The AfricaRice Board of Trustees has directed the new Director General Dr Harold Roy-Macauley and his Management team to initiate the first steps of a multi-phase return of its Headquarters to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. September 2015 was set as the target date to have most Headquarters functions transferred to the new location.
The decision was taken at a Board meeting in Cotonou, Benin, 24-27 March 2015, and followed months of discussions with the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, close monitoring of the evolving security situation in the country and a medium-term analysis of the financial and programmatic implications of the move. A strategy to re-open major research operations at the Center’s 700 hectare research complex at M’bé, near Bouaké, was also agreed.
The Government of Côte d’Ivoire generously gave AfricaRice a building in Abidjan to house the new Headquarters and began providing financial support to defray part of the transfer costs. The Government and AfricaRice had earlier agreed on a revised host-country agreement that provides the Center with the necessary privileges and immunities to operate efficiently.
Finally, the Board concluded that the security situation in Côte d’Ivoire had stabilized considerably and continues to improve, assuring a safe and secure reinstallation of AfricaRice staff and their families.“The government has pledged strong support to AfricaRice. This is of mutual interest as the country has set an ambitious target to achieve rice self-sufficiency and be a rice exporter by 2018,” stated AfricaRice Board member Dr Séraphin Kati-Coulibaly, Director General of Scientific Research and Technological Innovation, Ivorian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
Thanking Dr Kati-Coulibaly for bringing additional assurances from the government and also for his personal efforts to move forward the process, the Board Chair Dr Peter Matlon said, “We wish to convey our appreciation to the Ivorian government and confirm that we are equally committed to helping it achieve its national objectives.”
Dr Matlon took the opportunity to also thank the Benin Government for its great support to the Center and assured that efforts will be made to minimize the social impacts of the move on the local staff in Benin, as stated in the Resolutions of the 29th AfricaRice Council of Ministers.
In December 2004 because of the civil conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire, the AfricaRice Board had decided to relocate temporarily all headquarters staff to the regional station of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Cotonou, Benin.
The important strategic decision to return the Center’s headquarters to Côte d’Ivoire made by the Board at its 37th meeting is in line with the Resolutions of the 28th and 29th Sessions of the AfricaRice Council of Ministers. The Council, which is the highest oversight body of AfricaRice, has reiterated since 2005 that Côte d’Ivoire remains the permanent headquarters of the Center.
As part of the first wave of the return plan, the offices of the Director General and the Deputy Director General as well as the Directorates of Partnerships & Capacity Strengthening and Administration & Finance will move by September 2015. The Board decided to hold its September 2015 meeting in Côte d’Ivoire.
“In our September 2015 meeting, we will decide on the timetable for the movement of research programs, based on a sound strategy and an in-depth cost analysis of the rehabilitation and development of the M’bé research station,” said Dr Matlon.
The M’bé station, which has all the main rice-growing environments, has been maintained by a small technical team under the supervision of a regional representative. For the past few years, the station has been used for the production of foundation rice seed in response to demands from several AfricaRice member countries.In addition to the important issue of the return of the headquarters, the Board examined matters relating to research activities, financial management, governance, business continuity and risk management. Recognizing the huge funding challenges facing the Center, the Board urged the Management to closely monitor its financial management. “Much greater emphasis needs to be given to resource mobilization and this is the only way that we can responsibly control risks.”
Appreciating the achievements made against the milestones set for the CGIAR Research Program on Rice, known as the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP), Dr Matlon remarked, “We are impressed with the scope and quality of the work done.” The Board was also pleased with the results of the Center-commissioned external review of the ‘Sustainable Productivity Enhancement (SPE)’ program of AfricaRice.
A series of policies relating to ‘Occupational and Health Hazard, ’HIV/AIDS in the Workplace,’ and ‘Disability in the Workplace’ were approved. The Board appreciated the attention given by the Center to gender issues in the workplace and encouraged the Management to consider incorporating the youth dimension in the Center’s ‘Gender Equality’ policy.
The Board warmly welcomed three new Board members: Dr Sophie Thoyer from France, Dr Comlan Atsu Agbobli from Togo and Dr Séraphin Kati-Coulibaly from Côte d’Ivoire. It congratulated Dr Lala Razafinjara from Madagascar, who became the new Vice-Chair.
It extended a special welcome to Dr Rita Sharma, Vice Chair of the Program Committee of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Board, who participated in the 37th AfricaRice Board meeting as an observer as part of a new reciprocal arrangement between AfricaRice and IRRI Boards.
It bade a fond farewell to outgoing Board members Dr Henri Carsalade from France (former Chair of Audit Committee) and Mr Momodou Ceesay from the Gambia (former Vice-Chair). The outgoing interim Director General and former Board member and Chair of the Nomination Committee Dr Adama Traoré was also given a special farewell by the Board.