Dakar-based Africa Consultants International is an inspirational model of partnership
01 / 1999
Statistics on the state of the HIV epidemic published by UNAIDS at the end of 1998 made it clear to all of us in the world’s stop-AIDS community that we are, quite simply, failing. The virus continues to outpace our efforts to counter it effectively.
With regard to biomedical solutions, 1998 brought some new hope, but definitive preventative solutions in strictly biomedical form are still a very long way off. The message to the world is clear: we have no choice but to improve and to accelerate our comprehensive prevention efforts. Toward that end, we must identify effective programs and do our utmost to circulate information about them at an international level.
It is an unfortunate fact that those organisations that carry out the finest work at local level in the area of public health are all too often headed by individuals who are excessively endowed with personal modesty. That trait, that modesty, is frequently a major reason why those organisations are so successful at working in close partnership with people at the grass-roots level. However, it also explains why information about their programs is not sufficiently circulated.
Informed specialists in the realm of HIV prevention in the Sahel agree that the work of the Dakar-based NGO Africa Consultants International (ACI)is unique, highly effective, and merits far greater international attention than is currently the case.
ACI’s Health Department, drawing on the organisation’s rich history in the areas of communication and development in Africa, is specialised in: the reinforcement of NGOs, community-based organisations (CBOs), and leaders of opinion; networking; the promotion of solidarity; the sharing of experience and information, especially in the areas of AIDS prevention, the improvement of adolescent reproductive health, and family planning. ACI pursues its objectives by means of advocacy activities, training programs, the development and dissemination of top-quality resources, and through its documentation center. ACI provides expertise in the organisation and facilitation of meetings with a view to enhancing the exchange of information and ideas and helps its partners to gain access to networks of individuals and structures in Senegal and beyond who are already involved in efforts to improve the state of public health in this region. A rare treasure in the NGO world, ACI is there to serve other organisations.
In Senegal, there are other structures that are substantively sound in the area of HIV/AIDS and reproductive health. One also has other choices when it comes to expertise in training and the facilitation of meetings. What sets ACI apart is that their team offers not only both of these elements, but also steadfastly advocates an underlying philosophy that, in itself, is of inestimable value when it comes to the sustainable enhancement of the populations’ well-being. The following are a few pillars of ACI’s philosophy as they relate to the fight against AIDS:
1)In developing active participation in the search for responses to the HIV epidemic and its consequences, it is essential to reach out to people in their own settings.
2)In developing prevention and care strategies, it is important to build on people’s own initiatives rather than to intervene from the outside and impose pre-established strategies.
3)Priority is given to drawing on what currently exists and works well rather than independently striving to create something new.
4)A central strategic concept is the development of core groups within larger structures or communities. By identifying and training a core group of individuals, you create an "advisory panel" on what is appropriate. Having them adapt and pass on relevant information to the others diminishes the risk that that information will be viewed as that of "outsiders". In addition, the core group can serve as a magnet, drawing in more and more individuals.
5)The value and importance of local resources are to be highlighted. At the local level, a situation should be created in which individuals see themselves as partners who have something truly meaningful to contribute.
6)There is tremendous strength and effectiveness to be found in partnership. Seeking out and seizing upon opportunities to work as partners opens the door to invaluable synergies - to situations in which it is evident that the whole is far greater than the sum of its individual parts.
Over the past year or so, NGOs and CBOs in Senegal have experienced a decline in available funding for HIV prevention activities. Due to a lack of means, many structures have closed their doors for good. Others are on the brink of disappearance and are being forced to reexamine their fundraising strategies. As these structures look around for successful models to emulate, it becomes quickly evident to them that, broadly speaking, there are two choices. The first is characterised by aggressive territorialism, a dog-eat-dog mentality, an approach that has a lot to do with the direct application of the harshest characteristics of commercial warfare. Unfortunately, some advocates of that philosophy are proving successful at surviving, and surviving well, in today’s rough funding environment. They are not necessarily effective in the realm of public health, but they tend to be excellent when it comes to self-promotion (marketing).
ACI, whose strategy is based on the philosophical points outlined in the text above, stands strong as a viable alternative. The example of ACI is evidence of the fact that it is possible to continue to flourish as an institution while steadfastly following a path of synergistic partnership rather than one of cut-throat commercialism, and always focusing on the public health matters at hand rather than on questions of "market shares".
For further information on ACI, contact ENGELBERG, Gary, DIA, Fatim Louise, or BOB, Ibrahimaat ACI, B.P. 5270 Dakar, Senegal. Tel (0221)824 83 38. Fax (0221)824 07 41. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview with ENGELBERG, Gary; DIA, Fatim Louise; BOB, Ibrahima
Resource person ; Interview
This file sheet is based on a rich dialogue and ongoing interaction with the <ACI>team since early 1996. In drafting this text, I also drew on ACI's most recent "Capability Statement".
GDT (The Global Dialogues Trust) - B.P. 11589, Dakar, SENEGAL. Tél : (0221)824 97 65 Bureau du Burkina Faso: 06 B.P. 9342, Ouagadougou, BURKINA FASO Bureau du Royaume-Uni: c/o SJS, 7 Allison Court, Metro Centre, Gateshead NE11 9YS, UNITED KINGDOM - Senegal - www.globaldialogues.org - email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org