Unlocking Africa’s Potential

Jeffers Miruka, President of the African Society of Association Executives (AfSAE), reports on a successful inaugural Africa Association Summit.

Over 100 association executives from seven African countries gathered in Kenya’s capital Nairobi 21-22 October 2019, for the inaugural Africa Association Summit (AAS1). The two-day event was organised by the African Society of Association Executives (AfSAE) in partnership with the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC).

AfSAE is a professional community of association executives and the voice of the association profession in Africa. The Summit, themed Unlocking Africa’s Potential, was the first of its kind in Africa, and built up on AfSAE’s mission to advance the importance, and professionalism, of associations in Africa through education, advocacy, networking and advisory.

A mix of seasoned association executives, volunteer leaders, civil society advocates, scholars and early career apprentices attended the stimulating summit, marking the beginning of what most participants agreed was an eye opener for them and their organizations. Speakers from Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, US and China did not disappoint with their well-researched and articulate presentations.

During the opening, AfSAE President Jeffers Miruka told the participants that the time had come and there will be no turning back as Africa is poised to join other regions in professionalizing the association industry and help spur development in our regions. Gregg Talley, AfSAE’s Management Advisor, couldn’t hide his excitement about what he called a new chapter in the association world of Africa.

Keynote speakers included Kenya’s former Attorney General Prof. Githu Muigai and the Secretary General and CEO of the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists & Dentists’ Union Dr. Ouma Oluga. Prof. Muigai, a Columbia University School of Law graduate who has been at the centre of the struggle for an open democratic space in Kenya, noted that associations are the conscience of communities, bringing together their concerns while being able to fashion the message for governments to understand them. He continued to say that challenges of our generations in our times are well catered for by associations all over the world, calling civil society organizations champions of change in all spheres of mankind.

He further stressed that the existence of all these associations is self-evident from what they do, however, he pointed out that, “we must have the capacity to run them efficiently, professionally, transparently, and productively, and train others to do the same, if we’re to achieve what our friends in other parts of the world have achieved.” He then encouraged everyone to chat [ their] way forward” towards a more inclusive and productive Africa to, in fine, create jobs for the youth.

Other key speakers included Magdelena Mook, CEO of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), who also serves as the International Section chair of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). As a representative of the Center for Association Leadership, she spoke on drivers of change and how research conducted among ASAE members bears relevance for African Associations, saying that only collaboration can help African associations grow.

Jacqueline Price-Osafo Director of Membership Development at the Water Quality Association, Sharon Newport, Executive Director of Door Security & Safety Foundation, Asenath Mwithigah, Director at My Leader Kenya, and Nicanor Sabula, CEO of the Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) also contributed their knowledge and expertise.

Raphael Kuuchi, Special Envoy to Africa on Aeropolitical Affairs at the Montréal-based International Air Transport Association (IATA) spoke very broadly on the benefits of implementing the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and the positive impact of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) in promoting intra-trade in Africa and opening the sky for competition and growth of air travel in the continent. He said this will help travellers, among whom association executives, to be able to organize their events and execute their activities with limited constraint around the continent and beyond.

The inaugural Africa Association summit ended on a very high note promising to be bigger next year. It is scheduled to be held in October 2020 in Kigali, Rwanda.

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