Big NGOs prepare to move south, but will it make a difference?

With Amnesty International and Oxfam looking to join ActionAid in moving more of their operations to Africa, will these steps be enough to transform the international aid system?

I Disintermediation, power-sharing, relocation, centre-shifting: call it what you will, but here’s the reality: the world’s largest

NGOs, most of which were established in very different economic and political times in the middle of the last century in the global north, are now heading south.But as big organisations focus on transferring their offices from Europe to Africa, are they missing the bigger picture? Can moving your HQ really change the rampant inequalities in an aid system where just 1% of funding goes to NGOs in developing countries?

“It’s a leap of faith,” says Salil Shetty, who as its chief executive oversaw the trailblazing relocation of ActionAid’s HQ from London to Johannesburg – the first large-scale NGO to undertake such a shift. “As with any change there are people who say, ‘Can you tell me what this is going to look like? What will have happened in a decade’s time?’ And I say, ‘That will be very hard, because we are trying to empower people and we are letting them shape the future’.”

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