Oxfam is moving its international headquarters to Nairobi, where it might not be welcome

Oxfam wants to “build more of a presence on the ground.”
Oxfam wants to “build more of a presence on the ground.”
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British nonprofit Oxfam is moving its international headquarters from Oxford, where it was founded, to Nairobi, Kenya.

Oxfam previously announced plans to move its base for international programs either to Nairobi or Bangkok, Thailand to “build more of a presence on the ground.” Speaking to local media this weekend, Oxfam’s head of media Matt Grainger said the organization had settled on Nairobi and would begin moving staff as soon as next year.

“Basically, southern countries [developing countries] are growing ever more influential on international stages,” he told the Daily Nation. “Important decisions affecting millions of people are being made in cities that are entirely different from the centers of power of 50, 20, or even 10 years ago. Development is no longer predominately about transferring money from North to South.”

Kenya is one of the world’s largest hubs for development organizations. Between 2004 and 2013, the East African country was one of the world’s top recipients of humanitarian assistance. Today, it is home to more than 12,000 NGOs, both local and international, that work in healthcare, education, human rights, and other issues, according to Kenya’s NGO Coordination Board, a government regulator of the sector.

But over the past few years, Kenya has grown increasingly hostile to these organizations. More than 1,000 NGOs, many of them local ones that work in human rights, have been forced to close or threatened with de-registration over the last two years.

The NGO regulator has recently targeted international organizations as well, with an online campaign accusing foreign NGO staff of taking jobs from locals and enjoying lavish benefits and pay that their Kenyan counterparts never get. The campaign, #NGOInequality, has started to gain traction with some parts of the public. The NGO regulator promises to revoke the licenses of organizations that don’t hire locally or reduce the pay gap between foreign and Kenyan staff.

Oxfam’s programs in Great Britain and its international programs employed 5,317 people between 2014 and 2015. It has said that its new unit in Nairobi will be smaller than its former headquarters in Oxford. Grainger said Oxfam is currently in talks with the Kenyan government over the details of the move.

“We are keen to have the detail sorted out but there’s no deadline on this. We all need to get it right first,” he told the Nation.