Africa: Decline of paternalism in sight
I recently assisted the United Nations
with its strategy for reconstruction
and development after
the Asian tsunami. My concern,
however, is the effect the tsunami has
had on Africa. The tsunami not only
hit the African coast, resulting in loss
of life and livelihoods; but it also drew
attention away from Africa’s perpetual
miseries – conflicts, wars, political infighting,
corruption, disease, flooding
Sub-Saharan Africa and her poor are
often forgotten by most of the developed
world unless they are sung back into
memory by Bob Geldof, Sting or Bono,
who have embarrassed the donors to
rethink their strategies, as demonstrated
recently at the World Economic Forum
in Davos, Switzerland.
Africa – and the poverty suffered
by her 1.3 billion inhabitants – was
recognised as the most critical issue to
be dealt with by the Forum and voted as
such by those who attended. The leaders
of developed countries have finally
for all nations to prosper,
interdependence amongst the rich and
poor of the world is essential. This
thinking forms crucial policy as is evident
in the recently published report of the
Commission for Africa, and the thought
piece from the British Government on
“Partnerships for poverty reduction:
Sub-Saharan Africa is likely to miss
the 2015 deadline to meet the agreed
upon poverty reduction goals by 100
years. Pervasive poverty denies dignity;
conflict and violence rob life; and HIV/
AIDS kills. Hope is an endless torment
and life is lost.
But today international donor organisations operating on the continent
are taking huge steps to ensure that Africa
and her people become independent of
donor aid. They are assisting countries to
form fair, stable and secure economies
and governments that encourage growth
and development. They are committed
to assisting those nations that promote
good governance, transparent
budgets aimed at poverty eradication,
and those that have wide consultation
with their electorates.
In addition, the donors are rethinking
their stance on conditionalities for donor
funds to be released. As President Mkapa
of Tanzania has said “Development
cannot be imposed. It can only be
facilitated. It requires ownership,
participation and empowerment, not
harangues and dictates.”
A multi-donor funded initiative in
Tanzania has established a rapid funding
envelope for quick disbursement of
funds to fight HIV/Aids, in response
to NGOs who complained that slow
fund disbursement was killing people.
In Mozambique, the USAID-funded
flood relief programme gave US$100
to each flood-affected family to assist
them to get back on their feet. It gave
money, not aid – which allowed the
families to buy what was essential to
their particular needs.
Since 1999, African countries have
had to develop Poverty Reduction
Strategies to qualify for
aid or loans.
Africa’s record for handling this
money has been far from spotless.
Too often the funds were misused or
mishandled and the poor continued to
suffer. The funding only succeeded in
creating donor dependency instead of
fostering and creating sustainability and
prosperity amongst the people it was
meant to help. Now donors investigate
ways of making market forces work for
the poor, through wide consultation
with communities about where and
how they need the money to be used.
In Malawi, for instance, through
the British Government-funded
community schools project, more than
100 schools have been built, involving
the communities in which and for
whom the schools were to benefit. By
developing the communities to become
community contractors, economic
benefits have been spread throughout
the community. The programme is still
running five years later.
I have been involved in a number
of projects where the private sector
and public sector
with far reaching results: not only
has infrastructure been built, but
communities empowered and economies
kickstarted. In all instances, the key was
a partnership, which involved a shared
understanding of the end goal and a
joint commitment to that goal.
The consequences of these
partnerships is that more donors are
attracted to giving aid to Africa, and
that solutions to the complex issues of
governance and poverty issues on the
continent will be found. Only severe
and critical re-evaluation of the way
money is managed on the continent,
coupled with a transparent and honest
structure of government, will ensure
that the lives of a majority of Africans
are substantially improved.
Garry Whitby heads up Deloitte’s
Development Solutions division.
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