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 Secretariats for African VPS


 2009-08-12 2:26:00  3180
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Secretariats for African Vice Presidents




1. At the 2004 World Conference the issue of providing a secretariat

   to help the AMCF African VPs was discussed.  In the succeeding 2 years

   further discussion and work followed, which resulted in the creation of

   secretariats for each of the African VP regions. These were all funded

   through the generous provision of MSO for a limited period.  The advent of

   the Seoul council 09 has roughly co-in sided with the end of MSO financial

   provision and allows the opportunity for:

    a. A timely review of the secretariats and their current situation.

    b. The identification of any lessons learned.

    c. To consider if such secretariats are appropriate for creation in

       other AMCF regions.


2. Before their establishment discussion took place which considered

  the issue if the creation of secretariats would conflict with the governance

  of AMCF and serve to make AMCF more of an organisation rather than an

  association?  Chapter 21, paragraph 21 25 of the AMCF manual sets out the

  basic operating principles of AMCF. The last 2 lines of paragraph 21, for

  example state, It  (AMCF) is an association with no central organisation,

  office, budget or staff . Whilst the exact functions of a secretariat were

  never fully defined it was subsequently agreed that the creation of small

  regional secretariats to give administrative help, and to help the VP with

  fund raising would not be against the spirit of the AMCF manual. It was

  agreed (Botswana meeting 15 July 2005 attended by General Lee, African VPs

  and Accts MMI) that they were largely to be a practical measure to help

  VPs in their respective areas but they were in no way intended to be a

  precursor for a centralised AMCF organisation.


3. It was however identified that these Secretariats might develop

  overtime into fully blown support organisations and become similar to the

  principal AMCF support organisations (ACCTS, Accts MMI and MSO), which

  already exist.  If they developed in this way then eventually they would

  need to become independent of AMCF and the VPs and become organisations in

  their own right to ensure the basic operating principles of AMCF were

  maintained. It was also recognised that each of the regions were very

  different in political, religious and economic make up, and as a result the

  secretariats would be most likely to develop at different paces and in

  different ways.


Current Situation


4. In preparation for this paper Accts MMI asked the African VPs to complete

  a short questionnaire on the current state of their secretariat and their own

  future vision for them.  Their detailed answers are contained at the enclosures.

  The following paragraphs in this section provide a short summary of how

  these secretariats function and of some of the issues they face.



5. It is clear that the Secretariats have been useful assets for

   all the VPs but as anticipated, they have developed differently in each

   region. It is also clear that none of them have as yet developed into

   independent support organisations, though the East and Horn of Africa region

   Secretariat may now be showing some very early tentative signs that may make

   this possible in the future. It is also clear, that with the exception of

   the East and Horn of Africa region, that none of the other regions in the

   short term (between 2 -5 years) can fully support a secretariat and fund

   significant VP travel on their own without external assistance.


6. The East and Horn of Africa region has developed on different lines

   from the other African regions. The Secretariat provided significant support

   to help with the administration of the extremely successful 2008 Pan African

   Conference. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, it is the only African Secretariat that

   currently has dedicated office space and staff outside the VPs home, which

   is used to support AMCF business. The Kenyan MCF and Chaplaincy have

   provided extensive moral and material support to the secretariat. It is

   envisaged that even when the VP position is not filled by a Kenyan, that the

   secretariat will remain in Nairobi to support regional business with a

   dedicated staff. The advent of a none Kenyan VP will be an important

   development and provide a challenge for the viability of this model but with

   the prayers, determination and hard work of all in the East African region

   it could work.  It is also the only secretariat with the potential to

   consider moving to independent support organisation status in the mid term

   future (5-10 years), however it is by no means certain that it will take

   this direction.  The Secretariat, which is heavily supported by the Kenyan

   MCF, is currently sustainable without direct financial support from the AMCF

   principal support organisations and plans to continue in that vein.


