Change of blog platform

As the majority of people reading the blog are English-speaking, I have decided to change the blog platform to:

All previous blog posts in English have been archived on the new platform. For readers who want to be notified when a new blog post is published, please utilize the Follow-button on the right hand side of the blog.

Lessons learned: How to improve development aid

Development aid has had and will continue to play an important role in the global fight against poverty and inequality.

However, it needs to change. Some good results have been achieved, but not good as hoped for.

The prominent British researcher Paul Collier concludes that Africa south of Sahara would have been 25% poorer without development assistance. Other maintain that aid has undermined the ability of African governments to take enough responsibility for their own development.

Interestingly the most passionate advocates for increased aid to Africa are not Africans. This may be a reaction to the oversimplification in the donor community that more aid equals less poverty.

After more than 50 years of development assistance, some important lessons learned are:

1. Changes in a society largely comes from inside. Any nation, and in particular those who have a colonial history, will resist external pressure. With lack of involvement and support by those most affected by a donor initiated project, the project is almost bound to fail.

2. Without a good understanding of the politics, culture and power relations, the donors should not expect any effective impact.

3. The donors need to show respect for the recipients own decision-making process. Ability to relate and gain confidence is as important for effective aid as policy statements and money management. African countries want to be part of an international community that respect them and to not tell them how to run their country.

4. Africa has many realities. Every generalization is wrong. The opposite might also be true. To interfere and influence development in a foreign country requires knowledge and experience. Africa has never been short of advice or solution on paper from sources outside the continent. A recipient fatigue has developed.

5. Development assistance is a relatively small contribution to development. Goals and expectations on what could be achieved should therefore be modest.

6. Aid can speed up development that people have decided to carry out and has capacity to follow up. Money is not always the answer, but often it helps.

7. Donors and recipients need to reconsider where aid should intervene in development. Some countries in Africa should now be ready to take more responsibility for their own development and aid should gradually be reduced.

8. Donors should avoid building up their own state within the state with parallel structures. This might be efficient and give good short term results, but it is not development.

9. Donor support to a sector may tempt the recipient to switch their own money to consumption or to reduce their own commitment to raise taxes and collect revenues.

10. Donors should not be a key actor in another country's policy making, but be allowed to propose ideas and solutions.

Inequality and conflicts in Africa

Africa is getting richer, but political violence is on the rise again. There are now peacekeeping missions in 11 African countries. Or as one angry Nigerian wrote from Lagos: "Why is it that Africans seem to love killing other Africans?"

Nearly all conflicts in Africa is a mixture of poverty, ethnicity and religion. The impressive economic growth has not been translated into jobs for young people.

Terrorist movements and criminal gangs take advantage of the widening levels of inequality and opportunity. Poor, unemployed youth is a ticking time bomb. They are easily recruited to terrorist organizations. Governments have failed to take political action.

Sometimes ethnicity is the real source for the conflict. However, some politicians use ethnicity to promote their own ambitions.

It is important to remind ourselves of the fact that modern Africa is the creation of European conquest.

Ethnicity is an identity. The challenge is to build a unified nation with different ethnicities peacefully coexisting. Some countries, like Tanzania and Zambia, with a large number of different tribes, have succeeded. I don't think the former presidents Nyerere and Kaunda have been given the credits they deserve for having achieved this.

The two ex-presidents understood that nation building in Africa means to give some room to ethnicity and traditional identity, but not allow it to dominate the political life. 

Today we see two Africas: One is the new land of opportunity, economic growth, optimism and limitless possibilities for investors. The other Africa is the hopeless continent with poverty, hunger, corruption, crime and countries being easy prey for foreign investors and land grabbers.

Fortunately, some emerging African politicians will not use the ethnic card. They understand that failing to address Africa's inequalities is a recipe for social unrest.

The question remains, however: Will this new generation of promising African politicians (or "cheetahs" as George Ayittey label them) ever reach power? And will they, once in power, change and only follow in the footsteps of their predecessors?

Færre bistandsland - en klok beslutning?

Regjeringen har besluttet å redusere antall land som mottar norsk bistand. Det er mange gode grunner for dette.

Ikke alle norske utviklingspolitiske mål er like relevante. Landsituasjonen varierer. Norsk bistand er veldig tematisk orientert. Den svikter av og til når det gjelder å forstå den spesielle situasjon hvert enkelt land befinner seg i.

Noen land er i rivende økonomisk utvikling. Disse kan ha behov for bistand for å forsterke en positiv utvikling. Andre land mangler det meste. Det kan være interne konflikter og ekstrem fattigdom.

Det er land med autoritært styresett og stor fattigdom. Det er autoritære regimer med gode økonomiske resultater og som skårer høyt på fattigdomsbekjempelse. I noen land er det store naturressurser, mens andre er tradisjonelle jordbrukssamfunn.

En enhetlig tilnærming fra en utenlandsk giver vil alltid være feil. Noen land burde klare seg uten finansiell bistand fra utlandet, andre trenger penger for å yte de mest grunnleggende tjenester til befolkningen, mens andre har behov for faglig støtte, handelstilgang og næringslivsinvesteringer.

I dag yter Norge bistand til så mange land at det er vanskelig å innrette bistanden slik at den blir relevant for det enkelte land. 

Fortsatt er det dessverre slik at bistanden ofte er mer basert på den interne norske politiske agendaen enn på forståelse av bistandens mulighet til å bidra til samfunnsutvikling i andre land. Mange norske politikere er mer opptatt av bevilgninger enn resultater.

Jeg tror regjeringen vil oppleve at det ikke blir enkelt å gjennomføre en beslutning om å redusere antall bistandsland. Det er forsøkt tidligere uten imponerende resultater.

Bistanden som går via frivillige organisasjoner og næringslivsordningene er sett på som en global ordning unntatt konsentrasjonsprinsippet. Det er også tvilsomt om næringslivet er spesielt opptatt av konsentrasjon. For dem vil helt andre vurderinger være sentrale. Enkelte frivillige organisasjoner har en lang historie og god kompetanse for arbeid i land som neppe vil være kjerneland for norsk bistand i tiden fremover. Det er også svært gode grunner for å fortsette engasjement innen enkelte sektorer i mellominntektsland.

Det vil helt sikkert bli mange unntak til beslutningen om konsentrasjon, men jeg håper politikerne har mot til å fatte noen upopulære beslutninger.

Bad and good leaders in Africa

In my last blog post I asked for views on which African countries were blessed with good political leaders based upon the following criteria:

- Maintenance of peace and stability

- Accountable governments

- Effective public spending 

- Use of revenues for the benefit of the poor and not for the few

This "survey", totally unscientific as it is, resulted in some interesting feedback. The most common view is that there are not many examples of accountable governments working actively in improving conditions for the poor in Africa. In most countries, the ruling elite have organized society for their own benefit at the expense of the vast mass of people.

Somaliland has many supporters. More than one hundred voted for Somaliland, many of them diaspora living in UK. The second most admired country is Botswana. Many pointed to the legacy of the late Sir Seretse Khama as the main reason for the country's successes.

Number three on the list, to my surprise is Senegal. One reader argued:  ?Senegal is democratic, transparent in decision-making, and corruption is not being an obstacle to development as in many other countries in Africa?

One wanted to include Ethiopia to the list and one said it must be ignorance that made me propose Rwanda as having a good political leader!

