Saturday, February 26, 2011

An evening stroll

This blog post is meant for all those who think that the UNDP/NGO sphere is really doing a great Africa job in Africa - Up Yours! And here's why:

Voinjama, Liberia

I went out for an evening stroll with my colleague Shaurya and our host Lu Tolbert in the town of Voinjama which is at the northern tip of Liberia. It is a small dusty place with old buildings scattered along the street, none of which have even a single wall that has no bullet holes in it. This was where one of the fiercest fightings took place, with rebels flooding in from Sierra Leone during the war until close to 2002 when things got calmer.

Non - Profit:

All the new buildings however, have no bullet holes. These were established post war by the UNDP and various NGOs with funds from all over the developed world: Hospitals, Schools, Offices and Government Buildings and UNMIL (UN Military in Liberia) Battalions.

The Schools and Hospitals are empty and the NGO offices have been abandoned. The local population, now used to free food and being paid to do their own work, have forgotten the importance of developing an ecosystem of self sustainability. Once the sun sets, the village is engulfed in darkness. Electricity has never reached their place. Though all UN offices glow brightly and even have decorative lights fueled by hundreds of gallons of diesel burning through the generators running for them 24/7.


Lu Talbort is a Liberian who has spent most of his life in the US. He holds a degree from Columbia University and recently quit the UN due to bureaucracy that stopped him from doing anything real. He is now back at his home country and he means business. He has invested in land for plantations and is involving the local community and teaching them how to work for their own living. He will not tolerate laziness and did not flinch while firing the Local Chief's son for shirking his duties as a night guard.

He wants profitability. It is not a shameful word and slowly people around him are beginning to realise this. Thousands of people from the local communities will now have jobs in the region.

This, I am proud to say, is a blow in the face of all NGO people I've met so far who speak of "Farmer Exploitation" by corporations investing in Africa. Mining too is not what Blood Diamond showed you to be. They are professional set-ups on large scale fueling local development and creating jobs to a great extent.

Business is a proven form of development. There is no substitute for an economy invested with the purpose of profit as long as the right people run it. Aid, even for similar objectives with their hearts in the right place, is not provided by people who understand business and hence are bound to screw things up in implementation.

1 comment:

Vimal said...

It's not about farmer exploitation but who is benefiting from the profits. I am hard pressed to think that the average citizen is the real beneficiary of the development and not the dictators/pseudo elected heads of states and their families.

Of course, corporations are important but I guess only after a stable political environment is established so that the nation's resources(labor and natural)are paid a fair value.