“NGOs artificially sustain a false economy whereby they push huge amounts of cash into the pockets of corrupted local African partners while taking most of the cash back to their private bank accounts in Europe and elsewhere.”
A Lethal Cocktail for Africa
Religious extremism, endemic corruption and bad governance; but now NGOs too!
The World Bank’s working definition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is ‘Private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services or undertake community development.’ But many people now ask whether the NGOs that work in Africa are progressively engaged in activities that are developmentally sustainable. And, by the way, how democratic and accountable are the NGOs?
Here in Kenya, it looks as though most Kenyan middle class individuals, and their regional counterparts who live in Nairobi, have their own non-governmental organizations or are partners in NGOs with others. Interestingly, Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is the base for this huge, unregulated and unaccountable industry that, when looking at its surface, seems to have a supporting role for the local economy, human rights advocacy and governance programmes. Nairobi is the NGOs’ capital in Africa.
I came to the conclusion, however, that the overwhelming majority of NGOs do more harm than good to livelihoods and sustainable developments in Africa. Here is my charge sheet: NGOs artificially sustain a false economy whereby they push huge amounts of cash into the pockets of corrupted local African partners while taking most of the cash back to their private bank accounts in Europe and elsewhere. Yes, they do pay the salaries of a few people here and there who support their families. But that’s not my point. The NGOs actually work against homegrown developmental strategies in Africa. The NGO operatives don’t want the recycling of aid operations—which creates chronic dependency and corruption within the receiving societies—to end. For example, NGOs are not prepared to cede some power or train local people to take over in the future, and they don’t give the confidence necessary to carry out their work to local government personnel of the countries that they operate in. Africans have the experience and the expertise to own the operations of the NGOs, but actually the foreign bosses of the NGOs want to retain power in order to continue the dependency culture that they have created.