Leadership crises in Africa - changes about to come?

There are few outstanding political leaders in Africa today, but plenty of good leaders in other areas of society. It is embarrassing that again and again no African political leader has been worthy of the Mo Ibrahim Price for Achievement in African leadership.

Africa seems to continue to be characterized by rich countries with poor people, by an elite that doesn't seem to care much about poverty and a society where patronage is stronger than democracy.

We have to accept that governance that works in Africa has moved away from the Western concept of "good governance". But the continent with so many clever and decent people deserve better political leaders than they have today.

Fortunately new young political leaders are emerging. Some opposition political parties look very promising and optimism has developed.

I have received many comments and views on what I have earlier written about political leaders in Africa. I therefore invite for more views on which African countries qualify as having good political leaders based upon the following criteria:

Maintenance of peace and stability

- Accountable governments

-  Effective public spending

-  Use revenues for the benefit of the poor and not for the few

I would like to nominate the following countries:

- Botswana

- Rwanda

- Somaliland

Other proposals are welcome!

Job creation for young people - back to the land!

Two thirds of Africans depend on farming for their livelihood. The sector's potential is enormous. The World Bank has estimated that African agriculture and agribusiness could be worth $1 trillion in 2030.

However, agriculture is not attractive for African youth. To be a farmer is regarded as backbreaking, hard labour in the fields with meagre benefits. They have seen their parents, poor with ragged clothing, using old-fashioned equipment, always short of fertilizers and other inputs to survive. Farming is for the elderly and poor in rural areas

The upcoming generation of young people, often with poor and irrelevant education, prefer to settle in urban areas in search of employment there.

Agriculture is the engine driving many African countries. Small-scale farmers are the backbone of African agriculture.

If agriculture were to get the same political support and financial investment as mining sector, agriculture would be capable of providing more jobs with decent income. Reforms have to be introduced to mechanize and produce the agriculture more efficiently.

Urban people are often fed by imported food, which undermines domestic agriculture. Africa imports $34 bn. of food annually, but could easily feed itself if agricultural productivity improved. Africa needs to add more value to its natural resources before exporting.

The need to reverse decades of policy neglect and to increase investment in African agriculture is widely recognized. Some critics, however, argue that large-scale investment can marginalize Africa's small scale farmers and open up for increased land grabbing by international companies with little understanding of local land rights.

Some agricultural economists emphasise the potential for a full range of investment options for promoting agricultural development as collaboration between small-, medium-, and large-scale players.

Foreign investment in agriculture is not necessarily 'land grabbing'. The main reason why international land-rush to Africa is providing bad news for rural people has to do with the complete failure of governance and lack of control of the decision-making process. Large land deals are signed over the heads of local people, while greedy politicians are busy getting their share of the investment.

Job creation for young people is more about political leadership and political will than about shortage of funds. When Asian countries were poor as African countries today, they decided to change their economies, starting with smallholder agriculture.

Investing in agriculture could benefit food security at both global and national level. But incentives and good policies need to be in place to attract young people to farming.

Job creation in Africa - lack of political action?

Youth unemployment in Africa is a ticking time bomb close to exploding. For many young people there is a huge gap between realities and what they read about economic growth and optimism in their own country.

Prosperity is to the benefit of the few. Leaders don't seem to care. A frustrated South African trade unionist in his anger blames his government for "delivering youth to the doors of employers to be exploited."

African leaders have declared 2009-18 "the African youth decade". Governments have launched numerous youth employment strategies, but unemployment and underemployment continue to rise.

Africa has youngest population in the world and youth account for 60% of all African unemployed.

A World Bank survey showed that about 40% of those who join rebel movements say they are motivated by lack of job opportunities.

Some African countries have tried to match the sweet words about the importance of youth employment with action, but usually too little has been done too late.

The overall impression is that many politicians have been more concerned with short-term actions without wider impacts. Often democratic elections have turned into a patronage contest rather than an election about political issues, like how to solve the youth unemployment issue.

(In tomorrow's blog post, I will sketch out proposals for increased job creation in Africa.)

Nigeria - breeding ground for violence

Look one way and my country is booming. Look another and there`s poverty and fear - exploited by Boko Haram.

I had not heard the phrase Boko Haram when I first moved to Abuja, Nigeria's capital, in 2009 ....

The National House of Assembly was domiciled in Abuja, so politicians and those who benefited from the endemic corruption peppered the landscape with sprawling, grotesque homes.

Further north, there is little evidence of prosperity - the landscape is arid and unforgiving. Even after the oil boom, when northern leaders enthusiastically dipped into the national purse, they neglected to educate the people from this part of the country.

If you are looking for a country of extremes, look no further than Nigeria. Following recent data, it has emerged as the country with the highest GDP in Africa, beating South Africa. But equally, the World Bank lists Nigeria as one of the poorest countries in terms of its revenue per capita. Even to the least fervent observer, the disparity in the distribution of wealth is palpable. Unemployment figures are appallingly high among the under thirty-fives who form 70% of the population.

According to a recent Unesco report, Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school in the world. Many of these are from northern Nigeria, where the Muslim majority has learnt to accept poverty as their faith or, even more sinisterly, as Allah`s will. 

All this serves as a background to the tragic abduction of 200 girls. They were in the process of gaining education, in a region that is under the threat by Boko Haram, which I now know - loosely translates as "Western education is forbidden"  ..... Nigeria is wounded and the scars will take years to heal. But the most effective way to defeat him (Abubakar Shekau) and everything he believes in is to ensure children, especially girls in northern Nigeria, receive a good education

(Lola Shoneyin, Nigerian novelist and poet)

Africa: Rich continent - poor people

Africa has many realities. One is the Africa sunk in poverty with dictatorial, greedy leaders, swelling population, unemployment, meagre health facilities and poor education.

The other is the new prosperous Africa with economic growth, enterprising youth and with a new generation of leaders ready to utilize the continents enormous resources not only to the benefit of the few.

Africa is rich because of its nature and people.

Africa has the largest reserve of untapped mineral resources in the world. Its fertile soil could easily feed the whole continent. Its huge rivers could supply Africa with energy. The upcoming generation has learned that where mineral resources are managed by competent governments and revenues used well, wealth has been created. Elsewhere it has fed wars and created poverty.

African countries have experiences high economic growth, but the growth did not coincide with poverty reduction.

The ruling elite has, however, been clever in directing discontent against a rival ethnic group rather than against those in power. Status quo for much of the leadership has also been maintained because they have succeeded in making the poor people believe that their survival depends on the charity of their leaders and therefore vote for them.   

People in Africa deserve better leaders than they have today.

But they have good reasons to be optimistic. It can only get better.

Why Somaliland should request for development aid

Somaliland is struggling to obtain international recognition. The territory has a good case: The economy is growing, the political system is working and the society has gone a long way in restoring peace and stability.

The African Union should carefully look into the legitimacy of independence for Somaliland and possible international recognition.

The success of Somaliland has been achieved by efforts by its own people both inside and outside the territory, with very little help from the outside world. The lack of foreign engagement enabled local political processes, without being influenced by external resources and agendas.

But Somaliland is still a very poor country. Poverty and increasing unemployment might undermine peace and stability.

Time to request for development aid?

