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.
Interesting commentary. In my experience with the Peace Corps (Small and Medium-sized Business Development), I found the locals didn’t care at all about learning the basics of marketing and differentiating themselves in their marketplaces to drive further sales (bored yet?)… they were interested in learning English so they could apply for a U.S. visa.
What were their chances of getting a visa if they could get through the mile-long line in the capital city of Nouakchott, and manage to pay for it? About 0.005%, to which their response was, “So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance!” Amazing what we take for granted living here in the U.S.