Yesterday I vented my frustration at the state of the aid business. It is easy for me to point fingers and note that many of the places in Africa that have been receiving aid dollars have been doing so for over 40 years; with little to nothing to show for it in the form of positive change. Western nations (and now Eastern, China is quite active in the undeveloped and developing worlds) have their own agenda’s to support…and who can blame them…democratic governments stay in power by keeping their voting citizens rich and happy.
So how do we fix the problem? There are a few ways that I really believe a person can make a difference from far away.
The most obvious, with Haiti in the nightly news is disaster assistance. When things go terribly wrong it IS important to offer aid, with an end in sight, so as to help a country or a people through a tough time. I don’t know what the situation is like in Haiti but the fact is that it is far more helpful to Haiti to have Haitians do the helping, where and when they can, than to have the US Army doing it all. This is one realm that the US will not be accused of lacking an ‘exit strategy.’
The second is education. Many of these poor countries suffer from a combination of poor education systems and brain drain, where those who are smart and well off enough to get an education leave the country for better jobs abroad. Supporting ‘in-country’ education is the only way to stop these problems and help a people grow internally, with their own—native—lawyers and lawmakers to lead the country to prosperity, making things right for business instead of right for corruption. This can only come from education and if the first teachers are Western, this should only be temporary until local teachers can take up the charge.
The third is business. If you have $100 you want to throw at Africa to help, do it as a business rather than a donor. People don’t work for donations but they do work for $$ and we’ve seen the pride people have when they work for themselves to lift themselves up and out of poverty…nothing beats it. Tourism is great, I’m clearly biased naturally, but it pumps money directly into a community and allows people to work for that income. The man with whom we booked our Tanzanian safari, Peter, started as a porter on Mt. Kilimanjaro, working his way up through cooking and assisting to eventually guiding and running his own business. He was proud, he was working hard, and it was a pleasure to do business with him. His is the kind of story that changes these poor countries for the better, not the presence of UNICEF camps and USAID food.
So if you don’t have your own business to run, we have a solution for you….help a local get themselves started in business. We’ve recently set up the ISHOULDLOGOFF.com group on Kiva.org. If you don’t know what Kiva is, you’re welcome to read up on it but it basically connects people in the West with a few dollars to spare with people in the undeveloped world who need those dollars, and you make a loan directly to them…. Yes, I said a loan. This is called micro-finance and, in my opinion will do more to help the undeveloped world than any amount of hunger porn on CNN will ever do…..