Somaliland need to continue to grow and bring welfare to its people if the hard won peace and stability is to remain. Many other developing nations, who are now about to graduate from being aid-receiving countries, have for many years been active participants in the international community.

For Somaliland to be better connected to the international community involves exploring the possibilities and benefits of receiving more development assistance.

I know that many people from Somaliland are not convinced about the value of development assistance and regard it as a blessing in disguise. They are proud of their own "homegrown" solution in establishing a nation and fear that Somaliland could end up as another aid dependent country.

Aid works - but not always

There is a large volume of literature on the impact of foreign aid on development in Africa. There are many sweeping statements, some pointing enthusiastically to the many impressive results, others simply conclude that aid has done more harm than good.

The most trustworthy and balanced of the reports maintain that aid usually has had an important gap-filling role in meeting the immediate basic needs of poor people. Achieving more long-term sustainability has been more difficult.

Lessons learned

All experience shows that the recipient of aid need to consider where and when aid should intervene in its development. In Somaliland it would be counterproductive for outsiders to push for a system that has no purchase in the country.

Aid is often an efficient tool in speeding up development the Government has already decided to carry out. All recipients should have their own aid policy, not allowing the donors to decide the priorities of aid.

Development aid, at its best, is an enormous resource available for a country like Somaliland to enable the country to reach its development plans. In the aid community there are many dedicated and well-trained people with access to huge resources which could mean a difference for any country.

If Somaliland decides to join the aid community, resources will be accompanied with opinions on development, discussions, knowledge of experiences from other countries and other cultures, including views on human rights. For some this exposure of many different views is demanding. For others it gives motivation and energy to continue development work in their own country.

Civil society as a development partner

Some of the most efficient development organisations are the Non Governmental Organisations (NGO). A few of them have the potential to become useful actors in Somaliland. But the number of international NGOs has grown out of proportions. To find its way through the myriads of organisations, Somaliland would need a guide to assess which ones are relevant for the situation in their country.

It is important to avoid a flood of NGOs into the country undermining the enterprising spirit of the population, replacing it with a lazy dependence mentality. In addition, foreign NGOs need to be managed well by the host country in order to avoid them offering identical services and duplicating with both other NGOs and government services.

Look to Botswana

Botswana, which in the past was very dependent upon aid, did manage the aid flow in such a way that aid was used to reinforce the Government's own development projects. In Botswana the donors never became actors in policy making, except when requested for by the Government.

I believe, if managed as well as was done in Botswana, the development community could be a valuable contributor to further development in Somaliland.

Somaliland - a model for development or clan identity dressed as a nation?

I am amazed by the enthusiasm people from Somaliland have about their country. They point to the territory`s growing economy and the development of a democratic political system that works better than many others on the continent. But most important of all, they are proud of a society that has gone a long way in the restoration and maintenance of peace.

I have also been in touch with people who are critical of the clan system that has been established. The critics also say foreigners easily get trapped by Somaliland`s propaganda and that Somaliland is nothing but an artificial state recognized by no-one. They fear that the model developed in Somaliland could result in a formation of several Somali states and a permanent disintegration of Somalia.

Somaliland is a breakaway region of Somalia that declared independence from the rest in 1991. The policy of the African Union is that countries must stick to the boundaries they were given at independence. Therefore Somaliland is still not recognized by the international community. But the territory has lobbied hard to win support for its claim to be a sovereign state.

It seems as if it is up to the African Union to decide what happens to Somaliland.

President Ahmed Silanyo feels strongly about the importance of international recognition: "If we are granted international recognition during my presidency, we would put on the biggest celebration the world has ever seen".

Recently there has been an increased interest from the rest of the world in the development model worked out in Somaliland. International contact is increasing and some development organizations have initiated programmes in the country.

Some observers, however, also look upon the lack of foreign engagement in the building of modern Somaliland as an advantage. The local political process was allowed to proceed with all its time-consuming traditional consultations with little or no help from outside. Somaliland succeeded in building a system which was initially based on clan politics and respect for elders, but over time incorporated more modern political institutions.

By building on existing forms of governance instead of ignoring them, not relying upon external resources and agendas, but relying heavily upon remittances from its own people in exile, Somaliland is very different from the other Somalia.

Ali Mazrui says that Somaliland did succeed in gathering momentum as a case of "bottom up" nation building, rooted in culture and energized from within.

One key factor behind the success of Somaliland is all the people returning from the diaspora with their knowledge, experiences and resources. They helped to drive the economy and play an important role in politics. Mary Harper refer to them as the "Somaliland pioneers".

It is my impression that the international community is prepared to recognize Somaliland if the African Union decided to change its policy.

There is no doubt that Somaliland has demonstrated to the world that it is a somali state that is much more than war, hunger, Islamist extremism and piracy. But poverty and unemployment are still widespread as in many other African countries.

Even with all its weaknesses, Somaliland is a most impressive example of progress and stability, and should be acknowledged for that. 

Education in Africa: Is it about how to survive in poverty?

The Norwegian Government has decided to increase its development assistance to the educational sector. And I believe that most people will agree that any initiative aiming at improving education in Africa is worthwhile supporting.

Hopefully the Government, after 50 years of development assistance, has learned what works and what doesn't work when donors intervene in development processes in foreign countries.

Unfortunately many earlier initiatives by the donor community in the educational sector has been characterized by lack of realism, lack of knowledge of the societies within which this is to work and little appreciation of possible risks and constraints.

One experience is that the donors' focus on getting increased numbers of children in school often has come at the cost of declining quality of education. The lack of attention to whether children are actually learning has resulted in a majority of pupils failing to attain the expected levels of literacy and numeracy.

A study undertaken by the World Bank in Tanzania showed that, among seventh-grade students, 20 percent could not read a sentence in Kiswahili, 30 percent could not perform a two-digit multiplication problem and 50% could not read English. Teachers in public primary schools were absent 23 percent of the time and when present, they spent just over two hours a day teaching.

If you live in Africa, you should go to the countryside and drop into one of the local primary schools. You are very likely to find more than 50 students crammed into a class. Just a few will have textbooks. If the teacher is there, and they are often absent. The students are expected to be obedient, follow instructions, memorize from textbooks and always be at the receiving end.

I have met some African politicians who have maintained that the realistic ambitions for many schoolchildren in Africa should be to maximize the students' capability to live in and develop the local community instead of preparing them for the "modern life" outside their community. Some talk about an "Africanization" of the school system with a focus on rural life and traditional values. (Not very different from the ideology of the apartheid system!)

To improve aid to the educational sector is hard work. To discuss visions, objectives and mapping of needs are what the donors usually like the most. But the important work is to address the "how" question and to work in close cooperation with the host country to assess where the greatest barriers to development lie.

To move away from policy rhetoric to practical reality will be the hardest step for the aid community.

Waiting for the cheetahs

Why don't the African people get more of the leadership they deserve?

It is embarrassing that again and again no African leader has been worthy of the Mo Ibrahim Price for Achievement in African Leadership.

Africa is on the move forward. It is a rich continent, but the majority of its people still live in poverty and the elite doesn't seem to care. There are not many examples of accountable governments, effective public spending and revenues used to the benefit of the poor and not to the few.

In his book Africa Unchained, George Ayittey refers to African leaders as "cheetahs" or as "hippos". The cheetahs are the young and dynamic, ready to move Africa ahead.

