I once saw this photo of a Kenyan friend of mine on one of her friends walls. She was smiling, really happy. I love that picture of her. Right below it, was the first comment from a friend of her friends’.It read ‘Really nice to see a happy face from Africa’. Her friend and her friend’s friend live in Europe you see and after a minute, i really couldn’t fault his reaction. What was i supposed to expect from someone who’s been fed numerous photos of starving, helpless, war torn Africans, from my country and others? His shock was really just that – shock. We’ve sold ourselves and our continent as this troden people for so long and if you look closely, for a long time this has been done to raise donor funding for the various projects working to address a lot of social problems. I’m not saying that we do not have issues and matters in our developing world that we do need funding for, i’m saying is that the loudest voice we can send out?
With the current state of affairs, economically and socially, development aid isn’t as big a pool as it was a decade ago. More and more nations in the west are coming to terms with their own economic go slows, more of their citizens are in need of the same help they once sent out and its becoming clearer that there’s just not enough to go around. For some nations, economies are plateuing while needs continue to escalate. Given the choice, many would start with saving their own. Charity does, after all, begin at home. so where does that leave us? Us with this one over-sold image that has in essence crippled some of our ‘benefitting’ communities to extents of causing dependence on this ‘drug’ thats now going off the market; not so slowly either.
To aid by definition is to help, assist and in many ways donor funding from the west and other areas have done so. Still in many communities a price was paid and a dependence was cultured. Now with many funding institutions changing strategies, our own community developers are faced with the problem of a corrupt mindset with which to sell new ideas too. Corrupt because in communities that have been in receivership of donations, looking to social change through social business based platforms is quite unacceptable. Why work when you can get it for free? That’s the question they seem to keep asking.
Working with a community development based organisation has taught me that for every force of change, there is an equal reaction to counter. It has also taught me that though we have continually sold pictures of need and continually received grants in return, we still have the opportunity to now turn back and look within ourselves for solutions to our own issues. Its time for weaning, the golden taps won’t run for so much more. We ran outside for help for so long, we forgot to look inside. Now, it is time.
I do believe that we have the capacity within Africa to rebrand and rebirth. I have seen mindsets change and hands and hearts set to work. I have seen innovations by us, for us work. Indeed, many of what i see are small scale geysers but the force they pop with, turns turbines.
The donor fund pool is shrinking and who knows, a time may be coming when we will be the ones to rally support for the hands that for so long, gave to us. Foreign aid in ways blinded us and now, we may not have it for much longer. Soon we’ll ask, ‘Aid? What aid?’
I am African, I am Kenyan and i will put my money where my mouth is. I will do what i can to build my community, my nation and my continent because its an uprising, and together, we’ll rebrand our nations and our continent – in whatever small capacity we can. Its about time we send out our happy faces by making our development make us smile. Haba na haba, hujaza kibaba.
© Ang’asa Malowa