Why mHealth Alliance is moving to the Global South

    Patricia Mechael, executive director of mHealth Alliance, which champions the use of mobile technologies to improve health around the world. The organization will move its headquarters to South Africa. Photo by: USAID / CC BY-NC

    Farther away from donors in the Global North — but closer to the field in the Global South.

    The mHealth Alliance, which champions the use of mobile technologies to improve health throughout the world, announced last week it is moving from its current headquarters in the United States to South Africa, in response to the changing development landscape and as part of a “natural evolution” to engage in projects and initiatives that focus on specific countries or regions.

    As the organization has grown over the years and priorities have shifted to catalyzing interventions and developing implementation strategies, having a global secretariat at the U.N. Foundation’s offices in Washington, D.C., no longer made sense, said mHealth Alliance Executive Director Patricia Mechael, who explained that most of their programs are already located in Africa and Asia.

    “There is a real need for a neutral broker, convener, facilitator at the country level to take mHealth from an idea, a concept and a series of pilot projects into policies, strategies and systems,” she told Devex.

    The organization thus joins other groups that decided to move closer to the field like ActionAid, which in 2003 also transferred its international operations to South Africa to be more accountable to the beneficiaries and become more effective in fighting and eradicating poverty.

    Mechael noted the move will result in several other changes: the mHealth Alliance will register as a global organization based in South Africa with its own board and a mostly local staff, while D.C.-based employees will move into other positions with the U.N Foundation.

    The mHealth Alliance is exploring co-locating offices with other partners, not only at the new base but in several other countries where it works.

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    About the author

    • Adva Saldinger

      Adva Saldinger is an Associate Editor at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.