It is still a white man’s burden, a black leader’s story

via It is still a white man’s burden, a black leader’s story – NewsDay Zimbabwe November 2, 2015

For over a decade and half that I have been practically involved in both humanitarian and development work in Africa, I am still convinced that addressing African poverty and other problems such as humanitarian is more of a concern to West than African leaders.


This is because African leaders have played more of a victim to problems for which they should have assumed responsibility and helped addressed.

Very few African leaders stepped up to the podium to address poverty problem thus far. In most cases, African leaders rarely worry about their people dying of easily preventable causes. In fact, people who die have not been a concern to African government policies.

Funds have been re-allocated from development projects to institutions that keep leaders in power because the main concern is how they will win the next election than who is going to die next of whatever cause. The death of their people is not even anything they worry about than their retention of power.

When their people die of hunger, disease and other causes, they call on the international community for help.
In doing so, they have abrogated life-saving and livelihoods of their people to Western countries who annually commit so much money towards these causes.

While a lot has been said and written about how the West attach political and financial interests to their funds towards African development, it must also be said that African leaders have not stepped up their game to address the same problems, in equal measure as the West.

In fact, African countries have done more damage to their people than the damage caused by the ideological interests of Western funds on the African economies.

When an African leader access national funds, their first objective is to personalise the funds and save them into offshore accounts, often Western bank accounts. Every dollar that goes to the African leader, it either finds itself in their pockets or in their offshore account. It is however, part of the same money that the West uses to lend to African governments, at an interest, as part of the poverty reduction funds.

While in the West, narratives have changed with different political administrations to another, certain dynamics have remained constant.

One of them is that Western governments make tremendous efforts to commit certain amounts of funds towards addressing humanitarian needs and poverty reduction in Africa while no African government does the same for their own countries.

In some African countries governments commit more money towards military spending than development because they assume that western donor money will fund development projects.

In some countries, Western donors have provided more funding for development projects than what come from the national governments.

The European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA), for instance, have historically committed billions of dollars towards Africa, some of which have landed in the hands of African politicians, local non governmental organisations and the rest has returned back to Western countries, but at least it passes through the African soil and has saved lives. Many African governments have raised concern on both accountability and honesty of donations towards Africa from the West, but the West does not owe African countries that kind of explanation because they do not vote in their home countries.

Firstly, it must be understood that western countries do not owe African countries anything for both poverty reduction and humanitarian response. And even though, they still allocate billions of dollars and they have every reason to attach their funds to their interests because they do not owe Africa anything.

Secondly, he who pays for poverty reduction and humanitarian response bears the power to construct the poverty narrative.

Over the past many decades, African academics have complained about the African poverty story being told from a western perspective.

And they have used that to argue that such narratives undermine national or local views on how Africa should understand and address its poverty. But then without investing in these two areas, there is no way Africans would be able to construct the poverty reduction narrative unless they provide their own resources to do so.

The African poverty and the humanitarian narrative are thus left to the EU or USA junior officers who are well funded to travel to Africa to listen to Africans as they tell their stories needed to construct the western narrative of African poverty which is largely influenced by western interests. We can surely not blame them if ideas are imposed because in the first place, we do not invest in understanding ourselves. We wait to challenge, even without evidence, what has been constructed, and in most cases we do so when it does not chime with our political agendas.

For as long as our leaders do not feel threatened by prevailing development and humanitarian agendas, they will never question these even when they are detrimental to the present and future development prospects of our nations.

●Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa



  • comment-avatar
    IAN SMITH 7 years ago

    Tapiwa you are on the mark 100%.

    Not even the African Americans are interested in the native African.

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    Mazano Rewayi 7 years ago

    You are right. So we must change ourselves. Leaders are merely a reflection of the society they come from. So long as we remain lazy to think, lazy to act and afraid to to take responsibility we shall ALWAYS be dominated by others. So long as we do not research and tell our story, we shall be lied to! So long as we do not develop our own policies we shall be exploited. So long as we spend time plotting to take what already exists instead of creating something knew, we shall remain backward. And so long as we do not take stock of what we really have and work hard to improve it, we shall be looted.

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    I bet Zimbabwe would be today almost a first world country if in 1965 we had joined hands for a commen cause instead of pointing fingers and killing each other.Sadly we lost 50 years of real developement because of that although we are a very rich country in terms of our human potential ,not to mention our vast unexplored natural resources.I can only blame the elite mentality of our black and white leaders for the misery we are now in 50 years on.

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    African Americans should first start arbout talking over the social,economic and political status of the Native americans before they look back 400 years ago across the atlantic ocean.Otherwise they will remain foreigners just like their european,asian, arabic americans.

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    African Americans should sort their own problems.

    Also there should be no AID except in the case of natural disasters and for education.

    All else is a waste of money and actually destroys the economies of the “aided” countries.

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    Why have a dairy farm when you can get free milk powder from the EU//Why be a farmer we you get free maize from the USA//etc etc // AID as in AIDS kills// Both the spirit and the body// Hunger is a great incentive//Death reduces dependency//