Q&A: Ellen Agler END Fund CEO speaks to BizNis Africa


BizNis Africa Founder, Bontle Moeng attended the END Fund breakfast session that was held during World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa.

Ellen Agler, END Fund CEO and WEF Africa 2019 Co-Chair shared her insights on Africa’s business challenges and opportunities.

What are some of the key insights you would like to share from the 2019 WEF Africa event?

The theme for the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa 2019 is Shaping Inclusive
Growth and Shared Futures in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Throughout this week, I have had the opportunity to moderate discussions with global leaders on innovations between philanthropy and civil society to drive large-scale change. There’s a real sense of optimistic urgency from this group in how impact can be scaled while also ensuring that respect, dignity, and true collaboration are at the centre of partnerships.

I am pleased to have also moderated and participated in key dialogues on addressing health
inequalities – for example, by scaling up treatment for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and
achieving Universal Health Coverage – can help to catapult Africa into the Fourth Industrial
Revolution. This forum brings to light the cross-cutting nature of these issues.

Access to healthcare, for example, is not only a universal right from a moral standpoint, but it also holds enormous potential in growing the economy. Globally, about 10% of GDP is related to health, while in Africa this number is about 6%.

In that gap lies real opportunity for expanding employment, building infrastructure and manufacturing supplies. Typically, two-thirds of health workforces are women, again highlighting how growing a health economy can also help address gender equity. There is so much opportunity to collaborate for development on the continent and together help build a more just, inclusive and prosperous society. I look forward to building on the strong relationships that the END Fund has forged around these issues this week.

In your opinion – what is the future of Africans in the next 20 years?

I believe that there can be tremendous gains in prosperity over the coming years in Africa. For example, research has shown that if WHO targets for tackling NTDs are achieved, Africa would save $52 billion in out-of-pocket expenses and increased productivity gains over the next decade.

I see the work of the END Fund and our partners not only as a means to improving the health of
underserved communities, but also as a catalyst for economic growth. I am encouraged by the growing
number of African philanthropists and private sector leaders who are no longer distinguishing between investments that are good for business and those that are good for humanity, and instead seeing them as one in the same.

However, achieving Africa’s potential will take an unprecedented level of collaboration which is why I’m so happy to see this topic so central at this year’s Forum.

How can young people in Africa secure a better future for the continent?

Education and entrepreneurship are the great equalizers for young Africans. The human capital in Africa, especially in young people needs to be harnessed to its highest potential.

That is why the END Fund’s commitment to ending NTDs is key to unlocking Africa’s great potential. Ending NTDs removes the barrier for kids to stay in school and excel, allowing them to enter the workforce with higher levels of education and gives them the potential to become entrepreneurs or the next big innovator on the continent. Research has shown that deworming treatment, for example, has the potential to increase an adult’s earnings by 20% and reduce a child’s likelihood of school absenteeism by 25%.

How can Africans create a better future for the continent?

A better future for the continent requires us to first acknowledge that health is a
fundamental right and highly interconnected with the development of the continent. NTDs, for example, need to be addressed immediately.

Failure to do so will cause them to worsen and become increasingly difficult to overcome. An investment in NTDs is a commitment to having a better future for the continent. A single dollar invested towards the control and elimination of NTDs results in between $27 and $42 worth of economic benefit.

A timely response from local stakeholders with local insights is crucial to maximizing any effort to reduce the burdens of poverty, ill-health and injustice. This is an important step we must take if we are to succeed in achieving local, regional, and global goals.

How can Africans create a better investment framework?

Africans can create a better investment framework by encouraging philanthropy for
and by Africans. It is important that we put Africans at the forefront of philanthropic giving.

Doing so ensures that philanthropic resources are deployed not only with efficiency and effectiveness, but also with a deep understanding of the nature of the challenges they are intended to solve. In order to create a better investment framework, we must embrace collaboration which not only fosters cross-sector relationships, but also deepens expertise, promotes a more strategic approach for investing and can even mitigate risk. This allows funders to back systematic approaches that are aligned with the scale and needs of an issue area. In addition, they can also target funding where their efforts can have the largest impact, while not going it alone. Lastly, there must also be an agreement on a clear investment thesis: the expectations of funders and grantees must align around the how, the what and the why of any project.


About Author

Bontle Moeng is the Founder and Managing Director of BizNis Africa. Moeng has spent 16 years working in the digital and online media industry across Africa. She applied her trade at True Love magazine prior to discovering her passion for Investment news in key sectors across Africa. Moeng previously worked for ITWeb, Starfish Mobile Technologies, ITNewsAfrica, AVATAR Agency, eNitiate, Global Interface Consulting and Havas Johannesburg. Her primary focus is to provide solid and valuable content on investment opportunities for the ICT, Energy and Mining sectors across Africa. In addition, the online news publication assists global companies to expand their presence in Africa. Email: news@biznisafrica.co.za

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