NGOs: Just a Band-Aid Solution for Africa

I went to Africa, and I don’t want to start an Non-governmental Organization.

You don’t either if you really want to see the continent succeed.

The more these altruistic western organizations try to improve African societies the more harm they do.

The continued donation of aid through non-governmental organizations continues to facilitate a global system that subordinates African countries to the West.

Dambisa Moyo wrote in her book Dead Aid, “But has more than US$1 trillion in development assistance over the last several decades made African people better off? No. In fact, across the globe the recipients of this aid are much worse off.”

This idea extends to the now “hip” world of NGOs. Giving to the poor is always good, except when it’s not.

There is no doubt that many African countries have problems, but Westerners must let the people of the countries work through the problems alone.

It isn’t a battle we can fight.

Almost all NGOs are just bandages to the structural problems that the continent faces. Each time an organization adds another band-aid to the body of Africa, the literal bodies of Africans are covered in these bandages, as well. Each NGO adds another barrier locals must go through to work for change.

There are definitely rare exceptions, but there is one ultimate factor that keeps western organizations from ever creating sustainable lasting change: they aren’t locals.

No matter how long an NGO works in any of the 55 countries on the continent, the organization will always be seen as an outsider. When run by non-locals, that group can never truly understand the nuances of the cultures. Added to that is a continued mistrust of the West.

It can’t work.

Ideas will never take effect unless the people come up with the ideas on their own, and that happens when the idea originates from the African people. Ideas by the people for the people.

The Sahel region of Senegal is facing desertification. As climate change continues, the great Sahara desert is beginning to encroach. The wells built by NGOs and foreign governments are drying. There is little water for the people and animals, which provide the economic livelihood of the people. According to the United Nations there are 11 million people in the region facing a food crisis.

To combat the idea, Senegal, along with 10 other African countries, began to build a great green wall. Along with the wall, the program is investing in small gardens for local women, not only empowering them but feeding their families as well.

As I walked along through small trees that will make up the wall, I envisioned what it will look like in the future. Slowly the trees will grow and begin to help prevent the desertification of the country. Slowly the gardens will begin to provide more food for the villages. Slowly the women will begin to gain more power.

The program will work because it comes from the people.

This is how development works sustainably, slowly and from the people.

The West often wants results fast, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The people of Africa are intelligent, cerebral human beings capable of correcting problems facing their countries. NGOs and the West must give them a chance to do so.

It may take 20 years for the trees to grow, but they will grow and prosper.

It may take Africa generations to overcome the history of subordination and intervention, but they can and will if given the chance.

Bryan Cronan is a College junior from Griffin, Ga.