I recently had a discussion with a local regarding his feelings of foreign volunteers in Kenya. He had an interesting perspective to offer. He said that there have historically been a lot of international NGOs with a strategy in mind to approach African nations…this however is an incorrect assumption. Even having a strategic approach for one African nation is incorrect. Why? The answer is simple really. There are thousands of tribes even within Kenya and each has their own customs, practices and ideals by which they live their lives. To have a single approach for such a large number of inherently different groups is foolhardy. Additionally, the approach is often to impose the will of the donor upon the recipients instead of listening to their needs. Example being I am a donor and want to spend $10,000 on a bunch of computers, however, the recipients can’t even pay for their electricity or it is only on for an hour a day.
Now, I cannot make the generalization that all international NGOs behave in this manner, but it does bring to light some of the issues that we are facing.
One last comment. There is a definitely lack of nationalism among the people here. There are no “Kenyan” customs because of the tribal variations I have discussed. In America we often vote along party lines, here the voting is tribally determined.