TED Conversations

Innocent Ukomba

Visionary, inChrist

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Can donor funding really fix African challenges, or should we empower African communities to address their own challenges?

Charity gives but does not really transform. For a very long time, donor assistance has been chanelled through to Africa and that really hasnt changed much. Could it be possible to birth a generation of people who are willing to be empowered with means of generating income that eventually get channeled back into communities for purposes of delivering renewal and transformation? How do we get communities to participate in the engineering of a promising future both for the continent and individual nations?

  • Jan 23 2013: Too much money were given to most African countries but unfortunately most African countries are awfully poor.l believe that Africa can survive or even thrive without a dime from the donors.Anyway most of money from donors are misused by the leaders.Africa needs something more powerful than money to help it become the best of the best.
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    Feb 5 2013: the greatest need in Africa is not donor funding because it has failed which means there must be something that Africa needs more than donor funding and my viewpoint is:Africa lacks practicality in the idea that it can't transform theory into practice we have degreed people but still can't transform knowledge into productivity,strategic generational projection in the idea that the problem didn't start today but it's something that accumulated over time however Africa being one of the most resourced continent i think this is where African problems are emanating from 1.systems- Africa has no power over the systems that governs them, the African systems are alluded to colonialism remember he who puts systems in place has the power to control Africa drove away colonial masters from a physical perspective but the colonial masters never loosed their mind why are the donors not teaching Africa to produce their own money i will allude also the African perpetuating problems to donors because they are promoting dependency syndrome i think what Africa needs is a drive towards a Spirit of ownership,belief in their own people,resources and begin to structure systems that work internally Africa needs to deal with corruption,leadership problems,superstitions and cruelty over it's people.
  • Feb 21 2013: Part of the problem is that Americans and people from other westernized nations have a habit of referring to Africa as one homogenized nation when this is far from the truth. Different nations in Africa experience different things, have different habits and respond to challenges and foreign aid differently. For example, foreign aid or assistance from an NGO might lead to greater corruption in Ethiopia but that same aid might also cause great change in Nigeria. For any sort of sustainable change to come about in any given African nation, there needs to be a change in mindset within that individual nation. Right now there is a tendency to forego dealings with governments based on the assumption that the majority of governments within African nations are inherently corrupt. While this might be the case, corrupt governments aren't something that should be avoided just because they can't be easily fixed. All problems are internal and no amount of foreign aid can help if these internal factors aren't fixed. It takes one person, one regime to corrupt a government and it takes the same amount of effort to fix a government. That being the case, westernized nations, IGOs, NGOs and whatever organizations that want to help need to approach the situation from a liberal standpoint based on cooperation. As in "we're here to help you with what you need, what exactly do you need?" rather than saying "this is what you need, do it this way or we won't help."
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      Feb 23 2013: Excellent thought. I endorse it.
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    Feb 2 2013: For the interest of anyone with a passionate commitment to understanding and addressing issues related to global poverty, edX, (the Coursera-like program of Massive Open Online Courses involving Harvard/MIT/Berkeley), is offering a course starting February 12 on addressing global poverty. [I have no affiliation with edX- I just know about it].

    The course is taught by two economists from the economics department at MIT.

    The course is free, like MOOCs are. For those who have not taken such a course, they involve online lectures, assigned reading, sometimes automated quizzes or assignments that are reviewed by others taking the class, typically a discussion board to interact with others taking the class, but no feedback or answers of questions from actual professional staff. No credit is offered toward a degree but one gets a certificate of completion for doing all the work at a level peers deem satisfactory.

    Courses run 6-10 weeks typically.
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    Feb 2 2013: Absolutely not! Donor funds, while appreciated, can only put a band-aid on the problem of Africa's systemic poverty. It is a question of mentalities when a strong, beautiful people lives on the richest continent on the face of the planet, yet are, by far, the poorest, too many of them with a corrupt, vicious mentality.

    Africans don't need to be given a fish. They don't even need to be "taught how to fish" although that will help. What our African brothers and sisters need is to be taught how to own the pond as well as how to maintain it once they own it. This is where proper education comes in.

