There are three things which Africa does not need.
- More foreign aid from governments to governments
- More planners who know the answers to the problems
- More projects which give away things to poor people
I have worked in Kenya for 17 years and have spent periods of days to months in other African nations of Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, and Egypt. I have seen many projects undertaken on behalf of and for the people and have come to understand the motivation of those who fund and ‘run’ these projects.
As a Christian I am well aware of the proverb of either giving a man a fish or teaching him to fish. The first proposition of course feeds this man for a day, and the second allows him to eat for a life time.
I rewrite this proverb to say, if you give a man a fish he will:
- Ask for tartar sauce (make this product high end)
- Expect seconds with fries (ask for more stuff because we know fries are essential)
- Invite his family over (they want to eat and could use a job)
The problem with giving things away in development is that it makes it near impossible to stop giving and creates a higher expectation and dependency and codependency as we feel better about ourselves as givers.
I also rewrite this proverb to say if you teach a man to fish he will:
- Interfere with your market share
- Sell the rights and patents to your methods to your competitors
- Make a product which does not look like anything you want to claim to have inspired.
For projects to work we must have people on the ground who are already doing something positive for themselves. We must not introduce something and come on as the experts and fundraisers. William Easterly (White Man’s Burden) states that there are Planners and Searchers. The Planners stand off, stand at the top of the pyramid, have a lot of money, spend a lot of money and get results which are reflected in the 23 trillion dollars which have been invested in Africa over the past 5 decades. Searchers integrate themselves within the community of people who are already doing things, spend a lot less money and realize the joy of seeing the community rejoice in realizing their own dreams come true.
For projects to work, we must not spend a dime without first finding out firsthand who is doing successful ventures within the country and how we can work with them.