People must become the custodians of their own development. They understand the context and know their needs. What must be done is to assist them with what is needed to close gaps. The missing link of development in Africa is the mentality that we can do it for people. This is the reason projects collapse and some never see the day of light. We must inspire and guide communities to leverage what they have else we will only be doing experimental development which is more theatrical than reality.
We must do this using a different approach – what I call deliberative democracy. Which appreciates that in every community and many other vulnerable areas, the gap is not lack in policy provisions per se, but in implementation. And to close the gap between policy & meaningful implementation needs the meaningful engagement of citizens and non-state actors who understand the context and know their problems to identify the gaps that are needed as we guide them to fill these gaps in an enterprising way that can ensure market longevity. Through these approaches, the informal sector and youth for instance – who are the largest constituency of operational actors in Africa can start to build a shared responsibility and own processes and outcomes for a solution that provides data to inform more targeted incentives to enhance policy implementation. This is the development model we need not copy and paste models.
We must know that the biggest resilience is socio-economic. Handouts do not build resilience; they increase dependency. Resilience is built through partnership-based approaches that respect the dignity of the recipients, foster ownership and ensure sustainability. There are many approaches to creating resilience starting with what exists, with local knowledge. We must listen to and respect the opinions of local people. They may not have high levels of formal education, but they know the land and local conditions far better than the development workers who parachute in for a few weeks or months to prescribe their experimental visions. Development is what people do for themselves. It must start and end from within.
The much-hyped narrative that seems to sink deep into people is lack of finances and reason when many stand on their high horses, they pronounce people are poor because they don’t have money. That’s a trivialization of a bigger problem. Money is just part of the puzzle but not an end. We must think holistically and see things through a system thinking approach. We need to always inspire people to usher themselves into action. Truth be told- If you throw ideas and money on passionless citizens no results will occur.
If you were given money today and you bought a sewing machine without passion to learn and develop your own purposeful vision, how do you get to sewing and advance this business when you don’t even have the passion to acquire the knowledge of what to sew? How about starting to use internet bundles to study how to do these things? One doesn’t need the same amount of cash for this. Many who will say they need money have bundles which many use for social media gossip. The point is to start with what you have. Money follows value. Money is not an end but a means to an end. People have been supported with money and nothing was ever done. Throw money on a passionless human and the money gets eaten and more asked for.
Let’s change this mindset that without money nothing can be done. It’s a fallacy.
Dr. Richard Munang is a climate change and development policy expert and is the author of ‘Making Africa Work Through the Power of Innovative Volunteerism‘. Follow him on Twitter: @RichardMunang