Chevron: Rethinking Development Partnerships
by Dennis Fleming, Chevron, Project Manager, Niger Delta Partnership Initiative
The following is a guest post by Dennis Flemming, Project Director of the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) and Secretary of the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative (NDPI) Foundation Inc., for Chevron Corporation. Chevron’s NDPI partnership in the Niger Delta is providing a new model for private sector-led economic development efforts throughout Africa. This signature program is one of several ways the company is investing in Africa’s future. More on Chevron’s programs can be found in the 2010 Corporate Responsibility (CR) Report.
Private corporations are driving a new model of partnerships for capacity building and development in Africa. The old way of doing this important work consisted largely of well-intentioned philanthropic investments. While that kind of contribution is still important, it is neither a sufficient nor sustainable approach to creating a prosperous long-term future for both society and business.
A strong example of this new approach is unfolding in the West African nation of Nigeria. In order to more effectively address the socio-economic challenges in the region, and create a strong environment for broader job creation and business investment, Chevron established the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative (NDPI), a multi-sector effort to promote economic development, improve the capacity of local and regional governments, and reduce conflict.
This is the kind of development initiative one might understandably associate solely with governments and aid agencies – not with a company like Chevron, one of the world’s largest integrated energy companies.
But governments and civil society organizations are turning more frequently to the private sector to co-create development initiatives where business assets and expertise deployed through strategic partnerships can drive enduring economic opportunity and social value. This engagement offers new forms of collaboration between the private sector and development organizations, and strategically capitalizes on companies’ core business interests.
Chevron pioneered this new concept when it established the Angola Partnership Initiative (API) in 2002, partnering with international aid agencies such as USAID and UNDP to help rebuild Angola after years of civil war. The initiative focused on development programs to improve health and education, build the capacity of Angolan non-governmental organizations and government development agencies, and to help reduce poverty through agribusiness and the development of micro, small and medium-size enterprises. In so doing, we hoped to nurture a climate of peace and stability in the areas most affected by conflict.
API continues to generate important benefits for Angola to this day. Among its achievements:
About $14.3 million has been invested in community development projects, reaching 16 of the 18 provinces of Angola.
API includes programs to increase sustainable agricultural development, such as the Agriculture Development and Finance Program (Pro-Agro) in Angola which increased the yield, quality and market share of local products such as bananas and coffee.
We supported microfinance schemes like NovoBanco, which provides credit to small entrepreneurs and low-income households and has extended more than $40 million in loans and reached 30,000 small business entrepreneurs.
Our programs have provided approximately 5,500 farmers with technical assistance and helped them to almost double their yields between 2007 and 2009. And our support for micro-, small and medium-size businesses outside the oil industry helped to train 200 entrepreneurs in business planning and to create 143 new jobs in 2010.
Our Angola experience was an important learning opportunity and we looked for ways to implement the model again, building upon what we learned. The Niger Delta was the obvious choice for the next attempt. The region has many complex development challenges and yet there is a noticeable lack of coordination and collaboration amongst the many development partners in the region. Created in 2010, NDPI is taking the API model and scaling it up so that we can increase our development impact. Chevron doubled its initial API investment, investing US$50 million for NDPI.
We have established two foundations: the NDPI Foundation in the United States to coordinate development project funding, and the PIND Foundation in Nigeria to coordinate project implementation. Both foundations were created as models of partnership, with the Chevron representative directors outnumbered by independent directors who are experienced development professionals coming from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. NDPI intentionally blurs the lines between donors and implementers, focusing instead on multi-stakeholder partnerships.
The sizable investment and effort in NDPI is paying off. In less than a year from its inception, NDPI has already generated several new partnerships with donors, including a $25 million commitment from USAID signed last February to support integrated peace and development efforts in the Niger Delta region. Conversations continue with other donors who are quickly recognizing the opportunity for using this unique model of partnership to bridge relationships and efforts between the many development actors in the region.
For the development community, NDPI is an interesting, unique model that bears watching. It’s early yet to see how far this new partnership model can go and what it will ultimately achieve, but the experience promises to offer new paradigms for development partnerships.
Dennis Flemming began serving as project director of the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative in 2009 and has been based in the Nigerian capital of Abuja ever since. Most of his professional years were spent in Papua New Guinea, initially when he was assigned by the Peace Corps to serve as Business Development Officer in the South Pacific Island nation in 1986. Three years later, Flemming helped create Income Marketing Ltd, an organization established to provide small business development services and advice.
Flemming joined Chevron as local business development supervisor in 1992; and later on became Community Affairs Manager. He spent a year as staff planning analyst in the company’s headquarters in San Ramon and came back to Papua New Guinea in 2000 as sustainable development manager. In this capacity, he established and managed the CDI Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to socio-economic development of rural communities near the company’s field operations. In 2004, Flemming managed the Angola Partnership Initiative and other corporate responsibility and socio-economic development programs for Cabinda Gulf Oil Company, Chevron’s Angolan subsidiary. When he joined Chevron Nigeria Ltd, Flemming spearheaded community engagement strategies including renegotiation of agreements with regional development councils. Dennis Flemming holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in sustainable development specializing in development management from the University of London.