals – where she was tasked with communications, client relations, and talent and event management. Since then she has honed her skills in communication, media production, and event management across industries from fashion to IT.
She has also had experiences in the civil society sector in Nigeria. In 2015 in Abuja, Nigeria, Amina headed a social media team with the Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) during Nigeria’s presidential and gubernatorial elections. In the run up to the election she worked as YIAGA’s online content creator and co-hosted voter education radio programs.
She has a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Communications Studies and an MA in Media Production.