Just like Afghanistan, if all philanthropic organizations from the Western World should pull out of Africa, Africa will fall on its knees worse than Afghanistan. If the USA and its allies can totally pull out of Afghanistan so can the funders from the Western world pull out of Africa. It’s just a matter of the funders finding a trend to follow and COVID-19 showed that is possible.
Fighting poverty is like fighting a guerrilla war. Guerrilla tactics are based on intelligence, ambush, deception, sabotage, and espionage, undermining an authority through long, low-intensity confrontation. It can be quite successful against an unpopular foreign or local regime, as demonstrated by the Cuban Revolution, Afghanistan War and Vietnam War.
The simplest and the most cost-effective way of fighting guerilla warfare is to employ the service of the local people, empower them and let them handle the situation or the enemy. The same can be applied to fighting poverty, the local people need to lead their crusade.
According to Forbes, the war in Afghanistan cost America $300 million per day for 20 years, with big bills yet to come. After 20 years, the U.S. presence in Afghanistan has failed to establish any coherent and sustainable political structure with popular legitimacy. Based on that experience, and the experiences in other countries in other circumstances, there is no reason to think that a continued troop presence would change that.
But the criticisms, while valid, may be beside the point. In my view, the clear conclusion from all the evidence is that military intervention should be focused on military objectives, and should not diverge into political or social engineering.
George Santayana once said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it ,” prior to the Americans invading Afghanistan, the Soviet made the same mistake. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979 under the pretext of upholding the Soviet-Afghan Friendship Treaty. The treaty was signed in 1978 and the two countries agreed to provide economic and military assistance. They ended up leaving in shame like the Americans.
These trends are similar to the philanthropic world in Africa. Over the years, trillions of dollars have been spent on Africa all in the name of charity or change but Africa is getting worse every day. Just like the Afghan war, there are a lot of people who pretend to know how to solve our problems but the truth of the matter is that they are running on their intuition and emotions.
“We Are the World” is a charity single originally recorded by the supergroup USA for Africa in 1985. It was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian for the album We Are the World. With sales in excess of 20 million copies, it is the eighth best-selling physical single of all time (Holden Stephen, 1985).
I was two years old when this song was released and the world went crazy about the affairs on the continent of Africa. Just like “We Are the World,” there have been many hit stories, songs, movies to create the awareness of a situation in Africa; Blood Diamond, Hotel Rwanda and so on.
There have been great campaigns, stories that have moved the world all in the name of changing Africa but the truth is that the continent is growing darker every day. The poorest country in the world is Burundi, with a GDP per capita of $264 and nearly all of the world’s poorest countries are in Africa, though Haiti, Tajikistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan are notable exceptions.
Why have all these campaigns and efforts failed to improve Africa? The answer is a simple one; we the people are not in charge of our change. The big organizations from the western world have mastered how to tell our stories to raise funds and like any storyteller, they cannot perform the task after they have raised the funds.
Philanthropy is not about storytelling though storytelling is a significant part of philanthropy. Change is not about storytelling, it’s about knowledge, strategic planning and the right action of execution.
As a philanthropist from Africa, I don’t have to come up with a story because I am the story. I was born and raised in Kissehman, a slum in the Greater Accra region of Ghana. Since I was born in the slum and I know my people, I don’t have to sugar coat the story, I don’t have to make any story up, I am the story.
My mom is from a village called Klokope in the Volta Region of Ghana and I have spent over 10 years in that village to know about the sufferings of the people in that village or any typical village in Ghana or Africa for that matter.
No organization in this world that has its founders from North America, Europe or Asia is going to change Africa’s narrative. It has never happened in the history of mankind and it will not happen now, the last time we were convinced about a better future, we were enslaved and colonized.
Just like Afghanistan, if all charity organizations from the Western World should pull out of Africa, Africa will fall on its knees worse than Afghanistan. In Ghana, the basic infrastructure and system where people can donate to their favorite charities like GoFundMe, PayPal and so on doesn’t exist, even a common platform/website administered by locals where people can post volunteer opportunities and where people can volunteer doesn’t exist.
The last time I checked, there is no college offering nonprofit degrees in Ghana hence we have to depend on western education to solve local problems, we have to use western platforms to seek volunteers and donation solve local problems. Meanwhile in America and Europe, you can even have a doctorate in nonprofit management.
What happened to charity organizations teaching Africans to fish instead of giving them fish? Grantors or funders need to invest in African founded nonprofit organizations if they really want to see change. To need to pay attention to local tactics and innovations that is local community tailored solutions.
Though I am from Ghana, I am also American and as matter-of-fact I am an Afghan War Veteran, I did two tours in Afghanistan and I am very familiar with Afghanistan. While we the American soldiers were thinking about air conditioning in our tents, our Afghan counterparts didn’t care about that. We were worried about which expensive vehicles to protect us from improvised explosive device (IED) which never did. A lot of the money spent in Afghanistan was to make the US soldiers comfortable while at war, it’s war for a reason.
Like the Afghan situation, most foreign organization personnel worry about driving four-wheel cars, having a great place to reside before solving the problem in Africa. When they get through all these then they would now have to see if they even understand the situation and if not, they have to do research.
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah once said; “I am not African because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me.” I need no research to tell me about the life in Africa, I lived it; I know the ugly classrooms, I know about no electricity, I know about the mosquitos, I know about the cholera, the hunger, the abuse, the oppression, the drinking of polluted rivers, the public toilet, the wars, I know it not from research or reading but from experience.
Most organization s with the financial muscle to change Africa are from the West and just like America and The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leaving Afghanistan, I am convinced that the west will one day pull out of Africa, they will leave in a hurry and leave us like the way they left the Afghan people.
To change Africa, foundations have to invest in African founded organizations and treat philanthropy in Africa like a guerilla warfare. They need to understand that Africa is 100 years behind and the foundation is what needs to be worked on.
They also have to understand that innovation in Africa is not about going to the moon or creating the next weapon of mass destruction but rather the basic systems like platforms for local people to donate to charitable course with ease, a local platform where one can browse through to volunteer in his/her community, electricity, trash collection, better curriculum, plumbing, activity for children, community parks, libraries, better schools, and so on.
When the USA and NATO pulled out of Afghanistan, the Afghan government didn’t believe in its own defense because it was never in charge, the USA and NATO were. We are not in charge of the change in our communities, the western world is. Support us to be the agents of change in our communities to avoid Afghanistan in “Africa Philanthropy.”
Thank you for reading!