They are, however, confronted with the hippos. The hippos belong to the older generation who cling to power and protect their territory fiercely when they perceive they are being attacked. They do whatever to avoid being forced to leave the watering hole and retire to the shade.

The optimists talk about a Renaissance in African leadership. They believe the cheetahs will open up a new chapter in Africa.

While we wait for the new generation of African leaders to emerge and replace the old hippos, a study trip to Botswana is recommended. The leaderships of Khama, Masire and Mogae should be an inspiration for forceful cheetahs aiming at a new standard of leadership.


Power hungry leaders and inequalities in Africa

"I am told that African economies grow rapidly. But so do poverty. We gain nothing from the riches. If we want to change our lives, we have to fight."

This is the essence of a e-mail I received from a Kenyan youth as a response to my blog about jobless growth in Africa.

To avoid revolts against the government, those in power has so far been clever in redirecting poor peoples' anger against another ethnic groups.

This strategy might be more difficult in the future.

Africa has some of the most hierarchical and unequal societies in the world. Often the elite talk about the need for better distribution, but this is usually a kind of windowdressing to please the international community.

I have met some of the emerging young African politicians who will not use the ethnic card and understand that failing to address Africas' inequalities is a recipe for social unrest.

The risk for riots and more social unrest is accelerated by the urbanization of the poor. Frustrated young people living in the township are easily attracted to violent criminal gangs or terrorist organisations. Access to social media also makes mobilization more easy.

African governments have done little to manage the rapid urbanization. In most African cities slum life has become the norm. Slums are not provided with public services such as electricity, sewerage, waste management and health facilities.

Unless the governments make political changes, cities might explode.

Civil wars and political violence in Africa are on the rise again. There are now peace keeping missions in 11 African countries.

More and more Africans refuse to tolerate a situation that Africa is a very rich continent but with the majority of its people being very poor.

I still wonder why it is that countries with so many decent and clever people have produced so few good leaders. Or are there good reasons to believe that the upcoming generation of African leaders is likely to develop their country different from previous generations of power hungry leaders?

Jobless growth and youth unemployment in Africa

If I were an African politician aiming at support from the youth, I would choose as my slogan "work for all" and have employment as my number one priority.

Employment is essential for youth in Africa. Not just to seek jobs, but also to become tomorrow's entrepreneurs and job creators.

Sub-Saharan Africa has had fast and impressive growth. But it has been a jobless growth. Youth unemployment has reached alarming proportions.

Maybe Africa did not plan for success.

The economic growth did not coincide with poverty elimination because it was not linked to the economic sectors that affect the poor. In low-income African countries people cannot afford to be unemployed.

Africa displays the fastest rate of urban growth in the world. It has been estimated that Africa needs to generate productive jobs for 7 to 10 million young people entering the labour force each year.

The poorly managed young population could lead to more instability and civil conflicts. Poor, urban and unemployed people are easily tempted to accept "job offers" from organisations like Mungiki in Kenya, al-Shabab or Boko Haram.

Many young people are without the requisite skills to enter the formal labour market, which has become increasingly demanding. A disturbingly high share of those who have completes primary school have difficulties with reading and writing.

The school system many places is characterized by students who are expected to be obedient, follow instructions, copy what the teacher says and memorize from the text books. Conformity is a prime virtue.

The students are not encouraged to challenge teachers' views or come forward with independent judgements, which hinders creativity.

In short, many of those entering the labour market neither have the academic skills needed nor the entrepreneurial skills to be their own job creators.

The role of aid

Both the recipient and the donor need carefully to consider where aid should intervene in development. In some countries, the donors could play the role in assisting to speed up development the host country already has decided to carry out. If governments in Africa do not "own" the programmes and are not committed to them, they are almost bound to fail.

I believe Norway and other donor countries could play a role in sharing experience in job creation and entrepreneurial skills based upon knowledge from their own countries. This, together with support to quality education, could be an important Norwegian contribution to youth in Africa and their potentials for innovation and productive employment.      

But knowledge and experience will be needed in order to embark upon such projects. It has been tried many times before with limited success.

Vocationalizing of the education system and various entrepreneurial skills development programmes have only given moderately satisfactory results. Unemployment persists even among those with technical skills. The availability of jobs have simply not been there.

There is no need to repeat the failures of the past. But the need for employment is more crucial than ever before.

So, I want to raise the "so what" question. Any proposals for solutions? Success stories? What works and what does not work? What role could a donor country like Norway play?

Bistand til motvillige mottakere?

      "Den tradisjonelle bistanden har utspilt sin rolle, den undergraver nasjonale strategier, den er patriarkalsk i sitt vesen, gjør ofte mer skade enn nytte og er ikke lenger viktig for fattige land i Sør. De som yter bistand vil gjerne fortsette og helst øke bistanden. De som skal hjelpes forsøker å si nei til bistand de ikke har bedt om. Men i bistandsbransjen lever fortsatt oppfatningen om at økte bevilgninger = mindre fattigdom"

Dette er noen av synspunktene jeg har møtt fra samfunnsaktører og forskere med interesse for bistand og utvikling. Jeg har lest all den litteratur jeg har kommer over, vært i kontakt med forskningsinstitusjoner og fått mange tilbakemeldinger på blogg og på Twitter. Inntrykket er ganske deprimerende for en bistandsarbeider.

Synspunktene kan være mer nyanserte enn hva som er referert ovenfor, men en kritisk tone gjennomsyrer det meste.

Samtidig kommer det frem synspunkter om at det fortsatt er behov for bistand, men på en mer likeverdig måte enn nå.

Meningene fra Afrika kommer i første rekke fra eliten. De som nyter godt av bistanden i form av tilgang på utdanning, helse, sosiale tjenester ville nok ha kommet med andre vurderinger og gitt helt andre svar. For mange av de fattigste er den akademiske bistandskritikken meningsløs.

Mange av forskerne retter sin kritikk mer mot bistandsbransjen enn mot selve bistanden. De påpeker det økende gap mellom hva bistandsbransjen beskjeftiger seg med og hva som skjer på bakken.

Når en forsker blir utfordret til noe annet enn å påpeke svakheter med bistanden slik den er i dag, blir svarene ofte diffuse og forslagene abstrakte.

I bloggen kommende halvår skal jeg komme med «10 forslag til bedre bistand». Forslagene vil bli sendt på «høring» i bloggen. Jeg har spesielt bedt om innspill fra interessante og meningsbærende aktører i Sør.

Where should aid intervene in development?

In some countries aid should be phased out or decreased. There are countries ready to take greater responsibility for their own development.

Other countries, many of them in Africa, can't do without aid for now.

But aid needs to change. It should be more country-oriented, recognising that development largely comes from inside. Where and how this support can be of use, varies from country to country.

From a distance it is difficult to see the African ways beneath the surface. Unless the donors go there and walk there, they don't have the knowledge about how Africa works and the social systems and networks present.

Often donors are trapped in their own policies and views on what a poor nation needs and how much money should be made available. The challenge is to find the balance between what countries in the South request and believe foreign players can contribute with, and the donor organisations' impact agenda.

The best results have been achieved when aid has been spent to speed up development policies that the recipient country already has decided to carry out and have the capacity to do. When outsiders decree the solution and pour in money, most aid is wasted.

