BFP: What do you do?
CM: I am a Director of KPMG International Development Assistance (IDAS) Services Africa, where I run the Southern Africa portfolio of our African business and Private Sector Development across the whole continent. Our main client base is servicing donors, multilaterals, and bilaterals on various programmes and projects, from design, through delivery to evaluations. I am also the Southern Africa Director of the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) managing the Southern Africa portfolio. My main role is managing and growing our business, with my particular interest being in designing and managing funds that encompass impact investing and inclusive business models. You can read more about the latest AECF fund on agribusiness here.
BFP: What is the best part about your job?
CM: Cutting through the complexity of development generally, and impact investing and multilateral and bilateral agencies specifically to deliver a difference on the ground. I enjoy the combination of the complex theoretical side of development and the delivery of funds on the ground, which have an impact on poor people and are game changing and life changing. In development it is easy to get extremely theoretical and forget who we are actually trying to benefit, the impact on the ground has to work in reality or we may as well all pack up and go home.
BFP: What have been your greatest challenges?
CM: Metrics and measurements that are robust enough and demonstrate true and fair development impact. Designing funds and metrics is one thing, however the reality of keeping metrics and measurements practical, both in terms of the time of measurement and cost of doing the measurement, as well as them being believable is a real challenge. The more we move forward, the more the world wants to see metrics. Anecdotal stories have been seen for years and whilst they have their value, skeptics want to know the actual and verifiable metrics the programme is delivering.
BFP: How have you overcome these challenges? What is the secret of your success?
CM: 1. Strong teams and good talent within programmes. 2. Understanding all the actors and stakeholders that are going to be involved. Explicitly clear and precise communication and agreements are paramount, particularly around metrics and measurements, otherwise focus is decreased and the potential for scope creep dilutes focus and results. 3. It’s important to know the political economy and all the needs of the different stakeholders. 4. Lastly, learn and adapt from doing, particularly when working on multi-year programmes. One can lose sight of why we are measuring and what we are measuring for. It is essential to keep it clear and pick a few key, practical indicators that can be measured.
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do, where should they start?
CM: A mix of private, public and NGO experience is very helpful and will formulate your understanding of how each of these different groups operate. A masters degree in a subject related to development will be an asset, ideally after 5 or 6 years working experience. Another key ingredient to building a career in development is the experience of living and working in a developing or emerging economy. And lastly, you need a passion for development. Those that deliver best on the ground are passionate about development. It’s important to challenge the norm and shape your own thinking, don’t be fearful to question what has been done over past decades in development, we need to refresh and not just do development as it has always been done. Innovation and technology need to be used even more. We don’t just want ‘reports on shelves’.
BFP: Finally: what do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?
CM: I already get a lot out of Business Fights Poverty and have enjoyed being a part of the community since its conception. It’s clearly a creative and innovative platform where there is online interaction from practitioners and people from different sectors. This cross-linking and cross-thinking is very useful as is the networking with peers and colleagues.
I think Business fights Poverty has a huge role to play in strategically engaging and shaping the future of the multi-stakeholder environment we live in. Business Fights Poverty is already doing a lot of really good things, and I encourage you to do more of the same as well as continue to foster innovative thinking and doing.
Thank you to Corin Mitchell for taking the time to do this interview.