For Martin Mbalu the moment at the recent NetHope Global Summit 2019 in San Juan, Puerto Rico when attendees whipped out their phones to post #IamNetHope selfies resonated as more than just a slogan or a hashtag moment.
As the Global Service Delivery Manager with Oxfam International, Mbalu has personified the spirit of the engagement aspect of the phrase, becoming inspired through his involvement with NetHope to found the NetHope Africa Chapter. This regional Chapter convenes member organizations in Africa to collaborate on shared challenges, network amongst NGO IT professionals, and contribute insights back to the larger organization.
Mbalu says this “young Chapter has really grown into a movement over the past three years. My role at the Chapter is to mentor any new Chair appointed and ensure their success.” He also engages with the member organizations in different capacities to keep the Africa Chapter meaningful and its content compelling.
Mbalu first became acquainted with NetHope in 2010 when the NetHope Global Summit was hosted in Nairobi, Kenya. It was the first and only time the Global Summit had ever been hosted outside Europe or the Americas and he was excited to attend the event, held at the Safari Park Hotel, invited by Nenad Bojovic, Director of Network Operations for the International Rescue Committee.
“It was mind blowing,” recalls Mbalu of the experience. “I never realized the extent to how nonprofits are creating real impact to alleviate poverty using technology. This transformed my thinking so much that I joined Christian Aid UK a few weeks later after leaving Amref Health Africa. At Christian Aid, I got really into ICT4D which put me on the frontline of working with our beneficiaries.”
His professional experiences in the Global South, paired with his new-found knowledge of NetHope’s tech and collaborative focus, led him to lobby for a chapter that catered to the needs and challenges that are unique to Africa.
“We realized we share similar priorities with the Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, and Asia Chapters and we worked to go into full gear to engage a Global South network.”
Mbalu feels NetHope has given African IT members a truly meaningful platform to communicate and collaborate on the challenges and opportunities they face when delivering technology to their customers and beneficiaries in the field. He’s also been appreciative of the assistance NetHope staff have provided along the way to form the Africa Chapter. “I have found the entire NetHope team extremely helpful and I would like to single out Alex (Alpert), Rami (Shakra), and Duncan (Drury). They have held my hand through the three-year journey to ensure that Africa Chapter is the best chapter in the world!"
“NetHope has been at the core of my professional and interpersonal development since I engaged for the first in Spring 2010,” says Mbalu. “NetHope has offered me a platform to showcase to the world what Africans can do and contribute to the impact of eradicating poverty in my lifetime—I am NetHope!”