Recently I launched an ebook titled African Apps in a Global Marketplace which is about the African app industry. From that, I got the following (summarised) response from Joel Selanikio, co-founder of DataDyne and an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University:
"I thought your book was 99% spot on, with my only quibble being in your analysis of aid. Although I doubt you know of any real sustainable tech innovation that was created by aid (I certainly can't think of any)"
It got me thinking..
We Africans have a many complaints about aid from the West. Rightly so. It has destroyed industries, kept dictators in power, fostered a begging culture among some communities and worse, created a entire industry that dependent on there being poor, hungry and needy Africans to be used to bait donors.
But, the problem of aid is two-fold. It is not a solo act, it is a duet between the West and Africa. African culture has contributed its share to this problem.
Growing up in Africa, I can not recall a time when my parents weren't helping out relatives in need. Helping each other, in particular helping those in the rural areas or those less fortunate, is second nature to Africans. Be it relatives who cannot afford school fees, uncles with no jobs or relatives with nowhere to live. It is the community spirit we pride ourselves on. In essence, Africa has a people-powered welfare system.
Unfortunately, like welfare elsewhere, the African 'welfare' system has created a culture of dependency. Worse, because it is people-powered, its reach is wider and it is more pervasive that if it was government based like in the West. In Africa, it is easy to quickly turn to others for help.
With the world becoming a global village, it is not difficult to see how this culture would extend beyond Africans borders.
To be clear, I am not advocating for the African community spirit to be eliminated. Neither do I think helping relatives or friends is wrong. However, it should be recognised that the aid industry would not flourish in Africa without there being a conducive culture for it. Simply blaming the West has meant that we as Africans have neglected to remove the logs in our eyes as we try to remove the specs in the West's eyes.
They say charity begins at home. For Africans to eliminate their dependency on charity from the West, they have to start by being less dependent on it at home.
Check out the Afri-love interview with Andrew Mugoya, and his previous guest posts: