With just a little more than two years at the helm of Oxfam International, Former Mbarara Municipality MP Winnie Byanyima has influenced the global NGO’s urge to get rooted deeper into developing countries, that it is now shifting base to Nairobi.
Mrs Byanyima announced last week in London that the Oxfam International Headquarters, having been situated in Oxford all the 73 years of its existence, would soon be relocating to the Kenyan capital.
“We are moving on from the thinking that all the thinking, fundraising and leadership must start from developed countries in the north and get implemented in the south,” she said to applause.
Byanyima, who is also wife to Uganda’s Opposition kingpin Col Kizza Besigye, was in 2013 appointed Executive Director Oxfam International.
She had previously served as a top director at both the African Union and the United Nation, having quit Ugandan politics in 2004.
Speaking to students at the London School of Economics’ sold out Old Theatre, She said she knew no other job that would help realize her dream of fighting inequality and ‘challenging the elite capture of power,’ than heading the global organization.
“I have graduated as aeronautics engineer, worked with the African Union and the United Nations and served for 10 years in the Ugandan parliament; but it is with Oxfam that I feel I can do the most to challenge the elite capture of power, that lies at the root of so much poverty and inequality,” she said.
“I love this job because I can talk truth to power. It has got me into some trouble, but not a lot.”
Oxfam, a confederation of organizations working to fight poverty and social economic injustices across the globe and formed in the 1942, has been working with a wide range of civil society organizations in Africa to address these bottlenecks to development.
At the event, Winnie Byanyima expressed concern that while Africa has been described by its leaders as “open to business,” almost 1 out of every 2 Africans still lives in extreme poverty today – more than 4 times greater than the world’s average.
Africa, she lamented, is a region with the world’s highest number of people going hungry and in contrast with trends, the total number of people living in hunger is just increasing.
“Africa may be rising, but rising for whom? This is the question of inequality that Oxfam has spoken about for a long time. South Africa is the world’s most unequal country in the world; and the world’s top ten are all from Africa. The World Bank has revealed that 10 people in Africa have the wealth of half of her poorest population which is over half a billion.”
She also spoke strongly about the need for the global leaders to address the challenge of unfair tax policies favoring majorly multinationals, whose investment in the continent is often deemed as an act of kindness to the suffering economies.
“For all this foreign direct investments flowing in Africa, far more flow out to the rest of the world. A recent report found that in 2010 alone, multinational companies were responsible for around $40 billion dollars leaving the continent as a result of trade mispricing – where companies avoid paying their taxes quite legally. Add to this the issue of generous tax breaks, incentives, and tax holidays negotiated by multinationals.”