Donors together with representatives in the host country should plan together where aid should intervene in development. A 'diagnostic' approach to development means to determine where the greatest barriers to development lie in a country.

The donors should not become a key actor in policy making, but be allowed to propose and present ideas.

Afrikanske presidenter: Derfor bekjempet vi ikke fattigdom

Politicians may have a strong incentive to maintain high level of poverty, for example by undertaking ad-hoc interventions aimed at projecting themselves as the saviours of poor during crises. As a result, the poor may feel that their survival depends on the charity of such leaders and hence the poor may continue to support these leaders by voting for them during elections (Dan Banik: Poverty and Elusive Development?)

At dette synspunktet har mye for seg kom frem på en konferanse Zambias mangeårige president Kenneth Kaunda arrangerte i Livingstone for noen år siden. Han hadde invitert tidligere afrikanske presidenter og sentrale politikere for å gjøre opp status for sine presidentperioder. Blant deltakerne i tillegg til Kaunda var to ex-presidenter fra Tanzania, tidligere presidenter fra Burundi og Botswana og tidligere generalsekretær i OAU. I tillegg deltok to diplomater fra Lusaka.

Konferansen, som ble avviklet i fortrolighet, tok en helt annen vending enn forventet. Kaunda hadde bestemt at dette skulle være en konferanse for selvkritikk og utfordret alle med spørsmålet «What did you do to fight poverty when you were president?»

Kaunda hadde lagt opp til gruppearbeid. Ungdom fra Livingstone var invitert til å stille ex-presidentene spørsmål om fattigdom. Forsamlingen ble inndelt i 5 grupper med en president i hver gruppe. Presidenten fra Burundi sa at han var ubekvem med opplegget og forslo et annet opplegg. Men Kaunda holdt på sitt. Jeg deltok i gruppa med president Mwinyi fra Tanzania.

Ungdomsrepresentantene var uredde og stilte krevende spørsmål. Mwinyi imponerte med å svare tålmodig og vennlig på spørsmålene og viste selvkritikk for manglende resultater og prioritering i arbeidet med å redusere fattigdommen i Tanzania.

Jeg fikk senere anledning til å referere fra konferansen i et møte med daværende president i Zambia Levi Mwanawasa.

Han ga uttrykk for at han ønsket å bli husket som en president som «meant a difference» for det store flertall av fattige i Zambia. Men incentivene for å gjennomføre en slik politikk var få. Hans rådgivere hadde advart han mot en politikk som gjorde at han mistet sitt grep på de fattige befolkningsgrupper. De fattige i Zambia stemte på han. Han hadde satt i gang en rekke tiltak for å hjelpe dem i krisesituasjoner og grep personlig inn for å ordne opp.

Mwanawasa så det absurde i situasjonen. Men hans rådgivere mente at fortsatt fattigdom ville være til fordel for gjenvalg ved neste valg. Han ble gjenvalgt.

Han døde kort tid etterpå og jeg tror det var en fortvilet president som innså at han ikke ble den president med det ettermæle som han håpet på.

Norske frivillige organisasjoner i tiden fremover - svar til Tord Steiro



Om noen år vil det neppe være behov for bistand, slik den er i dag. Nødhjelp og støtte til land i krise vil riktignok fortsatte, men langsiktig bistand med en «giver» og en «mottaker» er i ferd med å utspille sin rolle. Det betyr at noen organisasjoner må nedlegges eller endre sin måte å arbeide på. Og intet er vel bedre enn at en organisasjon kan si at» nå er jobben gjort» og vi avvikler?

Jeg tror tiden snart er over hvor norske organisasjoner langt på vei selv kan definerer og prioriterer hva andre land har behov for. Dette kan bety mindre arbeid for norske «rettighetsspesialister». Men det kan også bety økt etterspørsel fra land i Sør, der hvor de mener at norske eksperter har en merverdi.

Etter min mening vil norske organisasjoner som nå omstiller seg raskt, fortsatt kunne spille en viktig rolle i det internasjonale utviklingssamarbeidet. Ikke på grunn av finansielle ressurser, men på grunn av faglig tyngde. Men de må være relevante for situasjonen i andre land. Det vil være en utfordring å arbeide i spenningsfeltet mellom norske verdier og verdier og politikk i andre land. I et slikt nettverk vil ikke penger fra Norge være så viktige. Det vil være nødvendig å bortdefinere seg fra donorrollen. Etterspørselen vil gå på erfaring, ideer og kunnskap.

 Korrupsjon både i Nord og i Sør er en felles utfordring. Jeg syns incentivene i den norske nulltoleransepolitikken kan virke mot sin hensikt. Jeg er ikke sikker på at den er et effektivt virkemiddel mot annet enn «petty corruption». Dette skal jeg kommentere i et senere innlegg.

Noen norske organisasjoner er i ferd med å bli samarbeidsorganisasjoner eller nettverksorganisasjoner. Andre opptrer fortsatt som givere til stadig mer motvillige mottakere. Det er disse jeg mener har utspilt sin rolle.

Takk for et godt og relevant innlegg!


Zambia - what goes on in State House?

Below is a statement from State House in Zambia regarding one of the opposition leaders Hakainde Hichilema. It has been confirmed to me that the statement is not a fake.

Not much left of traditional Zambian values like politeness, respect and tolerance!

STATE HOUSE - UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is a morbid and queer man whose purpose to run for public office is anchored on vicious circles of tribalism and racism, slogans of hatred and death wishes for his political competitors.

Mr. Hichilema is an abominable leader who craves to see pain and anguish in others with the hope of getting to the top. This is typical of him, he is the proverbial merchant of death, the man who takes pride in wishing others ill or death.

Therefore, his utterances on the whereabouts of the President do not surprise us because when everybody including himself were on holiday with their families during the festive season and the Head of State was busy sacrificing by working throughout this period, it never mattered to him.

But now that the President has taken his vacation, he wants to infuse his cheap schemes to gain political mileage out of a genuine moment of rest for the Head of State.

We thank God the Zambian people don\t see him going far and have realized that his divisive politics of hate, tribalism and racism pays no dividends and are now shunning him.

Indeed, Mr. Hichilema is a frightened little man who has realized that he is carrying the burning sun on his back especially with the UPND`s dwindling political fortunes, but wants to disguise his leadership failures through reckless, alarming and abdominal utterances over the President`s health.

We urge him to stop being childish and petty-minded. His attempt to engage the Presidency on trivial demands like whether the President is indeed in the United Kingdom or not, barely 24 hours after State House confirmed is out rightly ridiculous.

This level of self- centeredness and desperation should be avoided by leaders especially those seeking public office. We must respect our systems of governance instead of embarrassing ourselves on the international platform through such empty and petty political discourse.

Issued by:

George Chellah

Special Assistant to the President

Færre bistandsland - en klok beslutning?

Regjeringen har besluttet å redusere antall land som mottar norsk bistand. Det er mange gode grunner for dette.

Ikke alle norske utviklingspolitiske mål er like relevante. Landsituasjonen varierer. Norsk bistand er veldig tematisk orientert. Den svikter av og til når det gjelder å forstå den spesielle situasjon hvert enkelt land befinner seg i.

Noen land er i rivende økonomisk utvikling. Disse kan ha behov for bistand for å forsterke en positiv utvikling. Andre land mangler det meste. Det kan være interne konflikter og ekstrem fattigdom.

