AFRICA Harvest’s new Chairman of the Board of Directors (BoD), Dr. BlessedOkole, says the organization has been undergoing a period of growth, marked by numerous opportunities. “There is huge need for the development services that Africa Harvest offers. We have a great opportunity to build partnerships to scale-up model projects to many target countries in Sub-Sahara Africa,” he says.
As part of managing the growth and emerging opportunities, the organization has strengthened its corporate governance and appointed new directors to the Board. Dr. Okole takes over from Dr. Moctar Toure, who retired after serving the organization for six years. The Board also welcomed two new Board Members, Dr. Paco Sereme and Mrs. Sylvia Banda who began their term in May 2016.
Dr Toure, a Senegalese citizen, is now an Africa Harvest Board Emeritus. “After six years, I can proudly say that Africa Harvest is an organization able to operate at par with similar organizations in the world and according to international standards,” he said.
“Africa Harvest has proven that even with relatively modest budgets it is possible to make a difference if resources are properly targeted. The organization’s good governance, accountability and transparent structure makes it a model African organization focusing on impact,” says the former Chairman.
In his acceptance speech, Dr. Okole said he was encouraged by the Board’s committed to continue guiding Africa Harvest, especially in achieving goals outlined in the 10-year (2012-2022) Strategic Plan.
He noted that he had been involved in the plan’s development, which would provide a strong base for continuity and re-doubling of efforts. (He was chairman of the Board Audit Committee).“We are already thinking of a mid-term review, which will help us sharpen and re-focus our efforts for the second half of the plan’s implementation.”
“Africa Harvest remains committed to helping smallholder farmers become more resilient and food secure by contributing models of good practice on dissemination of improved crops varieties and technology through the whole value chain. We are determined to make a difference in the fight against poverty, hunger and malnutrition, particularly in target countries in Africa,” Dr. Okole noted.
Dr. Okole is a native of Cameroon and holds a PhD in Agricultural Biotechnology from the Technical University of Berlin, Germany. He is a graduate of the International Executive Development Program of the London Business School and Witwatersrand University.
He is currently the Managing Director of SG Sustainable Oils Ltd in Cameroon, which operates a 19,830 hectares oil palm plantation in the country. Dr. Okole has over the past 25 years built extensive management experience and has held senior positions in strategy, business development, fundraising and project operations. Previously, he served as the Head of International Business Development for the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and CEO of East Coast Biotechnology Innovation Centre LIFElab, both initiatives of the Government of South Africa.
Prior to joining LIFElab, Dr. Okole held the position of Business Development Manager and Strategic Partnership Manager for CSIR Biosciences unit, and previously an interim Director for the NEPAD Southern African Network for Biosciences (SANBio). As an entrepreneur, he started a successful plant tissue culture company, African Biotechnologies, in South Africa.
Africa Harvest also welcomed two new Board members: Dr. Paco Sereme, and Mrs. Sylvia Banda who began their term in May 2016.
Dr. Sereme is a national of Burkina Faso and currently serves as the Acting Executive Director of the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD).
He holds a Docteur-Ingénieur (Ph.D.) Plant Pathology, University of Rennes I, France and a Master’s degree General Agronomy, University of Niamey, Niger among others.
Prior to his position at CORAF, he held the position of Executive Director of the same institution.
He also served in Burkina Faso as Director of the National Agricultural Research Institute (INERA) from 1994 to 2002 after serving as Scientific Co-operation Director of the National Center for Scientific and Technological Research (CNRST).
Mrs. Sylvia Banda is the Managing Director of the Sylvia Food Solutions (SFS) in Zambia and has given her life to increasing the demand for locally produced, traditional food in Zambia by creating entrepreneurial hubs that give farmers access to both local and international markets, including the United States. Through SFS, smallholder farmers working in the hubs are able to create income that allows impacts and transformation in their lives.
She also serves as the President of pan-Afric African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP). She is a Board Member of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) Zambia, Vice Chairperson on Agri-Business Incubation Trust (Agbit) and in the past she served as the Ambassador for Zambia AWEP. She has over 20 years’ experience in entrepreneurship in African agriculture.
Link Between Africa Harvest Board and Management
AFRICA Harvest CEO, Dr. Florence Wambugu, is a member of the Board and provides the link between Board and Management.
She chairs the Senior Management Team (SMT), which consists of Program Directors and Project Managers.
The CEO’s role – as member of the Board and SMT – ensures a seamless link is maintained between the management and the Board.
The Board dispenses its activities through the following four committees:
Executive Committee: This committee supports the CEO in making strategic decisions and has oversight of the strategic plan implementation and financial management.
Audit Committee: Responsible for ensuring financial accountability and compliance.
Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee: This oversees Board appointments and monitoring of the Board’s, review of institution policies and CEO performance.
Programme Committee: This committee’s function is monitoring the extent to which programs are realizing the organization’s vision and mission.
Africa Harvest adheres to Corporate Governance Guidelines approved – and regularly reviewed – by its Board of Directors. These guidelines are supported by charters of the Board committees.
The Board has three scheduled meetings a year at which it reviews and discusses reports by the management on the performance of the organization, its plans and prospects, as well as immediate issues that require attention.Directors are expected to attend all open BOD sessions on technical progress review and to make presentations.
Board membership has a two three-year term limits based on performance review after the first term and is also staggered to ensure some level of continuity even as some BOD members retire.