"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

6.23.2009

saving the natives


Seneglese entrepreneur Magatte Wade let Jeff Sachs and his Millenium Villages project have it over the weekend. The villages are supposed to be examples of ways to move poor communities in Africa out of poverty and into the realm of being in good health, well-educated, and, somewhere down the line, middle class villagers/peasants who have some control over their destinies. Wade dismantles the idea behind the way the villages are supposed to generate income with ease in her post, pointing out that perhaps a pack of white Ivy League professors aren't in the best position to understand how to "save Africa." Here's an excerpt:
"It enrages me that well-intentioned Americans, ranging from Hollywood celebrities, to academics such as Sachs, to philanthropists such as Soros and Gates, limit their focus on Africa largely to misguided advocacy for increased foreign aid. Rather than experiment on rural villagers in Rwanda (and in Senegal, my home country), I'd respect Sachs more if he supported real African entrepreneurs. Bono, to his credit, has moved beyond an advocacy of foreign aid to support trade through his DATA program (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa). I would like to see a new generation of caring Americans focus more on respectful collaboration with real African entrepreneurs to create great new businesses through investing in our companies, buying our products and services, selling products and services to us, and working with us as respected business equals. Poverty in Africa will be eliminated not by aid, but by entrepreneurial job creation, by real entrepreneurs creating scalable enterprises that will ultimately create millions of jobs. Despite Sachs' warning not to give us "sweets, cookies... or even money," you can, in fact, invest real money in real African entrepreneurs. In exchange, we'll supply you with great products and services because we Cheetahs are committed to excellence, to exchanging value for value rather than relying on handouts."
(Photo from the Signspotting Exhibition, currently in Copenhagen)

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