The Concoction

An Ethiopian woman's musings on Africa, the world and everything in between

Groove section
Currently praising...
    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
      Similar artists
      • African Music Encyclopedia
      • NPR's World Music feed
      • Supporting

      • Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
      • Books
        This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from Fikirte's travels. Make your own badge here.
        Global Voices Online - The world is talking. Are you listening?
        Wednesday, April 19, 2006
        Changing stoves doesn’t make the food taste better

        An African solution for African problems – what a grand idea this is! If only our politicians stop losing it when they come to power, if only they stop suffocating people, if only they stop stealing from the people, if only they stop killing or instigating killing, if only they can be made accountable….

        Several African initiatives have come and gone. The common factor for their failure or incompetence, it appears, is that the internal corruption and ethnic conflicts. However, there are several encouraging stories of ordinary people helping their communities on the way out of abject poverty.

        It’s truly mind-boggling to see money, energy and time wasted on such grand scale all in the name of developing Africa. Just looking at the African initiatives makes one’s head spin.

        The clumsy
        The Organization of African Union (OAU) was a good vision by Africans to unite Africa for socio-economic, political, promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms and “the removal of the remaining yokes of colonialism and apartheid on the continent.” This was a vision in the 1950s, and it has remained a vision. I cannot find one example where the OAU has positively contributed to Africa.

        You’d think that on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the organization, a list of we-did-this-we-did-that-and-we-kicked-butt would dominate the speech of the African Union’s chairman. Suspiciously, such bragging is missing – nothing to do with modesty - from Mbeki’s (South Africa) 2003 speech during the 40th anniversary of OAU. He went from admiring the founders straight to the “new challenges” for the organization. Nothing in between?

        In 1960's after independance, the organization was bustling with new ideas and activities.
        Nkrumah and a few other visionaries in Africa realised that the most effective way to develop Africa and Africans was to involve the state in economic activities in order to ensure that there was fairness in the distribution of the benefits from national income and growth. The new states, therefore, invested heavily in social services, particularly education and health. Huge investments also went into the building of economic infrastructure such as roads, ports, communications facilities and factories. In Ghana, the number of primary schools increased from 154 360 in 1951 to 481 500 in 1961 (211.9%); middle schools increased from 66 175 to 160 000(141.7%); secondary and technical schools increased from 3 559 to 19 143 (437.8%); teacher training colleges from 1916 to 4552 (137.5%). In 1951 there were only 208 university students in Ghana. In 1951 the number had increased to 1 204 (478.8% increase). In the health sector, number of hospital beds increased from 2 368 in 1951 to 6 155 (160% increase); rural and urban clinics increased from 1 to 30; doctors and dentists from 156 to 500 (220.5% increase). There were similar investments in transport, communications and electricity. Tanzania, Zambia and other countries followed the same path after they achieved independence.

        Then the energy evaporated and the commitment died - corruption is the culprit.

        Good thing that there are no defeatist attitudes within the organization and the continent. When the going gets tough, the tough changes its name. African Union (AU) has been the new boy’s club in town since 2002. I’m wondering if shortening the name is supposed to make it less clumsy. The AU is supposed to accelerate the integration of the continent while its visions and structure stayed the same as OAU. The Constitutive Act of the African Union states that the new body is committed to focusing on growth and development, democracy, and peace. And the OAU’s was,,,?

        The focus of OAU was
        • OAU Lagos Plan of Action (LPA) and the Final Act of Lagos (1980); incorporating programmes and strategies for self reliant development and cooperation among African countries.
        • The African Charter on Human and People's Rights (Nairobi 1981) and the Grand Bay Declaration and Plan of Action on Human rights: two instruments adopted by the OAU to promote Human and People's Rights in the Continent. The Human Rights Charter led to the establishment of the African Human Rights Commission located in Banjul, The Gambia.
        • Africa's Priority Programme for Economic recovery (APPER) - 1985: an emergency programme designed to address the development crisis of the 1980s, in the wake of protracted drought and famine that had engulfed the continent and the crippling effect of Africa's external indebtedness.

        So how different is the AU?

        The confused
        The legitimate child
        Then OAU gave birth to NEPAD (The New Partnership for African Development).
        Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa are the fathers. Poverty is the number one objective of NEPAD and good governance its number one principle.

        Since its inception in 2001, NEPAD has been confused in what it is supposed to do and particularly what it has achieved.

        “It recognises that many of Africa's problems are the result of poor leadership and aims to set up a mechanism by which leaders on the continent can scrutinise each others' performance.” I don’t think there is any point of scrutinizing if the idea was Mbeki (South Africa) style scrutiny of Mugabe (Zimbabwe) – hear evil, see evil, but say nothing.

        The surrogate brother
        The Commission for Africa is the surrogate brother of NEPAD. With some commitment to the majority of Africans, and political will the AU could do what the Commission for Africa set out to do. The duplication of organizations cannot answer Africa’s problems. As we say in Ethiopia, changing stoves does not make the food taste better.

        The neglected
        While big shots are flying around the globe attending one summit after the other, patting each other on the back and basically talking fancy stuff, ordinary African’s have rolled up their sleeves to get busy.

        An Ethiopian who set up a mobile library in rural Ethiopia using a donkey.

        A Kenyan high school principal is breaking the cycle of aid dependency by teaching his students to be self sufficient in food production. These students go back to their villages and teach others.

        A Malawian farmer is teaching people how to feed themselves despite poverty and harsh climates “using just hoes and shovels, he's built an elaborate gravity-driven irrigation system …and inch-deep trenches.”

        Farmers in Kenya are “turning to marula tree (elephant tree) farming as a way of fighting rural poverty.”

        South African priests are busy battling HIV/AIDS by distributing condoms and raising awareness while a Tanzanian traditional healer is cooking up some herbs and roots to fight infections associated with AIDS

        Kid-powered water pumps action=magazine.article&issue=Soj0602&article=060210 in South Africa and elsewhere are helping women reduce the distance and time that they have to cover to fetch water.

        An Ethiopian heart surgeon gives back to his community.

        Wangari Maathai’s speech is an excellent summary of what is wrong in Africa and what should be done. Her website has more information on her and her work.

        There are many more such examples than a Google search reveals, and these the people who fill the huge gap in Africa. The grandparents who are caring for children orphaned by AIDS, the women who pick up the pieces of wars and conflicts, teachers who get paid in kind by villagers in rural areas, health workers who volunteer to care for the sick… Although very little seems rosy in Africa, there are heart warming examples of resilience, compassion and rich culture
        posted by Fikirte @ 8:39 PM   Digg!
        • name<="c114674654200426620" id="c114674654200426620">

          At 8:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


          I read your article with much glee. Thanks for the humour and for sharing new perspectives on the age old dialogue of African development. As you noted, immeasurable contributions have and continue to be made by the average African. Those are our unsung heroes/heroines.

        Post a Comment
        << Home
        The face of VAW

        Kamilat - victim of acid burning The face of VAW - violence against women. It should and can be stopped with enough commitment. Helping one woman at a time is a start.
        Go to the blog
      • VAW - Do something!
      • Also blogging at
        Feeds, links and such
        Previously on The Concoction...
        News on Africa
        Blogs on Africa
        On development
        Western development agencies
        Template by

        Free Blogger Templates