Whose problems are they solving?

According to wikipedia an NGO is

“usually applied only to organizations that pursue wider social aims that have political aspects, but are not openly political organizations such as political parties.”

An NGO’s orientation refers to the type of activities it takes on. These activities might include human rights, environmental, or development work which can be at a local, regional, national or international scale.

 

 

In Africa there are many NGO operating under some of the above orientations. In the past NGO were majorly involved in getting aid from rich nations and distributing it, according to their orientation, to the poor nations to reduce poverty and a myriad of other social problems. The result: making the recipients subservient to their supporters and thus reducing initiative and resourcefulness that comes from people managing their own affairs in spite of their limitations.

With the prolonged credit crunch in the rich nations, the budgets of these NGO have continually been constricted year after year. In effect, the focus has now turned to the survivability of these NGOs in their areas of operation and yet they have to continue to show relevance even though after more than a century of operations the poverty and social problems they have been trying to eradicate have increased 1000-fold.

 

The result of the above has been in a reduction in the project-related funding and more on the creating networks and partnerships with both private and public sectors. (That is why whichever budding new-age president comes to power (rigs an election, coups, etc) will always find ‘friends’ in the donor community). This mainly involves organizing workshops, seminars, travelling upcountry and paying consultants to explain how all this works, etc. All this makes up for unproductive consumption for the people whose lives the NGOs are supposed to be transforming.

 

 

 

According a recently published report for example, Ugandan (East Africa) NGOs engage in activities that aid the development process such as supporting farmers (21.8%), providing credit (10.5%), sanitation (9.2%) and community development (27.5%). As is the case with caring services the world over, NGOs in Uganda are active in health, curative (15.1%) and preventative (13%), and social services, counselling (18%). From the above, it shows that the largest percentage of NGOs budgets goes to community development which involves consulting, discussion (with community leaders) and brainstorming tailor-made solutions to community problems. Inevitably, this will lead to large amounts of money being paid out to consultants, workshops, monitoring and evaluation offices, etc adversely affecting the ability of the NGOs to deliver the actual physical solutions that brought them to these areas in the first place.

 

It is an open secret that the consultants and experts that are employed are highly paid individuals whose compensation does not only include salaries and allowances but also housing, international education for their children, the latest SUVs, unlimited internet, etc. These costs could be in the tens of thousands ($) a month for one such individual. It is little wonder therefore, that many highly educated, foreign individuals have made forays into managing African projects intended to eradicate the same poverty, hunger and diseases that their predecessors have been fighting since time immemorial.

It is not bad to pay these professionals, however is it criminal that we belabour the processes of planning and consulting on problems that have existed and still do from one generation to the next? Aren’t there indigenous individuals who can be used to deliver these solutions in their areas? Don’t the NGOs need to use the enumerable reports generated by the World Bank, UN, EU, etc, instead of hiring their own experts to consult and manage these ‘projects’? These monies can then be ploughed back where it is needed most in providing solutions and changing people’s livelihoods. This as opposed to employing over priced individuals to tell people what their problems are without offering measurable, sustainable solutions.

 

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