As more companies and institutions are recognizing the mammoth potential in Africa, the Mastercard Foundation has expanded its partnership with CorpsAfrica to $59.4 million — more than tripling the initial investment.
What started as a three-year, $17 million commitment at the end of 2021 has since been bolstered into a five-year one. The added funds will be put to use in 11 countries, versus the original plan of four. As of now, CorpsAfrica works with communities in Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Senegal, Malawi and Rwanda. The goal is to create more than 80,000 jobs and impact upward of 800,000 community members throughout Africa. While not exclusively geared for fashion-related work, the organization does support some communities with ties to textiles. In Senegal, they work with communities that produce cotton for commercial purposes.
Through the amped-up funding there will be further efforts to enhance economic development, public health, food security, education, gender issues, the digital economy and the environment.
Having added Ghana and Kenya last year, this year CorpsAfrica will extends its reach to volunteers and residents in Nigeria, Uganda and Ethiopia. Five scouting trips are planned to determine which other countries to venture into, with the island nation of Cape Verde being a possibility, as well as Benin, Tanzania, South Africa and a few others.
Although CorpsAfrica is not affiliated with the Peace Corps, founder Liz Fanning was inspired by her service in it. The organization is a private effort and aims to be “a second Peace Corps by and for Africans,” she explained in an interview Monday. Providing leadership skills to young Africans, especially women, is a priority, she said. “The way we differ from Peace Corps is we don’t have sectors. We don’t go in there with a job. All of our volunteers are trained with a human-centered design. They listen to local people, who know best what they need and connect them to resources. They also help identify projects and bring everybody to a consensus around a project — help apply for funds, if needed.”
While volunteers help manage the process, the emphasis is that each local community has ownership of their respective projects. To that end, each local community must put in 10 percent of the cost of the project so that they are “customers and charity beneficiaries,” Fanning said.
Directed at remote and severely impoverished African villages, the program involves helping women create cooperatives to sell clothes that they make and other handmade goods and myriad other projects that are geared to creating jobs. In Rwanda, for example, there is a training center for tailoring, sewing and hairstyling.
“In rural communities, creating jobs can be just providing for their families by building a kitchen garden or a community garden with diverse, healthy fresh vegetables for good nutrition. Volunteers are also helping with clean water accessibility, women and girls’ education, road and bridge repairs, school renovations and other initiatives,” Fanning said. Noting how some of CorpsAfrica partners do “some really interesting things with fashion,” Fanning said a company in Senegal makes clothes out of used plastic water bottles.
As the second-largest sector in Africa behind agriculture, the fashion and textile industry had an estimated market value of $31 billion in 2020, according to UNESCO. With annual growth expected, the realm of fashion and textiles has the potential to create jobs for millions across the continent, especially for women and youth. Knowing the global interest in fashion and the financial might of some fashion companies, Fanning said her organization is looking into hosting a fundraiser fashion show featuring African designers in the U.S., possibly this year.