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Africa case study

Page history last edited by vscekic 10 years, 12 months ago








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Jamie Kyles, who has worked in Eastern Africa 3 times as a CUSO-VSO volunteer business consultant (and whose latest placement in NW Tanzania resulted in a smallholder coffee project that has been chosen a prizewinner by the United nations in their annual SEED competition) will offer thoughts on the significant positive role that experienced volunteers can play in effecting Canadian Foreign Policy in Africa. 


Small groups of 5 to 7 participants got together and brainstormed on different aspects of society in Africa and how these can be improved and or set uo. These different areas include small businesses, arts and culture, media, corporate sector, academia, civil society, and government.




HIV/AIDS is a predominant topic. High worker turnover is posed as a major problem of enterprises in regions with high infection rates.


Human professionals or professional humanitarians? is a question posed by a participant. How is a project approached that has a human component?


Civil law pertaining to how NGO's can help access resources, investment in small businesses, empowering women by education are, skills development are a few areas that need work.


Europe seems to be a place where people from Africa go for a fixed time period to get training and education, and then returning to their home countries where local people benefit, as opposed to Canada and Australia where people come to stay. A different view was thrown in, arguing that Africans should not have to come to the West for education, these institutions and opportunities should be presented in their home countries in the first place.


Education by Westeners in Africa may be a Western worldview imposed on locals which may not be applicable and therefore contributes to the braindrain situation.


Another important subject is the issue of gender inequality. As long as women are kept out of the public sector and are marginalized, development and society will not flourish. Education for girls is often dependent on small things such as seperate latrines, one extra meal a day that needs to be bought, and the replacement for her chores such as collecting firewood and water.


Issues that were most exciting and interesting to some participants:


- The Aid model needs to change with a focus on local and sustainable growth

- Africa is not statistics and numbers, but people

- Microcredit financing is difficult and needs to be expanded

- Declining health takes a big toll on an already crippled economy

- The interconnectedness of many issues make it possible to deal with many issues at the same time

- Education for Women!






KEY QUESTION: What should Canada's relationship with Africa be like? Not just concerning aid, but making it a two way relationship. Both have something to provide, and something to take. 


Important point of the discussion here is making feasible, doable solutions. Looking at obstacles, and how they can be addressed and overcome to make initiatives successful. 

People were separated into groups to brainstorm three key solutions to issues hindering African development, and here are the key ideas presented:


OVERALL: There should be focus on long term improvement from the ground, mainly regarding education and economic improvement. Canada can benefit from economic links and trade with African countries.


- African countries are diverse, must keep that in mind

     - We should make changes in education curriculum in Canada to look at specific African countries, change the way      we think about Africa, and show the success stories in Africa. Through this, we can learn to tailor solutions to      African development, and create ones that are most likely to succeed and benefit both Africa and Canada


- Focus on the local and the long term. Not just surface solutions, but ones that will continue to help people after NGOs and companies leave the area.

     - This includes improving education; both enrollment levels and quality of it. Especially women's access to it and      ability to take advantage of it

     - Having locals play more leadership roles, and make them have more of the power over money and      management of companies

     - Build and strengthen relationships between civil society and the corporate sector- again by improving economic      well-being, providing a more stable and long term solution

     - Through developing local businesses, money can be invested and put back into the domestic economy,      providing a beneficial feed back loop


- It was also brought up the NGOs should provide more funds to established womens' organizations that have already proven effective on the ground, rather than looking from an outside perspective at what else could theoretically be done to improve livelihoods. Or, at least take tips from the solutions that have had practical relevance


- Regarding mining, it was mentioned that there should be more focus on developing small scale, artisanal mining, again to benefit both the local people. By drawing on local knowledge and experience, this should be better for the environment as well. Women should play a larger role in mining too.