7. In the other regions the situation is very different. In each of

   these regions the secretariat is operating out of the VPs home.  Each of the

   VPs has some communication equipment to enable them to do this, and in at

   least 2 of the cases (Southern Africa and Franco Phone Africa), wives

   provide some secretarial support. In both Southern and Franco phone regions

   it is clear that the VPs would like to have regional self sustaining

   secretariats to help with their travel and other expenses, however there is  

   no realistic prospect of this being the case in the short to medium term

   (probably out to 5 years). Owing to the economic, infrastructure and

   religious make up of many of the countries in the Franco Phone region there

   are particular challenges, which the VP has to face.


8. In West Africa, whilst the secretariat was initially based in its

   own office space in Abuja, Nigeria, circumstances now mean it is located in

   the VPs home, however a retired Nigerian officer assists the VP with

   secretarial duties. The VP has also made a part payment on land in Abuja for

   the future building of a permanent West African Secretariat. Whilst there is

   a clear aspiration to create a self sustaining secretariat and the VP has

   recently taken steps to form a  AMCF West African Support Team, it is

   likely that the VP will require additional external support to carry out his


   role even if the Nigerian MCF, which is one of the strongest in Africa

   continue to provide some assistance.




9. It is important that in any consideration of the creation of future

   secretariats those lessons are identified from the existing African

   secretariats.  I have listed a few points below, which are not exhaustive

   and merely provide a possible basis for discussion:

    a. The purpose and role of the secretariats, bespoke for each region,

       needs to be clearly defined and agreed at a pray and plan. Some questions

       which should be addressed are as follows:

       Are they to provide limited secretarial help?

       Are they envisaged as growing into stand-alone support organisations?

       Should they be located in one country or have the capability to

         move to another country as the VP changes?

    b. A realistic budget and agreed operational concept needs to be

       agreed between any donor organisation and VPs.  If, for example, stand alone

       office space and paid staff are envisaged then consideration of how this is

       to be sustained and maintained for a long period needs to be considered.

       Operating concepts should also include consideration of  how the

       secretariats will operate if the VP came from a different country in the future.

    c. The interface and interactions between a secretariat and the

       principal supporting organisations needs to be defined and clear

       communication channels established.  In most cases this should be


    d. Financial accountability needs to be clear from the outset. Will

      the secretariat funds and accountability be fully delegated to the VP or

      does the donor organisation expect to see accounts for secretarial expenses?

    e. A realistic plan, which shows how the VPs secretariat will become

       self-sustaining, needs to be made when appropriate.  Donor organisations

       need to be realistic that in some regions self-sustainment may not be

       possible for a very long time, if ever.

    f. One off grants to fund secretariats need to be thought through

      carefully and it may be considered that on occasion they may be more

      appropriately  repackaged. For example, travel support grants may be

      provided through the existing principal support organisations on occasion.

    g. It is clear that the provision of communication and office

      equipment to VPs can greatly assist them to carry out their role. African

      secretariats have all benefited from this and it is relatively inexpensive

      to sustain these facilities.  However the ability to fund raise, finance

      travel independently and pay for secretarial staff is much more difficult to

      plan and sustain.


Are secretariats appropriate for other regions?


10. Every AMCF region is very different in its make up and needs.  Clearly

    any attempt to create a secretariat must be prayed and planned through on a

    case-by-case basis. It is strongly recommended that before a secretariat is

    created, its role and task must be clearly defined and the issue of

    sustainment must be realistically addressed. In some regions supporting the


   VPs to carry out their roles will inevitably continue to be heavily reliant

   on the principal support organisations. The provision of communication and

   office machinery support is relatively straightforward and inexpensive to

   provide and sustain in a limited way but fund raising, travel; training and

   conference costs require substantial resources. It may be unrealistic to

   expect some regions to help with these for a considerable time.


< Enclosures >

1.East and Horn of Africa Region VP answers

2.Southern African Region VP answers

3.West African VP answers

4. Franco Phone African VP answers




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