    But I can't even take credit for these thoughts. I know Bishop Tudor Bismark, also from Harare, who is an international figure and meets with a group of Africa's leading pastors, etc. to ask questions like yours, Innocent. I've heard him say time and time again, that if he raises a man from the dead (which he has done before!), he wants to know why the man died so the problem can be prevented and properly dealt with when he comes back to life.

    Once the proper mentalities are in place, then the donor funds will make a lasting impact and one blessed day, you will become "the lender and not the borrower" to the benefit of the whole world.

    If you can't transform the minds of the leaders, go to the adults. If you can't go to the adults, go to the youth, and if you can't succeed with them, go to the children. They are the future of Africa.
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      Feb 10 2013: "What our African brothers and sisters need is to be taught how to own the pond as well as how to maintain it once they own it." words of wisdom, it is perfect
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    Jan 30 2013: 1. Read Brad Feld's book Startup Communities
    2. Create meetups, MakerFaires, Startup Weekends and other activities that will bring together different kind of people across a community that are trying to solve problems.
    3. Honor and celebrate the entrepreneurs in your community that are actually using for profit vehicles to solve problems.
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      Feb 5 2013: Thanks for recommending. It's a great talk indeed :)
  • Jan 23 2013: I think a few things need to be addressed on both ends. First off, those of us who wish to make a difference in Africa (with all good intentions) cannot continue to blindly provide handouts and/or donations because as I see it, this provides absolutely no incentive for the recipients to realize their potential and make a real change. On the other hand, I don't think anything from the outside will have a lasting effect because the realization must come from Africans themselves, who must be willing to bring forth change before any outside help can catalyze an awakening for communities to empower their own. Basically, we can only show others how to help themselves, and only after they themselves are willing to make a conscientious effort to change, will there ever be a change.
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    Feb 19 2013: Charity transforms if the reciever is not under the grip of foolishness. Europe benefited from the US backed Marshall plan, and Japan benefit from a similar US effort.

    The problem is not the aid; it is the lack of ideas and intellectual bankrupcy of the African elite.
  • Feb 18 2013: thanks for posting the question and for the intellectual participants. I 'm also in agreement that it will take both funding and empowerment.
    However, while most are discussing the government, I'm of the notion that it will take educated Africans carrying out a project in their village or town and demonstrating how to successful eliminate a local challenge and then move on to the next challenge. funding can help make this possible.
    We have to "think globally but act locally."

    As ex-pats we can choose to be part of the solution and not part of the problem (ex-pats who are western educated and are part of corrupt and suppressing governments).
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    Feb 13 2013: i would like to appreciate our brothers for donor funding towards Africa which is a noble initiative however, after centuries we still have the same problems perpetuated in Africa. I would like to present a viewpoint or rather give pointers on where i think donors has failed because some have stopped funding programs in Africa one way or the other they became frustrated with the level at which transformation results were presented to them.I have two points that i think that's were donors failed .1.donors didn't do an understudy of where they were putting there money into, they didn't have a tangible picture of what they were funding,and they didn't even have and understanding of how African systems work. Note every system has a character and nommater what good intends and motives we have towards bringing a change and transformation it is the system that determines effectiveness of our resources remember the kind of system that we put our resources into determines their productivity so donors did put resources into systems that removes value on ideas for transformation and also donors did put resources into characterized systems and as soon as resources enters the systems there original character and intend is changed towards personal corruptible agendas. 2. some donors failed because they funded programs in Africa with strings attached which had wrong motives which than stirred up political and social uproars due to the historical records. The only room i will give for donor funding with chances of impacting Africa is when it is put into integral systems that are accountable, but i would say for Africa if we change the systems we have and build integral and productive systems that has trans generational projections we have changed Africa, look Africa is empowered already we have resources natural and human but the greatest African challenge is a catalyst in the idea of a working integral productive systems that puts value on people's gifts,education and ideas
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    Feb 10 2013: The problem in Africa is an old one. Those in power borrow money from the monetary fund, spend it or make off with it, leaving the rest of the country with a huge debt they will never be able to pay off. So the investors have a solution. The people can elect this person that they think will help improve their lot and invest more money into the country. This person is told that the investors need to be paid the interest they loaned the other bad leader. They suggest ways to help the new leader pay back this interest by putting the people to work in menial jobs, mostly digging holes in the ground to remove the countries resources, destroying the land in the process, just to pay the interest on the loans.