Det er land med autoritært styresett og stor fattigdom. Det er autoritære regimer med gode økonomiske resultater og som skårer høyt på fattigdomsbekjempelse. I noen land er det store naturressurser, mens andre er tradisjonelle jordbrukssamfunn.

En enhetlig tilnærming fra en utenlandsk giver vil alltid være feil. Noen land burde klare seg uten finansiell bistand fra utlandet, andre trenger penger for å yte de mest grunnleggende tjenester til befolkningen, mens andre har behov for faglig støtte, handelstilgang og næringslivsinvesteringer.

I dag yter Norge bistand til så mange land at det er vanskelig å innrette bistanden slik at den blir relevant for det enkelte land. 

Fortsatt er det dessverre slik at bistanden ofte er mer basert på den interne norske politiske agendaen enn på forståelse av bistandens mulighet til å bidra til samfunnsutvikling i andre land. Mange norske politikere er mer opptatt av bevilgninger enn resultater.

Jeg tror regjeringen vil oppleve at det ikke blir enkelt å gjennomføre en beslutning om å redusere antall bistandsland. Det er forsøkt tidligere uten imponerende resultater.

Bistanden som går via frivillige organisasjoner og næringslivsordningene er sett på som en global ordning unntatt konsentrasjonsprinsippet. Det er også tvilsomt om næringslivet er spesielt opptatt av konsentrasjon. For dem vil helt andre vurderinger være sentrale. Enkelte frivillige organisasjoner har en lang historie og god kompetanse for arbeid i land som neppe vil være kjerneland for norsk bistand i tiden fremover. Det er også svært gode grunner for å fortsette engasjement innen enkelte sektorer i mellominntektsland.

Det vil helt sikkert bli mange unntak til beslutningen om konsentrasjon, men jeg håper politikerne har mot til å fatte noen upopulære beslutninger.  

Civil society organizations - rooted in their own societies?

Access to external funding is important for many African NGOs. It is a delicate task to foster a civil society that is rooted in their own society as opposed to the ones that mushrooms in response to donor funding. Mutual trust is the key to cooperation. The donor has the right to influence and to propose, but they should never be the key actors in policy making.

During my stay in Zambia, I met some local NGOs which managed to maintain their local legitimacy, but at the same time opened up for ideas and views from outside. I would like to mention a few:

- The Council of Churches in Zambia

- Matantala Rural Integrated Enterprise

- Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council

I followed their activities with special interest and admiration in the following fields:

- As an actor in the field. They all delivered services to those who needed it most

- As an advocate - voice of the poor in Zambia

- As a watchdog - to help develop and support actors in society and to challenge the authorities

Why is that so many promising reformers in African politics, once in power, changed and became dictatorial leaders?

(Read some of the responses I received to my tweet yesterday)


George Ayittey:

Typical African development scenario: Bad driver (leader), bad vehicle (statecraft), bad roads (infrastructure) and angry passengers fed up with lack of progress. The reformers, often under tutelage by the World Bank and IMF don`t squat about the vehicle operates; nor how to fix it. The result? Another accident. Hence, the common African saying: We struggle very hard to remove one cockroach from power and the next rat comes to do the same thing. Haba! Vehicle unfixed. Ivory Coast was declared an "economic miracle" by the World Bank in 1992; Zimbabwe in 1994, Nigeria in 1994; Tanzania in 1994; Egypt in 1998; Madagascar in 2003; Tunisia in 2008, etc. What happened to these countries? Each landed in a ditch.



Once in power they face an uphill task of implementing sound reforms. Can`t change corrupt institutions overnight let alone a country.


Bernard Simuyi:

Leaders have to repay those who helped them with education, jobs and costly election campaigns. Unless you repay, you may be expelled from your clan or family. Elections often turns into a patronage contest rather than an election about political issues.


George Phiri:

This question troubles many Africans. We hope for a new generation of African leaders who are not power hungry and greedy. Look at Mandela and presidents of Botswana Khama, Masire and Mogae.


Moussa Masumbuko:

Much has been said about African leaders and there will be much more to be said; however I do believe that we need to acknowledge that the issue is more complex than we think. Let me share with you my personal experience with one African leader. I happen to know somebody before he became president and I remember when we met later, I asked him what the challenge of being a president was. He answered: ?not having control of the systems and having other bosses than me?. Just to confirm what one of your twit suggested.

I guess most African politicians and their political machines have lost values, principles, ideologies, vision and love of their countries. You will agree with me that the consequence is that many African countries still lack rudimentary principles of the rule of law and legitimate political institutions. Therefore we observe a situation in which personal rule is the embodiment of the political system.

We know as well that personal rule political system is often characterized by rivalries and struggles of powerful, rather than impersonal institutions, ideologies, public policies that are fundamental in shaping political life. Its dynamics by nature promotes personalized state-society relationships around an absolute powerful leader with its ramifications like nepotism, cronyism etc? rather than institution-based practices of governance where institutions are powerful than single individuals. It can also be true that personal African rulers are cronies of other powers. I assume this is simply because personal rule system is based on loyalty to the leader as opposed to institutions. In personal rule system, institutions are constantly monitored and controlled by the powerful leader to ensure that there is no balance of power that could threaten the system. And cronies will do anything to protect and cherish the system that gives them advantages. Now imagine how these parallel systems of cronies and corrupted opportunists that overshadow institutions swimming in luxury will give up on their advantages. Let?s say one dictator leave the office then comes a promising leader who really wants to change, how can he navigate around and eradicate those cronies? Or will he realize that if he can?t beat them he must join them? It is really a complex situation which can of course be defeated.

The personal rule system supports the 19th-century essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson rule. In his Self-Reliance essay, Emerson famously noted, "An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man." Staff takes their cues from the cultural signifiers and behaviors of the leader. Cultures flow from the source, and people can sense it.

Det virkelige sivile samfunn

Det sivile samfunn i Afrika er mangfoldig. Få organisasjoner har en struktur vi er vant til i Norge. Men i mange land i Afrika bobler det over av sammenslutninger og bevegelser. De kan ha ulike formål og arbeidsmåte.  Noen ønsker å forandre samfunnet, andre å bevare tradisjonell kultur eller å ivareta spesielle gruppers interesser. Et økende antall bevegelser er basert på misnøye og sinne over at de ikke blir hørt eller fordi de føler seg ekskludert fra landets økonomiske vekst.

De mest innflytelsesrike gruppene er ofte knyttet til et kirkesamfunn eller ha sitt utspring i det tradisjonelle samfunn under ledelse lokale høvdinger. Disse har stor innflytelse og er sentrale aktører i samfunnsutviklingen.

De toneangivende i Afrika er ikke de organisasjoner som har oppstått som et resultat av giverfinansiering. Disse kopierer ofte givernes dagsorden og har liten legitimitet i sitt hjemland.

Men finnes også utenlandske organisasjoner, blant dem en god del norske, som har utvidet sin kontaktflate og har etablert en god samarbeidsrelasjon til lokale representative sammenslutninger. Også når disse har et annet syn på samfunnsutviklingen enn de norske.

