By Ato Bob*
By the time Africa is developed, it will be the wonderland of the world, ’cause it will be able to make use of all the mistakes of other nations. But it nah go just drop out of the sky. So we have to put in work. Damian Marley.
I have been writing monthly columns in The African Bulletin nine years, since August 2007 in fact. As I did in two issues in 2014, I find it time to cast back and showcase some memorable articles of the past years, in particular the ones my faithful readers and I like the most.
What cause for the African Diaspora? – www.mediablackberry.com/index.php?oid=11804 – One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests. (Peter Marshall, Scottish clergyman 1902 -1949).
‘What makes you a social person?’ was my column in The African Bulletin of August www.mediablackberry.com/index.php?oid=11662. Now I am taking it a step further to go into a cause, something you stand for and dedicate yourself to.
It can be your calling to spread your faith, whether Christian or Moslem. It can be your political conviction which you want others to share as you are convinced that is the right one to govern and bring benefit to society. It can be about a very local cause, like supporting your sports- or social club as you are passionate about football or any sort of sports or hobby. It can be a global cause as you feel strongly about supporting world peace, protecting and sustaining the environment or combating corruption, hunger, poverty, disease or assisting your community back in Africa.
Good causes in Africa
Organizations UNICEF, Amnesty International, WWF, The Hunger Project and The Water Project are all working in selected African countries and some of them in all. Others particularly in Africa are:
AMREF African Medical and Research Foundation
AMREF is an international African organisation headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. AMREF’s vision is Better Health for Africa. AMREF’s mission is to ensure that every African can enjoy the right to good health by helping to create vibrant networks of informed communities that work with empowered health care providers in strong health systems. Today, AMREF implements its projects through country programmes in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Southern Sudan and South Africa. Training and consulting support are provided to an additional 30 African countries.
AWF – African Wildlife Fund
The AWF, together with the people of Africa, works to ensure the wildlife and wild lands of Africa will endure forever. The AWF is the leading international conservation organization focused solely on Africa. They believe that protecting Africa’s wildlife and wild landscapes is the key to the future prosperity of Africa and its people – and for over 50 years, they have made it their work to help ensure that Africa’s wild resources endure.
NGOs based in the Netherlands
Being in the Netherlands you must be familiar with acronyms like Cordaid, Hivos, ICCO and Oxfam Novib. These are the large major Dutch NGOs active across the globe and receive a subsidy from the Dutch government in addition to their own fundraising. There are many others, like e.g. CARE, Artsen zonder grenzen, Edukans, Save the Children and Mission Aviation Fellowship to name but a few.
How to find a good Cause
Yes there are many other, often smaller NGOs that work on matters closer to your heart and closer to your (original) home area. To find them you can do your own ‘googling’, but I recommend using the Dutch site: www.goededoelentest.nl/index.php. Although it is in Dutch, it will guide you to find the NGO closest to the criteria you provide. You can of course also look for a NGO in your home country by using www.afrika.startpagina.nl/ and scrolling to a particular country page.
You as an African Diasporan and a social person, but also a well-integrated citizen of Holland or other Western country, you may already be engaged in a cause for your community, home town, region or even country. Irish singer, musician, and humanitarian Bono of the rock group U2 said this: The fact is that ours is the first generation that can look disease and extreme poverty in the eye, look across the ocean to Africa, and say this, and mean it. ‘We do not have to stand for this. A whole continent written off – we do not have to stand for this.’
Active in a Group or Association? www.mediablackberry.com/index.php?oid=10681
“Some people strengthen the society just by being the kind of people they are.” John W. Gardner, American Educator, 1912 – 2002.
You as a reader of this column are most probably a participant, member or even a leader or official or executive of one group, organization or the other. By definition a (voluntary) association is a group of individuals who enter into an agreement to accomplish a purpose. There is hardly an individual, who is not a member of one group, organization or another. Let it be a sports club or let it be a church, or let it be a political party, or a social or community purpose.
The African Diaspora in Europe is no exception, while for them church in most cases comes first and after that and African Diaspora social organization.
The latter are easily recognisable by their name: AfroEuro Foundation, African Diaspora Policy Centre, Astrid Uganda Foundation, Ma Flo Aids Orphans Education, African Diaspora Fund for Development, The African Bulletin, Ghanaian Seamen in Europe, Cameroon Friendship Club, African Migration Education Network, GHANAMAN Rotterdam, Africa Report, Kenyan American Professionals, Africa Alumni, CAMNED, Bokemei, African Heritage Club, Sikaman, Recogin, CoGhaN, CoGhaC.
The names on this list mostly do not tell what sort of organization is behind it. It could be an association, a foundation or even a business partnership, a commercial venture, but also just an idea of a few people, still to get an official status and becoming a legal entity.
When you meet casually from time to time with some friends, colleagues or relatives you do not need to be organized, you just have to agree on the when and where. But when you want to make it a regular thing and you have a common aim or purpose in mind, you will feel to get organized. You will choose or appoint a leader and somebody to take notes and keep records. Often there will be money involved, so you need somebody to collect and keep the cash or even operate a bank account.
There you have the main institutional manpower requirement for almost any organization already: a chairperson, a secretary and a treasurer.
You will also have to agree on what your common purpose is and determine your aims and objectives. The more you meet and talk or organize and do things together, the more the need to get it described in detail. The way to do that is to draw up a Constitution and By-laws, have it formalized by a Public Notary into an Act (of Creation) and have it registered at the Chamber of Commerce. N.B: For legal reasons the Act will be written in Dutch, therefore make sure you do understand exactly what every word means or have someone translate it for you.
What sort of organization: Stichting/Foundation or Vereniging/Association
Depending on what you want to do and how you want to work together and function as a group, you have to choose the type of organisation that fits you. In the Netherlands there are two forms of social organisations that can be registered as legal entities: the Stichting or Foundation and the Vereniging or Association. They are distinctly different from one another, so consider very carefully what you need, because changing from one to the other is possible after registration, but will take you (again) to bear the costs of engaging a Public Notary.
The Stichting/Foundation is a legal entity that does not have members and has been created to achieve the aims in the constitution using a certain fortune. The aim cannot be to make payments to the founders, executives of the foundation or third parties, except where these third parties are concerned, payments that have an ideal or social purpose.
The Vereniging/Association is a legal entity that is set up by a group of people wanting to achieve a common aim and who are open for others to join them.
Let me explain other important differences between the two types of organizations. The Vereniging/Association has its members, the Stichting/Foundation does not, as it can only have participants in activities.
The members of the Vereniging/Association have the power to select their executives and decide what will be done in the General Assembly and regular meetings.
The Board/Bestuur of the Stichting/Foundation is put in place by the founders, who mostly take seat on it at its creation. From there on it is the Board/Bestuur that decides on matters, as members do not exist in that organization.
More simply put, the Vereniging/Association is democratic entity, set up and governed by a group of people who are joined by others as members, while the Stichting/Foundation is a charitable organization with an ideal or social purpose, set up by founders who self-govern their ‘club’.
The advantage of the Stichting/Foundation is that they are allowed to receive donations or even a heritage which is then deductible from the taxable income of the donor, which is many cases, is a company or institution. You therefore need to choose carefully, whether you will have your organization registered like a foundation or an association.
Conclusion: You do of course understand that these two choices go together and that you do understand my not so subtle suggestion for you to get to do something. Not for yourself of course!
*Ato Bob is a former Dutch Diplomat who now consults with various NGO’s on African issues. He lives in Rotterdam and may be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org