    Of course they will never pay off the interest on the loans, even though they have long ago paid the principle sum they originally borrowed. It's just a viciouos circle.

    The solution is simple:

    If the principle sum is paid off, forgive the loan, forgo the interest payments and start putting the money the people make to uplift their lot by building schools, hospitals, etc.

    But of course, the monetary fund will not forgive the loan, even though the principle sum was long ago paid off.

    This is the normal way of modern societies dealing with developing countries. They don't want them to become a developed country because they would compete for the goods that make the lives of the rich pleasant. The bottom line is there is not enough resources to make 8 billion people all happy at the same time, so the system is built to depress the lives of the many so that the few can enjoy the profits of progress.

    Until the world embraces socialize, for the sake of mutual progress for everyone, then the world will not change and the fruits of progress and technology will continue to erode the earth and imprison 2/3 of the worlds population to give a few the pleasant life.
  • Feb 9 2013: I think you are on the right track attempting to get African Communities to address challenges on their own, but therein lay the problem. From my experience there are two main obstacles:

    1) Culturally engrained corruption; meaning the Western definition of corruption does not apply in these parts of the world. Mainly because the culture fosters this type of behavior in order to get ahead, which is in-turn both socially acceptable/unacceptable at the same time. Hence the vicious cycle of rebels overthrowing governments, and the new government being overthrown by new rebels with the same inherent corruption. Thus, placing the finances directly in the hands of the community seems like the simple solution, but could aid the problem as well.

    2) Any donation plan, as you say have to foster a new generation of people and ideas; mainly the idea that corruption is not a socially acceptable concept. Meaning, for any donation plan, it must be esoteric to the end-users, with deliberate planning over at least a 10 year period to make any significant impact. My theory on international assistance is that it can never be quick, with hopes for quick results. True assistance is done over generations, resulting in those people you refer to in the question that will renew and transform the community in the long run.
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    Feb 6 2013: The answer here might be both, donors funding and support African communities in addressing their challenges.
    Bill Gates talks about this in this article: "
    When Ethiopia signed on to the Millennium goals in 2000, the country put hard numbers to its ambition to bring primary health care to all of its citizens. The concrete goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds created a clear target by which to measure success or failure. Ethiopia's commitment attracted a surge of donor money toward improving the country's primary health-care services.
    With help from the Indian state of Kerala, which had built a successful network of community health-care posts, Ethiopia launched its own program in 2004 and today has more than 15,000 health posts staffed by 34,000 workers. (This is one of the greatest benefits of measurement—the ability it gives government leaders to make comparisons across countries and then learn from the best.)
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    Feb 6 2013: Dear Innocent;

    Your question is brilliant!!

    "Could it be possible to BIRTH a generation of people who are willing to be empowered with means of generating income that eventually get channeled back into communities for purposes of delivering renewal and transformation? How do we get communities to participate in the engineering of a promising future both for the continent and individual nations?"

    What is needed above all is transformation. This means a shift in the mindset. A new mindset is needed for the people who make up that community. The only hope for creating new solutions that work, is to look at the problem with a new mindset......The most effective way of creating this change (shift in mindset) is through education. What is needed is "a radical shift in education".

    Here are two great Talks, which I hope you find helpful:
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    Feb 5 2013: This is a great conversation, thank you Innocent, and all the insightful comments in peace and productivity.
    It is very fair to read here and understand how and why people get a varied perception of the vast continent of Africa... I love every country and most every moment and month I'm privileged to be there. I find all countries rich with diversity, verve and passion... and commonly challenged with infrastructure and leadership... much of the leadership behavior was seeded over years, from those who saw the many nations of Africa as an opportunity to "take"... and not as a respectful exchange. I only hope anyone curious to know more, or to feel they would like to "give" spends time on the warm African soil first, and enjoys deep listening with an open mind, what you hear will likely be amazing and will include your own heartbeat. I find real leaders give, and givers, get...
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    Feb 5 2013: The answer is no.
    That's not just my personal opinion, it's the reality - a reality in which I live.
    I'm from Guinea-Bissau and I know for a fact that although donations can have a very big impact and help solve many issues, they are not the solution mainly because they cause dependency.

