Tuesday, 31 December 2013

What does Development Mean to you?... Never miss the VALUE for the money

Most of Africa's youth are unemployed. Reportedly, 60% of the Africa’s unemployed are aged 15-24 years, and underemployment is pervasive among rural youth and growing among urban youth. 

"Young Academics Mutating into Farmers"...
Smiling over a small garden I share with a friend
in the town on Norton, Zimbabwe. In background,
is a small portion of potatoes growing in sacks,
an Israeli technology that is growing
fast as a form of urban farming in Zimbabwe.
The technology allows for a larger number of
plants per unit area and improved management
and efficiency of input use.
Earning a University Degree, is really an envied achievement in Africa, but recently, in some African countries like Zimbabwe, the rate of unemployed graduates has soared and young people are desperate for jobs even if they do not understand the job description! What some youth are looking for, is just... a job. In the midst of the crisis a remnant of the resilient are mutating into entrepreneurs. But in this post, I want to talk about the Job and Money System and the implication it has had on African Development, of which I am very passionate about.

An article in a Zimbabwean Newspaper reads, "Each year, Zimbabwe churns out close to 10 000 graduates. But... few of them have any real chance of a job"

On the backdrop of a collapsing private sector, jobs in the non-governmental/non-profit making sector (NGOs/NPOs) are a lucrative landing for most young Zimbabweans. Some are even quickly starting their own NGOs to hopefully find a donor and at least make a living. Some have ventured into NGO or NPO through genuine passion, but the line between the authentic and inauthentic is increasingly becoming difficult to draw. 

While aid has played and will continue to play a crucial role in cushioning the impacts of poverty and vulnerability to external shocks, experts agree that it is not proving to be the answer for poverty eradication. I just read an article by David Bennett on "African Agriculture needs Trade not Aid"... and I it just confirmed the need for sustainable, practical and working solutions.

While I came across the gloomy Zimbabwean article on unemployed graduates, I then bumped into an interesting Post by a Forbes member of staff on "10 jobs that did not exist 10 years ago"! Really interesting, but in between these two observations, I began to remember reading a book by Calum Roberts entitled the "The Wealth of Nations, Timeless Concepts for Today." As I remembered this book, my memory was brought to a section where the author explains how "markets can be manipulated" and that innovation, is at times limited to a system already created, and that innovation does not always naturally create markets. In the Job Market sense, I then presumed that this might mean that "not all jobs created necessarily address specific needs" because we end up consumed by the system and miss the ultimate purpose. 

Today, I would want to believe that so many donors and African governments have a lot of financial resources. Additionally, it is not a mystery where those resources should be channeled to or in what they should be invested in to eradicate poverty. There are also so many people, young and old who have great skill and knowledge and it is also not a mystery how that skill and knowledge can be utilized to drive transformation. However, these financial resources, skills and knowledge are are not put in the right places because of impeding systems and bottlenecks.

Anyway, intuitively, I began to ask myself a day ago, do we really need some of these new "jobs" (I mean new descriptions of titles) that are emerging? What does it all add up to? For instance, let us take a look at agricultural development in Africa, I choose that because that is my profession.We could ask ourselves, "What is Development all about?"... Well "If development in poor countries is about lifting the poor people out of poverty, then all development interventions (regardless who is driving them) must be linked directly to the specific needs of the poor people. Whatever a development intervention is bout, it should automatically focus on things that make the currently poor more self-reliant rather than dependent in the near or distant future. 

I believe that some African and non-African approaches to development have failed because they have been manipulated as markets that have to create and/or sustain certain jobs or systems even if it means that "the poor remain poor or even become poorer." 

Well we all know that at a higher level, there is always a conflict of the ideals of power, governance and money between various parties while at a lower or operational level there is the hunger to find and keep employment by always pleasing our clients or partners, even when we do not necessarily have to. At the end of the day, the net effect of the forces tends to pull towards fuelling poverty and hunger instead of eliminating it.

What is your role in development? Are you an Entrepreneur... Development Practitioner... Donor... Government Officer... Student... Researcher... Consultant... ?

Are you not missing the "forest for the trees" by shortchanging long term gains for short term benefits?

Trust your instinct,
Do the right thing,
I have always said... "Never Miss the value for the money"


oh, by the way, keep on the look out for my new magazine coming soon. just follow this blog by email or RSS feed and you won't miss out! 

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