Rwandans in the Diaspora supported by those inside the country have come out with a novel idea of raising financial resources to fill up the gap left by some of the development partners (donors) who have unceremoniously decided to pull out of their financial commitments to Rwanda's development agenda.
It is like donors are comfortably balancing their books on the backs of the poor! The reason advanced by our benevolent benefactors is Rwanda's ostensible involvement in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, an area that the Kinshasha government seems to have left to the devices of NGOs and a galaxy of non-state actors to operate in with reckless abandon.
While foreign aid to Africa is theoretically attractive, it is based on a misguided faith that you rely on humanitarian altruism to end human misery. The experience of human history and nature teaches us that the greatest driver of human progress has been self-interest, not altruism. Despite recent improvements in economic performance, Africa still lags behind on trade. Africa's exports remain dominated by primary commodities. And there has been much frustration with humanitarian driven agendas to tackle Africa's misery and dependency.
'Aid experts' dispensing their advice from the comfort zones of their air conditioned offices in Western capitals cannot promote real progressive change because the driving motive is self-perpetuation not rapid capital accumulation.
I should not be misunderstood to mean that international development assistance is blind to the need to develop Africa's fledging private enterprise. What I am saying here is that private enterprise development, especially indigenous private enterprise, is given lip service as most resources are devoted to charity-driven agendas of food relief, clean water, education and basic health care for all.
The international aid system has over the years achieved some humanitarian goals but only at the price of disabling the most important mechanism to create future capacity. This is the way to go.
Looking at NGOs one cannot fail to observe that they have created a dependency syndrome among Africans and their governments, which rely increasingly on them to provide services that would ordinarily be provided by the state. Undoubtedly, in war-torn countries where central governments have lost touch with the people, these NGOs have played a critically important role.
However, even in peaceful countries across the African continent, it does not absolve governments of their responsibility, if villages are helped by NGOs to put up schools and health centres.
Rwanda's case is worth mentioning. No one doubts the 'dependency mentality' created by both former leaders of this country and the donor community plus the affiliated galaxy of NGOs. It was and still is not uncommon to find some small remote centres twinned to some towns in Europe. This is the concept of Jummellage. I should not be misunderstood to be against the noble philosophy of 'turning' of Africa's remote areas to more affluent centres in Europe and the rest of the developed world.
This is indeed a benevolent gesture from our more well to do friends. My worry however remains the dependency attitude and perhaps mindset it creates among the people it is supposed to help.
A country that depends on nearly 51% of her GDP on foreign assistance or aid risks loss of independence and integrity. And yet these two critical components of national sovereignty are the very hallmarks of this country's very essence.
The salvation of our less to do countries ultimately lies in establishing home-based initiatives such as the Agaciro Development Fund and other initiatives including the creation of strong indigenous NGOs that are rooted in our socio-cultural ethics and ethos. The said Agaciro Development Fund (AgDF), a newly created sovereign fund, is a result of a proposal made in last year's National Dialogue (Umushyikirano) which seeks to mobilize voluntary resources with the view to reduce or even abolish dependency on foreign aid. If we let foreign aid and NGOs drive our agenda, it will be like someone coming to your house and taking charge. I guess you may recall the biblical story of the camel!