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Friday, October 19, 2007

Will Money Solve Africa's Development Problems?

The debate about Africa's development is ON and experts are pointing to all sorts of direction regarding the way forward for the continent. In this context, world renowned John Templeton Foundation published 8 essays in a series of conversations that sought to answer the question: Will Money Solve Africa’s Development Problems? The publication featured leading scientists and scholars in which Four essayists negate; two affirm while the rest express doubt.

Below are excerpts on from the publication:

YES..... If it is invested in enhancing African capabilities to integrate the continent into global networks of knowledge and creating prosperity and stability. This will mean confronting and overcoming a triple failure: corruption and abuse of power by African governments, predatory practices by extractive industries, and the waste of resources by an uncoordinated and ineffective aid system." “Ashraf Ghani, Chairman Institute for State Effectiveness.”.

NO..... Not as long as there are issues such as prolonged violent conflict, bad governance, excessive external interference, and lack of an autonomous policy space. Alone, money cannot solve Africa’s development problems. Proof, if any was needed, is the fact that many of Africa’s natural resource-rich countries score very low on human development indicators "Dr. Donald Kaberuka, President- African Development Bank.”

Only If..... African entrepreneurs are the key to solving Africa’s development problems. It is they who can drive their continent’s economic growth and it is they who can make their governments better. If money is invested engaging the organic and transformative potential of local entrepreneurs, Africa will flourish. If money is poured into government bureaucracies – which hold back these entrepreneurs – Africa will continue to languish. “ Iqbal Z. Quadir founder GrameenPhone - Bangladesh”

No Way..... The problem in Africa has never been lack of money, but rather the inability to exploit the African mind. Picture a banana farmer in a rural African village with a leaking roof that would cost $100 to fix. If one purchased $100 worth of his bananas, the farmer would have the power and choice to determine whether the leaking roof is his top spending priority. On the other hand, if he is given $100 as a grant or loan to fix the roof, his choice would be limited to what the owner of the big money views as a priority. Out of 960 million Africans in 53 states, there are innovators and entrepreneurs who, if rewarded by the market, will address the challenges facing the continent. “ James Shikwati, founder and Director, Inter Region Economic Network”

No..... By now we should have learned. Donor nations have spent billions of dollars for development schemes in post-colonial Africa, yet there is little to show for this beyond dependency and corruption. Yet current policy and sentiment seem to advocate more of the same. Pop music and movie stars join celebrity academics in trying to shame wealthy nations into committing ever-expanding funds to address African poverty and ill health. This grand scheme mentality has remained immune from the feedback that failed programs ought to have provided. As for the intended beneficiaries, we find a psychological colonialism that has brainwashed the poor into believing the solutions to their problems are to be found in the technical know-how and largesse of wealthy countries. “ Edward Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard’s Center for Population and Development Studies.”

NO..... Clearly, money alone does not solve problems. What is needed instead are business, social, and political entrepreneurs who take responsibility for, say, making sure medicines reach victims, rather than more grandiose slogans about comprehensive administrative solutions that only serve as publicity vehicles for raising yet more money for ineffectual aid bureaucracies. Entrepreneurs would be accountable for results, in contrast to the aid bureaucrats and rich country politicians who make promises that nobody holds them accountable for keeping. “ William Easterly is professor of economics at New York University.”

YES..... But there is another way of solving this problem and it is being illuminated by, of all people, some of the poorest parents on earth. These parents are abandoning public schools en masse to send their children to budget private schools that charge low fees of a few dollars per month, affordable even to families living on poverty-line wages. In the shantytowns of Lagos, Nigeria, for instance, or the poor rural areas surrounding Accra, Ghana, or in Africa's largest slum, Kibera, Kenya, the majority of schoolchildren – up to 75% – are enrolled in private schools. “ Professor James Tooley is president, The Education Fund, Orient Global.”

I Thought So…..The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, called me to his office to assist him to build private sector capacity and improve export competitiveness. I informed him that it would not be possible for the amount of money and time he budgeted to do my job and train Rwandans at the same time. He told me the story of when he had finally accumulated enough money to provide back pay for his troops who were fighting to end the genocide. He asked them if he could use the money, instead, to purchase helicopters to help end the war sooner. Not a single soldier objected.“Michael Fairbanks is the co-founder of OTF Group, and the SEVEN FUND, which provides grants for enterprise solutions to poverty.”

Read the rest of the Essays by visiting John Templeton Foundation Website.

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