ADVO Group interviews Sharon Roberts, Computers 4 Africa


Based in Aylesford Computers 4 Africa are a UK registered charity. Aseri Katanga, Chair of Trustees has a dream that all Africa kids will be able to tell the difference between a mouse and a mouse! Brought up in Bukoba Tanzania and coming to the UK to further his education, Aseri knew first-hand the opportunities that were available when IT is part of the curriculum. When he saw the company he worked for at the time disposing of old computers in the skip he knew in his village that would make the world of a difference; with organisations/individuals in the UK donating computers Aseri provided IT into 26 schools in Tanzania. Computers 4 Africa came into existence in 2005 and to date 1.3million children have accessed as a result with 326,560 currently using their computers. Following a merger with Digital Pipeline in 2011, Computers 4 Africa have been given additional opportunities; although Africa is still our geography of choice with Computers 4 Africa as our Working Name, the charitable objectives of Digital Pipeline is to supply worldwide.

ADVO Group recently supplied a range of computers to the charity and in our latest interview we discussed the efforts of the charity in detail with Computers 4 Africa’s Head of Marketing, Sharon Roberts.

What does your typical day at Computers 4 Africa involve?

Wow that’s quite a question! Most of my time is spent at our headquarters in Aylesford Kent and where I am responsible for the marketing for the whole organisation. With a general marketing strategy to cover the whole of the UK mainland; I have developed a strategic on-going campaign with our ‘Big and Famous in the South East‘, this is where is want EVERYONE to know about Computers 4 Africa. As relationships are key I attend regular networking events and exhibitions, talking to people about what we do and the changed lives; follow up on leads and contacts; I also look for creative ways to communicate our message using e.g. the seasons, (we are running a design a Christmas Card competition open to all primary school aged children within the area) current affairs and issues that are relevant to the sector I am communicating with. Typically, these would include education, councils and council officials, local businesses, corporates and individuals, using through every medium possible informing and reminding so when they want a charity to raise money for or have an IT refresh they remember Computers 4 Africa.

I enjoy my role and look forward to coming into work, facing the challenges and get excited when I hear feedback from the African projects.

Are you seeing an increase in the number of companies realising the good use that their old IT equipment could be put to? 

Yes, we certainly are, once organisations know the service we can provide we are seen as a Win-Win alternative. As we collect their old computers and IT equipment companies know that by reusing rather than recycling they will make a difference in Africa, whilst still complying with the WEEE Directive, environmental and CSR targets.

What do you think is preventing some companies from realising the great cause that they could be putting their old computers to? 

I think it is in the main lack of knowledge – firstly to our existence and then to specific areas of concern, whether that is data security, how the process works, potential costs, etc. all of which I am very happy to talk through.

Do you think there are any wider issues of wastefulness? 

I think that we have a responsibility to wherever possible look to repurpose and reuse; it’s very easy to be part of a ‘throwaway society’.

As an organisation we are now Carbon Neutral, this was a deliberate decision as it’s environmentally consistent with our IT reuse and repurposing principles.

How can people get involved in the scheme in their local area?

  • We do have a network of drop off points across the UK (details on the website) for donations of 10+ computers a free collection service is available.
  • Visit us in Aylesford with any equipment you would like to donate.
  • Look into raising some funds through the Elimu Project (education in Swahili), items include £5 for a USB wristband, £775 for course fees to train a student into an IT teacher up to £8,000 to convert a shipping container into an IT Classroom.

Do you think there is a benefit for companies in their staff knowing that their company is involved in a great scheme such as Computers 4 Africa? For example, do you think this can boost staff morale? 

There is great value in staff knowing their old equipment goes to – it does give a boost to morale especially when feedback and photos are received. With the potential to fund raise for us this is an ideal opportunity for staff to work together, building comrades together.

Computers 4 Africa has a very active Facebook page. What kind of information can we expect to find here? 

I would like to think our FB page shows an eclectic mix of relevant and interesting articles, news about our work in the UK with stories and impact from Africa, peppered with some team activities and fun bits and bobs.