The African Volunteers Corps:
a new initiative to boost volunteering in Africa
By Salah Mohamed
South Africa is spearheading a continent-wide volunteer movement as a
strategy for the development of Africa.
The initiative aims at establishing an
"indigenous African volunteer movement
to mobilise a battalion of service men and
women to rebuild their own continent".
The initiative was announced in December
2004 by the Minister for Social Development,
Zola Skweyiya. It comes in response
to a call by the SADC Volunteer
Vision Conference held in 2002 for more
efforts to explore the establishment of an
African Volunteers Corps.
A concept document developed by Volunteer
Southern Africa (VOLSA) argues
that although volunteering has evolved in
different parts of the world, it still lacks
institutional base in the countries of the
South. “The eminent trend is that in the
North, volunteering has moved to an advanced
stage. It is more formalised, organised
and institutionalised as opposed
to the situation in the South.
“Though the above trend is beginning to
take shape in the South, volunteering in
this part of the world is still characterised
by traditional, informal and less organised
volunteering,” reports VOLSA’s concept
The document states that the African
Volunteer Movement under the auspices
of the African Volunteers Corps, does not
aspire to be in conflict with state governments,
nor is it intended to be a continental
party representing the interests of the
‘new left’ or a loose alliance of organisations
without a common vision or leadership.
Rather, it is conceived as a well organised
movement with a common vision
and a clear centre that operates as
an agent of social, economic and political
The movement is intended to operate at
three levels − national, regional and continental
− and is expected to work in close
collaboration with governments and regional
and continental bodies.
According to Mr Mzwandile Radebe
from the South African Department of Social
Development, South Africa will engage
the SADC agencies in discussion
around the document at a SADC regional
summit meeting scheduled later in 2005.
It is hoped that the regional summit will
set up a steering committee to develop
the concept further with the African Union.
Ultimately the intention is to convene a
continent-wide forum under the aegis of
the African Union to discuss the proposal
for an African Volunteer Corps.