Private Corporations and Development in Africa

USAID has just announced a partnership with IBM and PYXERA Global (an NGO focused on international corporate volunteerism) to help corporations make their employees’ expertise available in developing countries. Specifically, USAID, IBM, and PYXERA Global are establishing a “Center of Excellence for International Corporate Volunteerism” as a virtual venue where companies can exchange best practices and share successes. USAID and PYXERA Global will also provide country-specific guidance to members with respect to their volunteer programs.

USAID’s announcement calls attention to the growing significance of development work by private corporations at a time of shrinking federal budgets. For example, IBM tells me that since July 2008, its Corporate Service Corps has sent out more than one thousand of its employees as volunteers to nearly twenty countries. Africa has been a major beneficiary, with more than three hundred going to South Africa, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, and Egypt. PYXERA Global estimates that U.S. companies this year altogether will send up to two thousand employee volunteers to some 58 nations. To provide context, according to recent official figures there are currently 8,655 Peace Corps volunteers and trainees serving abroad, though usually for much longer periods, and at federal expense.

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