For norske sivilsamfunnsaktører i Afrika vil det være nyttig å oppsøke en lokale kirke, følge noen gudstjenester (skaff tolk på forhånd) og få et innblikk i hva kirken og menigheten er opptatt av. Forsøk å forstå hvilken rolle kirken spiller i folks liv, registrer også hvordan selv de fattigste gir mye under kollekten. Prestenes budskap vil variere. Noen vil snakke om lydighet og underkastelse, andre fremstår som «agents of change».

Spør også om det kan være mulig å tilbringe en dag sammen med en lokal høvding. Det gjorde inntrykk på meg da jeg hadde et møte med to sentrale representanter for zambisk samfunnsliv: Den ene var en høvding for et område med 22 000 innbyggere, den andre var parlamentsmedlem for et distrikt med 20 000 stemmeberettigede og som ble valgt inn i parlamentet med 6000 stemmer.

Høvdingen mottok et godtgjøring på kr 1500 i måneden, han bodde i et tradisjonelt jordhus og benyttet sykkel som fremkomstmiddel. Parlamentsmedlemmet tjente kr 20 000 i måneden, kjørte Landcruiser og bodde et moderne hus i Lusaka.

Den ene representerte det moderne demokrati, den andre det ikke-demokratiske tradisjonelle samfunn. Det var imidlertid ingen tvil om hvem som hadde størst makt og hadde størst tillit i lokalsamfunnet.

Høvdingene kan ofte fremstå som «gammeldagse» og ukorrekte i sine synspunkter og verdier. De forsvarer ofte kultur og tradisjoner som vestlige givere har problemer med å forstå og akseptere.

Men det finnes høvdinger som er bekymret over fattigdom og manglende utvikling i sine områder. De diskuterer gjerne «harmfull traditional practices» med utlendinger. Ikke for å bli belært, men for å lytte til erfaringer fra andre land.

Religiøse grupper og tradisjonelle ledere bør kunne være viktige samarbeidspartnere for norske frivillige organisasjoner. Men disse møter du ikke på seminarer og konferanser.

Ta bilen og reis dit donorer ikke reiser, se av vinduet, gå ut av bilen, bruk god tid og du vil se hvor mange ressurssterke personer som finnes der ute og som er villige til samarbeide og som allerede spiller en viktig rolle i det sivile samfunn på sine hjemsteder.


Det sivile samfunn i Afrika - kan utenlandske organisasjoner fortsatt bidra?

Tiden er i ferd med å renne ut for enkelte av de utenlandske organisasjoner som er engasjert i  bistandsarbeid i Afrika. I mange land har utviklingen gått raskt, landene er i økonomisk vekst, organiseringen av samfunnet har endret seg og selvbevisstheten har økt.

 Det er ikke lenger opplagt at land i Afrika vil akseptere at flere tusen utenlandske hjelpeorganisasjoner etablerer seg i deres land, alle med sin egen agenda om hva landet har behov for.     

For å begrense tilstedeværelsen av utenlandske organisasjoner blir det i stadig flere land vedtatt lover som har som formål å regulere og kontrollere utenlandske bistandsorganisasjoner.

Disse drastiske tiltak skyldes ikke bare motvilje mot kritiske røster, men også en oppgitthet over alle utlendinger som kommer til landet og forteller hvordan de bør gjøre jobben sin.

I dag er mye av sivil samfunnsstøtten ikke basert på etterspørsel, men på givernes analyse av hva land i Afrika trenger av hjelp.  

De sterke aktører i det sivile samfunn i Afrika er ikke moderne, velorganiserte NGOer, men kirkesamfunn, tradisjonelle ledere, speiderbevegelser, arbeidsløs ungdom i slummen i de store byene, idrettsklubber, fagforeninger og ulike sosiale bevegelser.

Overalt i Afrika finnes det engasjerte og dyktige mennesker som ønsker å arbeider for barn og kvinners rettigheter, det er ildsjeler som vil bedre situasjonen for funksjonshemmede og mange som ønsker å engasjere seg arbeidet blant ungdom i slummen i de store byene.

Noen av de norske organisasjoner har lest endringene i Afrika godt og er i ferd med å endre både innretning og måte å arbeide på. I tiden fremover vil norske organisasjon måtte tilpasse seg mottakers prioriteringer og verdigrunnlag, og ikke motsatt. Det kan være krevende for mange.

Forbausende mange norske organisasjoner opptrer fortsatt som «givere». Bare de færreste har våget å ta skrittet i retning av å bli en samarbeidsorganisasjon eller nettverksorganisasjon.

Jeg tror utfordringen for norske frivillige organisasjoner blir å åpne seg opp for representative siviltsamfunnsaktører i Sør. De må slippes til deres organisasjoner og bli medlemmer. Deres  synspunkter og vurderinger må få like stor gjennomslagskraft som de norske synspunktene. Det blir for eksempel viktigere å knytte til seg lokale forkjempere for barns rettigheter enn å sende ut norske rettighetsforkjempere.

Det vil være en utfordring å finne en balanse mellom hva sivilsamfunnsrepresentanter i Afrika ønsker og den norske påvirkningsagendaen.

Noen norske organisasjoner er på rett spor. Andre kan ha utspilt sin rolle


Aid to civil society in fragile states - a history of many misjudgements?

The term «fragile states» refers to a heterogeneous group of countries. In these countries civil society will vary greatly, reflecting the unique history and culture of each country.

Civil society is not necessarily good in itself. In some cases civil society has contributed towards destruction of societies and played a negative role in conflicts and peace building.

Foreign support to civil society in fragile state has not always been a success story. Sometimes the donors have not understood the internal conflict of a country. Lack of knowledge, little insight in local culture and power structures have proved to be obstacles to good results.  

Donors are often attracted to groups within the country who share their values and views on development, but who have limited support and no outreach in their own country. In many countries in Africa this kind of artificial civil society is mushrooming as a response to donor funding. Donors should seriously rethink their ideology and be more willing to trade ideology for pragmatism.

In many fragile states civil society is polarized, reflecting existing conflicts within society. Civil society has sometimes contributed to the history of conflicts. In such a context it may be more important to support cooperation and reconciliation in order to facilitate trust among key fractions within society.

A civil society organisation should avoid playing a role similar to that of a political party.

One interesting example is described by Mary Harper in her book "Getting Somalia wrong" when, in her opinion, the Western powers misjudged events in Somalia and assumed too quickly that the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) constituted a threat. This misperception may well have contributed to the rise of violent Islamism. Instead of engaging with UIC and supporting its state-building initiatives, they drove it from power, destroying what was the most successful attempt since 1991 to restore order.

Rwandas suksess - en utfordring for norsk Afrikapolitikk


Redaktøren i Bistandsaktuelt har vært i Rwanda og latt seg begeistre. Han fremhever landets imponerende utvikling under Paul Kagame: Økonomisk vekst, fattigdomsbekjempelse, mødre- og barnehelse, utdanning, anti-korrupsjon, næringsvennlighet og kvinnerepresentasjon.

 Jeg er ikke i tvil om at folk flest i fattige land i Afrika ønsker en slik leder fremfor en tilsynelatende demokratisk leder som ikke bryr seg mye om fattigdomsbekjemping, som lar korrupsjonen florere, begunstiger sine egne og som har få politiske visjoner utover å sikre sin egen makt.

