After living in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania I have come to the conclusion that we need to have a new look on development cooperation in Africa. After analysing these societies I came to the conclusion that there are things going on in African countries which are not being seen or ignored and play a significant part in the reason why after 50 or sometimes 60 years of development cooperation people are still living in extreme poverty.

I think it is time to face reality and start looking for solutions for problems which have been ignored for so long and, in my opinion, are growing by the day. My analysis is based on my observations, conversations with people and analysis of the media. The story will basically evolve around Tanzania, where I live now for 3 years. This does not mean these are problems only existing in Tanzania. Many problems I also observed in Uganda and Rwanda (although this country is a special case due to its history). Newspapers write stories about other African countries having similar problems as the ones in Tanzania.

Up till now poverty has been seen basically as a problem of financial and material resources and lack of knowledge & skills. However, in my opinion we are overlooking something more important that needs to be solved before any of these resources can take effect and alleviate poverty. What I see around me is a traumatised society with people who are psychologically barely surviving. Without tackling this problem there will never be a poverty-free Africa. In this blog I will lead you through 1. Causes for Trauma; 2. Behaviour of People; 3. The Cause-Effect Chain; 4. Solutions.

Alex Bakara

21 June 2011

4. Solutions

The cause-effect chain ultimately leads to people feeling powerless and worthless and results in depression and apathy. This brings us to the answer of the question why development aid is not working. As you can conclude from the above people are trying to survive on 2 levels:

  1. Material (water, sanitation, health, education, food, etc); and
  2. Psychological.
Up till now most actors in development aid have only focused on the material level. But as has been made clear above, it is the psychological level that keeps people in poverty. No matter how much you invest in the material level, it will never get people out of poverty. Even worse the more you invest in the material level the lower the psychological level becomes. This is one step forward, three steps back.

What is the way forward?

First of all, all budget support should stop immediately. At the moment this feeds the pockets of an immature, greedy elite and prevents the government from ever becoming responsible. In stead a group of responsible UNers (with the emphasise on responsible) should take over the functions of the government and get things back on track, in the meanwhile build the capacity of responsible Tanzanians who are able to take over after a few years. This may sound as colonialism and non-democratic (as the Tanzanians are chosen by the UN in stead of the people) but I like to call this common sense. We need a rigorous and forceful eradication of corruption and have a government who knows how to lead a country.
            All contracts with foreign companies now owning all natural resources of Tanzania should be shredded and new contracts in which the Tanzanian people actually gain from living on a ‘gold mine have to be drawn. In addition, all offshore bank accounts of current and previous top leaders should be broken open and the money returned to the government coffers. This should easily fill up the gap the cut in budget support leaves behind for the coming years.
            Secondly, all actors in development cooperation should leave the country. As at the moment they are part of the problem it is necessary to take a break. All actors should go back to the drawing table and look closely at the causes of poverty and start designing projects and programmes that actually address these causes. But for all these new efforts to be effective it is necessary that that there is an enabling environment, hence the implementation of the first action of addressing the government issue.

A new paradigm.

There is a need for a rigorous change in the concept of development cooperation. For more than 60 years development aid was based on a romantic picture of the African culture, drawn by anthropologists and others who did not realise what they were looking at. It is important to shift our ideas about the people, we should move from seeing them as victims to looking at them as actors in the process that keeps them in poverty. That opens up the opportunity to address the psychological level. As it is the psychological level that prevents people from getting out of poverty, that is were the focus should be.
What is needed is a complete cultural and behavioural change. The violence, oppression and control have to stop. People have to learn to communicate, deal with conflicts peacefully and respect the rights of women and children, among other things. People need to feel in control again over their own lives, they need self-confidence and respect, and people need to live in a safe environment free from violence. Only then will they be able to use the opportunities, tools and means which are available in an effective way to improve their lives.

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