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newtimes - 9 days ago

Africa s prosperity paradox: Huge donations, but prolonged poverty

Global concerted efforts have been directed into the fight against intractable poverty. They have ignited a glorious hope of creating sustainable prosperity. In many of the Sub-Sahara African countries, these efforts have translated into projects, including boreholes in rural communities, school infrastructure, and hospitals. Whereas these are important and essential for our day-to-day livelihoods, their impact is still far from the highly perceived and conventional metrics of development. When I volunteered with the International Citizens Service, I, with my team, lived in the rural communities of the different countries we worked in. What wasn t scarce was the number of organisations and funded projects that sought to create an enduring impact in the communities. However, where boreholes had been dug, they had broken down. The community could not repair where health centres had been constructed, there was utter deficiency in medical equipment, skilled and effective seasoned professionals. In communities on the lakeshores, mosquito nets were used for f contraceptives like condoms were inflated into balloons that children played with after school. At the dawn of the launch of these projects, excitement clouded the space. Yet within no time, the new projects joined the other hundreds of broken and unrepaired boreholes, lavishly painted, but understaffed hospitals or Youth Corners that went for weeks without any youth seeking advice on their sexual lives, yet the statistics of teen pregnancies justified the need. In the national records, it would be known that several development partners are already working on getting rid of teenage pregnancies, inculcating entrepreneurial skills, enhancing school enrolment and the quality of pedagogy. But during the annual audits, most of these communities would be ranked among the most deprived, with overshooting numbers of teen pregnancies and outstanding poor performances in national examinations. The Income Generating Activities that beneficiaries carried out only lasted as long as the different volunteers lived in the communities. As soon as these saviours and agents of change left, the projects stalled, and everyone dumped the stage-managed acts and resumed the spending it all as you earn it. The kids who attended school because these external folks were teaching stopped att the barbaric men who treated their ‘teen wives’ with great care and extravagant attention unleashed their devilish sides. They ceased to condone the young women’s aspirations and their hopes to be financially independent were shattered. It seemed, as though, these were two different when the volunteers immersed themselves in the communities and after they had left. Correlatively, this has been the same tale in Africa over the last 60 years. Over $4.3 trillion has been spent in aid in some of the poorest countries in Africa and beyond to create more prosperity. However, the record on the economic reform triggered by the aid is abysmal. At the turn of the 2020s, 16 out of 20 poorest countries, where people live on less than $1.90 a day, emerged from Africa. Instead of development being attained, several African countries have developed a more dependent syndrome, accumulating debts that are to be paid by future generations. While it is imprudent to nullify the works of the different development partners, it is, however, worth noting that they are overwhelmingly falling short of their ultimate goals. The continuous investments in fixing the visible signs of poverty have yielded minimal long term and sustainable impact. A huge magnitude of the African populace still wallows and languishes in profound poverty. At such a time, there s a need to review and adorn different lenses while attempting to solve these prolonged challenges. Helping Africa to gain economic strength is a noble cause. But unfortunately, it has turned into a theatre of the absurd- the blind leading the clueless. Projects being designed by individuals who have a good intent but no clear contextual understanding. Deliberate vertical and horizontal engagement of beneficiaries in the project designs and implementation could inspire profound ownership of the projects. The beneficiaries can learn to understand that the boreholes belong to them and not wait for the donors to fix them. Additionally, the supporters should seek to trigger a culture of entrepreneurship and unlock the spans of creativity within the people. Taking on disruptive approaches, radical, market-creating innovations that do not necessarily satisfy the conventional metrics of development could shift the trajectory. These bridges and other counterintuitive approaches that go beyond top-down approaches and innovations can help make these initiatives more effective. In the future, we are likely to see several continued failures in the most challenging and most poorly aided places but hopefully offset by a growing number of successes. The writer is a Global Challenges student at the African Leadership University. The views expressed in this article are of the author.
 


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