Alumni from Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe attended the Private Sector Engagement workshop in Lagos, Nigeria, from 29 February to 1 March. The main purpose of the workshop was for Alumni to explore how the Australia Awards program can embrace the Australian Government’s vision of partnering with the private sector to achieve sustainable development outcomes and subsequently draw up draft strategies for this engagement. Alumni were also trained on successful grant proposal writing and learned more about the Business Partnership Platform (BPP), a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Grant initiative to promote private sector initiatives in the region.
Through an opening address read to participants, the High Commissioner-designate of Australia to Nigeria, Mr Paul Lehmann, encouraged Alumni, as key drivers of development in their countries, to engage fully with the private sector. “This workshop will provide the basis for an Australia Awards Alumni Private Sector Engagement Strategy. Such a strategy will enhance how the DFAT, Australia Awards and Alumni can work together to better engage the private sector to achieve our mutual development objectives”.
Gordon Chakaodza from the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) intimated that there were prospects for Alumni to engage and partner with Austrade’s activities in expanding business opportunities in Africa. Palladium’s Collins Apuoyo, representing Propcom Mai-Karfi in Nigeria, emphasised the importance of shared interest value propositions in private sector engagement, drawing on key examples from Palladium’s pro-poor development initiatives in Nigeria.
Alumni at the workshop considered themselves to be a significant vehicle for private sector engagement in the Awards program through their diverse cultures, disciplines, strengths and expertise. “We looked at the role Alumni can play and it starts with inputs into the strategy. We have gone to Australia, come back after having been trained and have become a resource, so it is important to deploy and utilise those skills,” said Dr Zainab Muhammadu Idris during a group feedback session.
According to Fortune Kachidza, an Alumna from Zimbabwe, the workshop was significant, not only for her career, but broadly for her workplace. “The move that the DFAT is taking aligns with that of my career and organisation. I will take the learnings from this workshop back to my workplace”.