- More fair-trade, and create a more level international playing field for African companies




Afterwards, groups joined to talk in depth about how these various solutions could be enacted, and how they would be most successful. This was done by looking at various aspects of each proposal, including defining the opportunity, assessing context (social, environmental, political, etc.)of where each solution might work, the possible stakeholders and their interests, and assumptions of everyone involved. Here were the key issues looked at in detail by each group.



1. Improve Women's access to education on the ground

     - Work with existing schools, and make new ones

     - Training teachers, ensure proper education. provide housing for them, make them more permanent

     - NGO's on the ground should collaborate, make sure efforts not overlapping, or contradicting

     - Government involvement, helping out 

Panel comments on this: 

     - There are virtually always success stories, we should (when possible and relevant) find these and expand on      them - not waste efforts 'reinventing the wheel'



2. Making a fair playing field in international trade

     - Give them the knowledge so that they can compete and join

     - Maybe make legislation in Canada for fair trade, so that Canadians focus on it, value it, get the public thinking      about it

Panel comments: 

     - Fair trade often involves huge bureaucratic costs, doesn't always turn out 'fair' as hoped for

     - But, hard to discuss, because there is diplomacy, big corporations, so many factors to look at when trying for      fair trade

     - Some countries don't have the means, structure maybe to even begin to regulate and implement fair trade



3. Development aid must focus on sustainable local growth

     - Local leadership, community involvement, where corruption bad - focus on local level

     - Citizen journalists can search out locals with innovative ideas to forward, experienced volunteers to do this too.

     - Canadian citizens to lobby government to put more funding into these efforts

     - Spread success stories through various media, (blogs, facebook, etc.) so that people become more aware

     - Make loans, not gifts (interest free though)

Panel comments and general response:

     - Interest free loans can be a huge enabler, would be good for Canada to support this - also, works better if a      group of people recieve this loan, because they are then accountable to each other

     - To ensure repaiment (because this can be a very real problem), can make person's or group's revenues go      through a bank, and necessarily take off small payments at a time



4. Improving education in Canada about Africa

     - Media should report more accurately

     - Change in curriculum in middle and high schools - right now history quite euro-centric

     - Change diction, language concerning Africa in media (eg. 'Ethnic conflict')

     - Exposing misconceptions we get, and replace them with accurate information. Much already being done by civil      society, and should further encourage academics and african studies instructors to make publications on the      'reality'. Promote forums for members of the diaspora to join and discuss (in our public school system too).

     - Educating educators. Again assessing where our knowledge is coming from



5. Education: improving infrastructure and curriculum

     - Making doors, windows, property maintinence (prevent theft)

     - Make incentives for teachers so they really attend and teach

     - Maybe establish lunch programs

     - Create incentives for Canada so that its more likely to actually become involved. East Africa- has mining, tourism,      Canada could benefit. 

     - Select communities where theres already Canadian presence- need Canadian donors to really buy into this, need      to get stakeholders into this for the long term. Have both foreign and local partners

     - "Trade, not Aid"

Panel comments:

     - No fee programs get more people going into school, but this can reduce quality by reducing quality. Less      space, resources, staffing.

     - Long term changes to get teachers, curriculum up to speed with increased enrollement



6. Building relationship between civil society and corporate sector

     - Build more regional economic opportunities

     - Try to make NGOs and businesses or corporations work together

     - Greater access to markets, and more female involvement in economy

     - Can facilitate networking between NGOs in areas that are in Canada's interest (to get Canada involved)

     - Can strengthen trade with Eastern Africa- NGOs might have information on area, can help corporations that      want to get involved there. Can be mutually beneficial exchange of info

Panel comments:

     - Idea that some corporations want to protect their turf




After this everyone joined to vote for the KEY issue from all of the above in finding solutions to development in Africa, and creating a positive Canada-Africa relationship. Long term commitments was very popular, and became dominant idea. Promoting media champions was also popular, as was creating government targets for trade volume, not just for development assistance.


Important point of this discussion was making feasible, doable solutions. Looking at obstacles, and how they can be addressed and overcome to make initiatives successful.











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