On Thursday morning I found all phone lines at the SRC to be disconnected. The bill hadn’t been paid. It gave me some time to think.
It should be obvious that the style of development aid up to the 90s was not sustainable. Food aid only helps needy peoples for a short while and boring water holes unasked has caused as much harm as benefit.
During the 90s, the attitude of Teaching The Man To Fish Instead Of Giving Him Fish started taking root and, it has to be said, it sounds good. If, such as I here in Zimbabwe, you help people become more professional, they might be able to take care of themselves better.
However, what if these people aren’t interested in learning? As I’ve seen what happened with most Geekcorps postings, the partner businesses saw the volunteers as free labor, not as catalysts of capacity building. The same holds here at the SRC. I’ve been here close to two months now, and no one is interested in learning anything. Sure, people in the organization want help and they appreciate my being here, but only as a cheap and knowledgeable employee. Of course, this might change but if it does, it won’t happen easily for appointing a counterpart means that individual will have less time to work on other things.
When I worked in Ghana, a Dutch web development firm, Explainer DC, started a branch in Accra, the capital of the country. It was started by three Dutchies, with the aim of mostly employing skilled local labor. The idea, of course, was to be able to create cheap web applications at competitive prices, both for the local as well as the international market.
I am starting see that this is the most efficient method for creating more value within developing economies. Foreign management instills more professionalism and requires it from its employees on punishment of being discharged. In such an environment, individuals will be much more motivated to learn and change their ways for it will not only teach them new things, it will also make them money. More money than they would be able to earn at a local firm.