 Jeg har tre ganger vært i situasjoner som sier noe om det Rwanda som har vokst frem under ledelse av Paul Kagame:

 1.       For noen år siden var jeg med i en delegasjon til utviklingsminister Hilde Frafjord Johnson til Rwanda. Delegasjonen skulle møte president Kagame. Jeg kom til presidentkontorene litt senere enn de andre og spurte noen på kjøkkenet om de vise meg hvor møterommet var. Jeg traff en tynn mann med en altfor stor jakke som sa han kunne følge meg. Fremme på møterommet tok han til min overraskelse plass øverst ved bordet og ønsket den norske delegasjonen velkommen til Rwanda. Etter å ha møtt den vennlige og nesten beskjedne president Kagame på tomannshånd, var det lite nåde fra hans side når han i sin tale til delegasjonen viste til hvordan det internasjonale samfunn hadde sviktet under folkemordet, at bistandsgiverne hadde en agenda som var lite relevant for Rwanda og at fattigdomsbekjemping og ro og orden var mye viktigere enn vestens opptatthet av demokrati og rettigheter.

 2.       I utkanten av byen Ngozi I Nord Burundi kom jeg i prat med noen markedskvinner. De skulle over til Rwanda for å selge grønnsaker og frukt. De gruet seg for å krysse grensen. De burundiske grensevakter og tollere var arrogante og vanskelige. De måtte bestikkes og skapte problemer hele veien over til Rwanda. Men på rwandisk side møtte de korrekte og vennlige toll- og politifunksjonærer. De hadde satt sin ære i å være effektive og hjelpsomme og for å skape et godt omdømme for rwandiske offentlig ansatte. De fleste av kvinnene jeg møtte var hutuer og de hadde en grenseløs beundring for hva Kagame hadde fått til i Rwanda.

 3.       I Bujumbura er det hver helg et stort innrykk av gjester fra Rwanda til byens finere hoteller. De kommer til Burundi for fritt å diskutere politikk og samfunnsutvikling uten å være redde for bli overvåket, straffet eller for miste sine sivile rettigheter. En slik frihet hadde de ikke i Rwanda. De opplevde at Burundi var et mye friere og åpnere samfunn en Rwanda.

 Jeg tror redaktøren i Bistandsaktuelt har et viktig poeng når han skriver at for «Høyre-/Frp-regjeringen, som har flagget individuelle politiske rettigheter høyt, må det være et paradoks at det er nettopp slike styresett (regimer med autoritære trekk) som for tiden oppnår best utviklingsresultater.»


Reasons to be optimistic about development in Africa?


There are many sweeping statements about development in Africa. Some are optimistic and some are pessimistic. The outside world has difficulties in understanding what is happening in Africa and the extraordinary forces in play there.

And Africa is complex. For every generalization you must exclude some countries. When you think you have nailed down a certainty, you will find that the opposite is also true.

For example, ethnicity has been seen has a major reason for civil wars and unrest in Africa. But there are exceptions. War-torn Somalia has a population where the vast majority share the same language, ethnicity, culture and religion, while peaceful Zambia has more than 70 ethnical groups, 7 major languages and 73 dialects.

What we know is that two out of three Africans are under twenty-five years old. The population of the continent will double in 20 years. We also know that it will then be principally urban.

The Afro-pessimists fear unemployment, development of huge urban slums, violence, crime and civil wars. They believe that the present economic growth is temporary. The lack of employment possibilities and development of urban slums combined with poor political leadership will result in Africa as a permanent poor and undeveloped continent.

The Afro-optimists do not fear the demographic explosion. They see the expansion of urban youth and a bonanza of natural resource export as potentials for further economic development. Urban youth are the workforce best suited for innovation and productive employment.

Africa sits upon the world`s largest reserves of a whole range of essential resources and will soon learn how to negotiate on its own terms with other countries. With accountable governments, effective public spending and revenues from taxes to the benefit of the people and not to the few, Africa will be the next emerging power.

So what kind of political system is best to serve a society which is resource-rich and ethnically diverse? Is Rwanda the model, or Zambia?

 Multi-party system, as we know it in Europe, has not been a success as a mean of representing the will of the people. Most people in Africa care more about having a Government that secures peace, stability, housing, health facilities and education than a system that is democratic the way we know democracy in Europe.

Paul Collier has one answer: "The type of polity that appears most appropriate is one Africa tends not to have: strong checks and balances on how governments can use power and decentralized public spending." 

Africa and development - are the donors ready to reform?


Norwegian aid debate is, as in many other countries, characterized by donor perspectives on development. The size of the aid budget is often more important than discussing the role a donor should play in development. Visions and percentages are discussed before programmes have been agreed upon with the recipients and implementation possibilities considered.

That more aid equals less poverty is still a simplification common in many sectors of the aid community.

In my view, time has come for the donors to remind themselves that the long-term goal for aid is that the countries in the South should take greater responsibility for their own development.

For some countries in Africa increased donor funding is not the solution.

But aid at its best could contribute towards important development goals. To provide basic services to people who need them is a legitimate goal in its own right. There is extensive evidence to show that aid does reach intended beneficiaries and provides them with key services. Norad's annual result report gives many examples of success stories that both Norway and recipients have reasons to be proud of. 

However, there are also examples of quick and well-meant funding that has been counterproductive. "Needs" of a country or a sector have sometimes led to lack of efforts by those who should be in the driving seat. Sectors are taken over are enthusiastic and well-financed donors. Donors have built up their own state within a state with parallel structures and created their own decision-making systems. The government has abdicated and donors have delivered services.

Donors have often had their finger in the pie, making some countries in the South sceptical of aid from Western countries. Opposition is particularly strong against foreigners who tell them how they should do their job. President Mugabe of Zimbabwe has managed to achieve for us a baffling popularity in many parts of Africa by playing on national pride, the right to make their own decisions in their own country and not to be bullied by a former colonial power.

One of the most positive aspects of development cooperation today is that many countries in the South now take greater responsibility for their own development. They are able to generate their own funds and may reject demands from donors.

Many feel that they are better able to choose which donors to work with. Soon, maybe, the offer of assistance will exceed demand. Not so much because of the content of the assistance program, but the way it is presented and planned. Lack of respect for countries' own decision-making processes is a major weakness in the aid community.

In countries with growing economies and vast natural resources, the donor role will change. It will be an ongoing challenge and find a balance between what countries in the South request for and believe foreign players can contribute with, and the donor organizations' impact agenda.

The task of combating poverty and contribute to economic and social growth in some of the poorest and most vulnerable countries in Africa should still be high on the agenda in Norwegian development aid. But the global aid community should do away with the notion, still prominent in many aid organizations, that their own agenda is what the world's poorest people need the most.

Aid can never be more than a small tool in the efforts to combat poverty. Lack of sobriety and realism have been goodies for the critics of the aid. They point out, often with good reason, that there is a large gap between what the aid organizations say they will do and what is actually achieved.

The most realistic believe that aid at its best can only support the positive trends that are already there and only modestly change the politics and power relations, although that is what we most want to do.

The role of Norwegian aid in the years to come, I believe, will primarily concentrate on knowledge transfer, innovation, development of programmes of quality in health and education, exchange of experiences from the role of civil society, exploitation of natural resources, taxes, trade and economic development.

This post-traditional development phase, which Norway has already gone some way in, will be demanding and set high demands on skills, knowledge, competence and not least, the ability to gain the trust of the partners in the South.

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