Campaigners hail ‘shifting power’ as UK aid charity sets up trustee board in Africa


Campaigners have welcomed a sign of “shifting power” after a UK-based aid charity set up a trustee board in Africa.

Ripple Effect, formerly known as Send a Cow, said that the creation of its Africa Board was part of a commitment to correct an “imbalance” in its work, so that more decisions were made by experts overseas rather than in the UK.

The Nairobi-based board, which has met for the first time, will oversee the charity’s Africa ‘hub’ in Kenya, which was established in 2021.

Global development charities headquartered in the UK have come under increasing pressure to ‘decolonise’ their work, including by transferring money and power to experts in the field.

Campaigners said the news shows that some charities are serious about “shifting power” in the sector.

Lena Bheeroo, anti-racism and equity manager at Bond, which represents a network of aid charities, said she was aware of other charities making similar changes, which she described as “a positive sign of where progress is being made”.

She added: “What I am seeing around the sector is more conversations about equitable partnerships and Campaignerthis feels like it is definitely going in the right direction.”

Bheeroo said these sorts of governance reforms were about “giving power to people who are closest to communities. And what could we want more than that? Those are the people who will have the ideas of how to solve the challenges that we face.”

Ripple Effect’s Africa Board will work in parallel with its UK-based trustees and other country-specific boards in Uganda and the United States. It is chaired by Kenyan philanthropy expert Amal Murgian.

UK trustees will still have global oversight of the charity’s work.

Last year Ripple Effect committed to “assess areas of imbalance” in its work, including making sure local leaders had greater powers “to drive our strategic direction”.

Fred Ochieng, Africa director at Ripple Effect, told Third Sector that the board was another step in ongoing work to decentralise the charity’s operations.

He said: “Having the headquarters in the UK meant that all our support was also coming from the UK, [including] the technical support for the strategy implementation.

“But that has also changed. Now all the support is now based here in Africa.”

The head of Ripple Effect’s gender work is now based in Ethiopia and its head of sustainable development is in Uganda, Ochieng explained.

He pointed out that the charity’s largest ever grant was awarded from a funder based in Africa, saying: “There is a strategic change to raising more resources locally. And that also helps to bring attention to ownership – ownership of the problems but also getting [local] people much more involved in leadership and the [charity’s] direction.”

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