Just kidding, caught you eye though didn’t it?…
As someone who routinely criticizes the work of International agencies in Africa I was stunned when a friend asked me a while ago “What makes you think you can do a better job than them? Or is it just because you are African”
My answer to that question is what led me to leave an OK well paid job in public affairs to set up my own company directly involved in Sub-Saharan Africa, but more of that later.
Recently as I have gotten immersed in Social Media I’ve found myself connecting with Africans all across the Diaspora(or as my friend@MatthewWoods calls it expatriate Africans..what is the difference between expatriates and Diasporans?).
Through Twitter and Facebook we share stories and articles that affirm our views on how Aid is destroying the continent or how corrupt the ruling elites are and more along those lines.
Recently I’ve been thinking about whether to up sticks and move to an African country for good, these thoughts have led me to question my constant criticism of well meaning agencies who send $billions of aid to the continent.
Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and the “ubiquitous” African focused blog like mine here many Africans living cushy lives in the West have found an outlet to let out their frustration at everything from Goodluck Jonathan buying three new shiny airplanes to the horror and environmental abuse that Shell carries on in the Niger Delta with wanton disregard for life.
However the biggest whipping boy for these Angry Africans (myself included) is the “Aid Industry”, this is an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of blue-eyed consultants from the best universities in the west to figure out how to save Africa.
This industry encompasses NGO’s, Government agencies like DFID, & USAID, cultural Icons like Bob Geldof and Bono; even philantrophists like Bill Gates have not been spared the wrath of the Angry African.
The fact that 60 years on these agencies still exist tells you all you need to know(see there couldn’t resit a dig, its hardwired in me)
But the question is this,Is it time Africans in the Diaspora just shut up and got on with their lives?Or move back to the continent they claim to love and invest their skills and talents to bring about the change they talk of,or is life in the west too charmed to risk it all.
This is not a critique but rather an observation, This group I’m referring to is very different from the “Cheetahs” that Professor George Ayittey so eloquently writes about. Cheetahs & Hippos – Prof George Ayittey
The “Cheetahs” are already in working in Africa, they might not have moved permanently yet but are as involved as one can be, I’ve met many of them thanks to the new Social world, the likes of @TMSRuge who is involved in the “Women of Kireka” project, or Ida Horner
whose Ethnic Supplies business helps many poor African women earn a living by making and selling accessories and ornaments.
The group I refer to are mostly in the 20’s and early 30’s earning good money in Investment Banking, Consulting and other white coloured professions.I’m not for once suggesting that being African is the only qualification these “Angry Africans” have, indeed a lot them are Ivy-league educated or at least well educated, and successful in their chosen careers.
My gripe however is this, If we are so convinced these well meaning mostly European NGO types are wrong and lack a basic understanding of what needs to be done to eradicate the scourge of poverty from the motherland, why haven’t they re-located en-mass to Africa to make a difference.
In my current role I meet a lot of people looking to go Africa to set up companies, whether they be Social Enterprises or Oil companies looking for advice on how to lobby African Governments. What strikes me is that a lot these people are not Africans but rather Europeans or even the Chinese.
I asked friends of mine who like me have African backgrounds what it would take to go back,their responses were unambiguous!!
Unless they could find expat jobs that would pay them similar salaries to what they were currently on or roles with International organisations like ..you guessed it DFID, IFC, USAID and the usual NGO’s, then they would be staying put and commenting from the sidelines.
I know its easy to write all of this off as anecdotal but if you an African based in the West who is angry at how Africa is being mismanaged, why haven’t you taken you skills and experience to a place where it would properly make more of a difference than your office in Wall Street, Silicon Valley or the City of London.
As for me, a friend and I have set up a consultancy Burkson & Bampoh to advise people looking to set up companies in Africa, as well as advising African start-ups looking to access Western Markets on Regulatory frameworks, Funding opportunities and Legal issues they might face.
If you know of any African Start-ups that could do with our help, then please pass on the details.
In November last year 5 of us organised “BarCamp Africa-UK” to showcase how companies in the UK are using technology to make a difference on the continent, this year we hope to flip that around and offer African companies a chance to show people in the UK how they are using technology to create wealth, eradicate poverty and make a change. If you would like to take part please keep an eye out on this blog for details…
A great man once said Talk is cheap…..Screaming about how Aid has failed is the easy part, unless you are going to make yourself part of the solution then its probably best you go back to re-tweeting the article you’ve just read on how you need to shut up or pack your bags and go to where your skills can make a difference. 🙂