AidEx: Coming Together to Achieve More

Open Central Asia interviews Nicholas Rutherford, founder of AidEx

For this quarterly edition OCA met Nicholas Rutherford, the founder and event director of AidEx – the world’s leading platform in aid and development sector. It comprises a conference, exhibition and networking opportunities with high-profile aid and development professionals from around the world.  Today, AidEx is the must-attend event for experts in the sector and is a unique forum that bridges the gap between civil society and the commercial sector. 

Nicholas kindly agreed to answer the magazine’s questions about his effort to make a difference in this world.

OCA: Why did you decide to found AidEx?

Nicholas Rutherford: Having seen the proliferation of defence fairs, corporate and capitalist events that do little to help developing countries, I felt there should be an alternative – an appropriate event of equal high-standing that could champion peace, be a forum for discussion amongst the world’s aid workers and a suitable market place for products and supplies needed by the A&D agencies working for a better world.

OCA: When is next AidEx event going to take place?

NR: AidEx Nairobi will take place on 13-14 September. It will bring together 500 high-level professionals from the government alongside local and major international NGOs and the UN and Red Cross.  

Following this, AidEx Brussels will take place on 15-16 November at Brussels Expo. This event brings together over 2,000 aid and development professionals with 200 suppliers of innovative products and services in the largest event of its kind in the world. The overarching conference theme for both events is Aid and Development Effectiveness: Results Through Transparency and Accountability. This year we are introducing a new conference stream specialising in international development and speakers in both conferences will come from government, NGOs and the commercial sector.

OCA: Please describe your latest AidEx event and its most important highlights?

NR: AidEx Dhaka successfully launched in July 2017 under the theme Bangladesh: A Champion in Development, to celebrate how far the country has advanced and most importantly what needs to be done if it is to continue progressing. 

A major highlight included a fantastic keynote speech delivered by the executive director of the world’s largest NGO; BRAC’s Dr. Muhammad Musa who explored Bangladesh’s development journey since the seventies. 

OCA: What products, services and goods can be presented at AidEx?

NR: The AidEx exhibition floor is split into show zones to showcase the latest products, services and innovations. The Logistics and Communications Zone includes the latest in communication technology as well as some of the world’s leading experts in freight-forwarding, and a number of businesses that specialise in new practices, administrative methodology and the transportation of goods within the developing world. In the AidEx Medical Zone, exhibitors will display a wide range of products concerned with medical evacuation, inoculation and disease prevention, as well as eye care and other field-related equipment and procedures. The Shelter Zone at AidEx is an opportunity to see cutting-edge products alongside more traditional tents and shelters. A number of new sanitation products, alongside a comprehensive range of water and solutions, are being exhibited in the W.A.S.H. Zone. The Energy Village features the latest in energy and solar solutions and new for 2017, International Development at AidEx will bring together consultancies, development banks and construction companies. The Agora Zone is at the heart of the exhibition, and features a mix of all kinds of products, many vehicles and vehicle modifications are on display as well as  relevant A&D services, country Pavilions and a number of UN Agencies and NGOs.

OCA: What are the main challenges when it comes to bringing the NGOs together with private businesses?

NR: This is not a typical business to business scenario. Aid agencies have to be very careful selecting their commercial partners and suppliers. Orders are often large and necessitate that companies have the capacity to meet a particular need. Suppliers need to understand the different purchase procedures, timelines and protocol within the sector. At AidEx in Brussels, UN Global Marketplace exhibit specifically to explain these differences and sign-up suitable suppliers who can then be given UN approval to work with multi different UN agencies. 

OCA: What are AidEx ambitions for the long-term future? 

NR: AidEx is striving to become a thought-leader in the aid and development sector. It aims to be at the very heart of the aid and development community, supporting A&D professionals and offering them a platform to engage with each other and find solutions to global problems. Since launching AidEx in Brussels, our strategy has been to engage with aid professionals in locations all over the world where aid agencies are at work. The addition of our satellite events in Nairobi and Dhaka helps us to better connect with professionals locally, to connect north with south and to provide a platform for experts who are at the cutting-edge of their region and who offer a more accurate view of what is truly happening.      

OCA: The world is evolving and so are different security threats. What do you think are the most important challenges facing developing countries?

NR: Developing in line with the needs of the very people who live there – sustainable models of development which includes facilitation and holistic methods of working. Data collection is fundamental to providing the accurate amount of resources.

The biggest but perhaps most important challenge ahead is building trust in the sector which has been tainted by corruption and disproportionately negative media narratives. The key to achieving this is transparency – getting every single government and other participatory aid and development agency around the world to open access to their data and information. This is why transparency is our theme for AidEx 2017.  

OCA: How can Central Asian NGOs and businesses participate in AidEx? 

NR: AidEx is free to attend for NGOs and they can register for our events at our official webpage. For businesses interested in booking a stand, please contact myself at

WWW.OCAMAGAZINE.COM #26 SUMMER 2017  text by Zaynab M. Dost