    I recently discovered the work of Dr. Dambisa Moyo though interviews on several Youtube channels and I can't wait to read her book "Dead Aid". I make her words mine and I wonder how come African governments are not listening to her and other smart Africans that have been trying to shed the light on this issue for years. It saddens me that so many African leaders are educated but corrupted. Other who have real solutions are either killed or powerless.

    I deeply appreciate individual donations to global causes, but isn't it convenient to the Western governments to keep funding our dependence and underdevelopment, so they can keep exploring our resources?

    How do we get communities to transform the future? By educating them and providing a stable economy in which they can prosper. As Deekay Mgbekemdi said and I agree - it's a leadership issue. Once we have the right leaders, we'll follow the right path.
  • Feb 4 2013: Good Leadership will fix 80% of Africa problems if not More percentages.Leadership in every platform of the nations.African problem is leadership problems..Any change must begain with human capital development which then will transcend to non human capital development like the physical infrastrutures.
    Shout me at ekpere242000@yahoo.com if you like my comment.
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    Feb 2 2013: ...Can donor seed funding effectively help fund African communities to address their own challenges?
  • Feb 2 2013: Another excellent insight into what happens to donor funding in Africa is found in Micaela Wrong's book 'Its our turn to eat'. Most of the funds in these NGOs never reach the people who need them. The NGOs including the World Bank and Co. are channels for redirecting money from the lower echelons of the world's societies to the bank accounts of the wealthy and powerful. So, no, donor funding cannot fix Africa's problems and in fact is a huge part of Africa's problems, making billions available to despots to entrench their power for purposes of their own enrichment on the backs of the people.
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    Jan 30 2013: Innocent, Charles Muriithi below stated it very well. To be successful there must be a number of considerations. 1) I think there must be a person to go with the transport. 2) the transport must be of use to the reciepient. 3) there must be someone in place to recieve the goods. 4) the reciepient must understand this is not a opened ended source. 5) There must be some type of guidance to spur initiative and the will to succeed.

    In parts of Africia I read that countries are exploiting the natural resources and the labor force. In developing countries there is always in the beginning a lot of corruption.

    The long term answer is always to develop a sustainable economic structure. With corporate introduction should be the agreement of education and health programs. This is a long and hard climb but it is worth the effort.

    I wish you well. Bob.
  • Jan 28 2013: There are several books I have read that talk about this very topic. One is Dambisa Moyo's "Dead Aid" and another is Paul Collier's "The Bottom Billion." When reading both these books, I became aware that aid will never be able to permanently help the problem Africa is facing. It was set up as a temporary system and then became relied upon. This is not what it was started for. Perhaps read the two books and it will give you a bit clearer view. There are a lot of programs being started in the education systems world wide in regard to community development. It is a growing interest. The next few years will determine how well it works and who should be running these programs. As a young African, I too would like to see us change our own countries one step at a time.
  • Jan 28 2013: Provide a transparent and quantifiable profit incentive to specific community identified goals. The profit incentive applies to outside agencies and all levels of government and the community. Recognize that these are the motivating factors currently in place and exploit them for the common good. rather then simply wringing our hands and complaining about the nature of that reality.
  • Feb 20 2013: The culture in most of Africa is hopelessly flawed. The problem in Africa is not poverty, resources or education. All of these could be fixed in a decade. One need only look at the explosion in China to see this happening.

    As difficult as this is the hear, Africa suffers from a deadly combination of immorality, greed, laziness and corruption.

    There is not enough money in the world to fix this. In fact, money only makes the problem worse.
  • Feb 20 2013: Greetings Harare,
    I agree say that we need to empower African communities to address their own challenges. This has been my goal since moving to Memphis,TN. I was raised in predominantly Caucasian social environments; Church, school, community events and so on. When I attempted to educate African American communities in Memphis on the fact that we need to better understand ourselves to better understand others socially, i became an outcast. I was told that I had the "White woman mentality and needed to move on out!"
    Yes, what you want is very possible, but the learners got to catch on and take the initiative to know, grow and succeed at committing to the cause. If its hard where you are, it got to be easy here. but people do not get it.
    God bless and thank you
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    Feb 18 2013: Empowerment is the key
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    Feb 18 2013: very interesting insights coming through. Patience, There is a lot of significance in what you have said.