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On Call Africa embarking on journey of localisation

We hear from Ben Margetts, CEO of On Call Africa, on his decision to step down as CEO as part of the team’s commitment to localisation, as they search for a new director based in Zambia.

“After five incredible years with On Call Africa, I have made the difficult decision to step down from my role as CEO in March 2025. As we reach a critical stage of growth, I feel it’s important to have a CEO who is proximate to our work, driving it forward and ensuring alignment with the needs of the Zambian Health System. I remain passionate about our work and am committed to ensuring a smooth transition over the next 10 months. We aim to have a new CEO in place as soon as possible to facilitate a seamless handover before I move on.

As an organisation, we’ve been exploring what localisation means for On Call Africa for the last 18 months. With help from the brilliant Tracy Kajumba from IIED, we learnt about the importance of decolonising aid and were given some fantastic examples of best practice to give us food or thought. Internally, we have made great strides since as we reviewed our internal reporting structures to increase decision making by our Zambian staff and made concerted efforts to increase Zambian representation on our board of trustees. We recognised the need to go further, but needed some support to get to the bottom of what would work best for On Call Africa, to ensure that our localisation plans are meaningful and practical for our size and structure. With the help of Vitol Foundation, we engaged Andrew Jones from Global Health Associates to work with our staff and trustees to explore how On Call Africa could go further in our localisation journey.

When I made the decision to step down as CEO in March 2025, the groundwork we had done helped the board to explore what the ideal candidate would look like for the next stage of our growth and Development. I am excited to share that we are now looking to recruit a new CEO based in Zambia. This aligns with our broader plans to empower decision-making by those closer to our work. This decision coincides with our ongoing efforts to further increase Zambian representation on our board of trustees as we look to add a Community Health Worker to our board in the coming months.

I am incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved over the last five years and grateful to all our partners, funders, and supporters who have made it all possible. We’ve transformed our work and increased our income from £119,000 per annum in 2019 to a projected £1.4 million in 2024. During this period, we’ve transitioned from an organization that delivered health services, training and health promotion to one that drives health system strengthening by implementing innovative programs co-produced with the Zambian Ministry of Health (MOH), health workers, and communities.

Some of my personal highlights over the last five years include:

– Supporting the MOH to develop national guidelines for CHWs and continuation of TB services protocols during the pandemic.

– Helping to shape national standards for WASH in healthcare facilities and piloting these in 20 healthcare facilities in Western Province.

– Supporting the development of a new national standardised Community Health Worker Programme for the Zambian health system and becoming the first organisation to pilot this.

– Developing a rural health facility assessment tool to support MOH-led assessment of the functionality of rural health systems.

– Working with Kazungula District Health Office to set up a solar-powered chlorine production unit to provide disinfectant and water purification to 27 rural healthcare facilities.

– The development and implementation of our holistic health facility infrastructure improvement programme.

Most importantly, I am proud of the fantastic team we have established and the work culture we have created. Having joined the organisation when we had only three staff members, it has been great to see the team grow to 21 highly skilled and passionate individuals.

I’m pleased to hand over the reins at a time when we’re in a strong financial position and poised for significant growth in both income and impact. We have an excellent team in place delivering exciting work in partnership with the Zambian Ministry of Health. I eagerly anticipate what’s next for the organisation and I will continue to be a passionate supporter of On Call Africa’s work.”

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