There is much to be done to realise the full potential of Angola, writes Charles Abani, after visiting the country to debate the issues of the Oxfam joint strategy.
Thank God for CAN 2010?! The airport was plush and cool – the infrastructure impressive. I had not checked in any luggage so I should have been out straight away. Right? Wrong!! Those on the flight with me had checked in luggage. It took so long; I think they went back and forth from the plane with each individual item. The roads in Angola are all paved very well, but the traffic was still difficult. Evidence that the hardware (infrastructure) is important, but without the software (the skills and commitment) things can stay unchanged. There is much work to be done.
We spent the next three days working on the issues of the joint Oxfam strategy. Oxfam Intermon withdraw this month and the SMS will have OGB and Oxfam Novib in it … with Novib providing the lead. Angola is such a complex place and the Oxfams are no simpler either!! It could be a tough three days.
The stakeholders we spoke to were concerned about governance, transparency and accountability. They also believe that access to services – particularly education and health – is key to transformation. Our joint strategy will address some, but not all of this. There is much to be done to realise the full potential of Angola and I felt personal distant echoes of Nigeria from 20 years ago.
The strategy process was good for the Oxfams – we learnt much about what we have in common and also where the differences are. Talk is good – it helped us to not only work on the big issues, but also to motivate the teams around their work. The process will present challenges – merging our work and our geographies, focusing on commonalities, supporting Novib as it moves to take up and exercise an empowering and inclusive leadership.
By the end of the three days though, after talking and debating many issues, I began to feel the “speed of trust and understanding” moving us forward. At the airport too, I was amazed at the speed of boarding. No long queues, no challenges.
Looking out of the window as the jet engines roar, the Angolan coast disappears on the horizon as the plane banks and sets course for Johannesburg. I wonder when I’ll come back here again – if at all. I am holding on to the positive experiences – the vibrancy and engagement of civil society, the “speed” of progress across the Oxfams, the commitment of the OGB team I spoke with this morning before I left to board this flight, and the smooth boarding processes I experienced. These are strong signs – there IS progress in Angola, both for Angolans and their aspirations as well as for Oxfam and its ambitions!!
Charles Abani is the Regional Director for Oxfam GB in Southern Africa