Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

African NGOs: Conveyors of national subversion?

17 Mar 2022 at 05:40hrs | Views
Did you know that over 75 percent of the world's poor today live in Africa compared to 10 percent in 1970?

Did you know that despite receiving a total US$4,6 trillion in aid between 1960 and 2013, by 2030 it is projected poverty levels will be at 90 percent in Africa?

As Zimbabweans, we need to have a radical conversation and rethink on whose interests non-governmental organisations (NGOs) serve.

The aid business is not an honourable adventure!

During the slave trade in Africa, American merchants and slave traders who hit the west African shores had a close relationship with some locals who promoted their interests through inhumane ways.

Some Africans became wealthy through slave trade. They captured their kith and kin and sold them to these American merchants.

In Nigeria, one prominent black slave trader who gained power and wealth through this evil practice of selling other Africans across the Atlantic was Nwaubani Ogogo.

Upon the abolishment of the slave trade in Britain in 1807 and in the US around 1863 through the Emancipation Proclamation, the dawn of Africa's colonisation changed the dynamics of the African-European relationship.

Through colonialism, Europeans also had local administrators termed Native Commissioners who worked hard to promote their interests.

These middlemen worked hard to reverse the liberation of the African who was economically exploited and socially segregated. In post-independent Africa, these middlemen have proliferated the continent through what are termed NGOs, a province that is now dominating national and international politics.

The proliferation of NGOs in Africa in the era of globalisation, which is generally western hegemony, is the simplified avenue to intrude in Africa's space and smuggle foreign influence.

At one point, NGOs were considered as altruistic groups that sought to impartially influence public policy with no vested interests. Due to bowing to the western influence and interests, that perception has changed.

They have since turned their impartial coat and worn it to prioritise ideologies that respond to the interests of their donors and funders than those they pledge to serve and represent.

Just like African slave traders and colonial middlemen for Europeans created power and wealth through profane means, some NGOs in Africa and Zimbabwe have become agents of western interests pursuing power and wealth on the other end.

In Marxist terminology, they are the comprador bourgeoisie, a section of an indigenous middle class allied and aligned to foreign interests.

This is a class of highly dependent and parasitic people who feed on the money they get, only to advance their interests and of those they represent.

Because of globalisation, world politics and international development have undergone a radical transformation.

The accountability and transparency of NGOs have become questionable as many have falsely claimed to represent the poor and deprive, mainly for fund-raising purposes.

Talk of Dead Aid

In her magnum opus, Dead Aid, Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo was clear about her view on aid and the NGO business in Africa.

Being an African, she espoused views that called on what Africa needs more in this era, than just aid.

At a time the world has witnessed the transformative economic success of countries like China, Brazil, India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), without dependency on western aid through NGOs, this also exposes its irrelevance in Africa.

In Africa today, NGOs and their aid functions have proven to be a moral hazard for recipient governments as it has incentivised corruption and in some instances culminated in civil conflict.

Moyo has further argued that aid in Africa has weakened social capital by thwarting accountability mechanisms, encouraging rent-seeking behaviour and siphoning off scarce talent from employment positions.

In Zimbabwe, US$15 million in aid has not been accounted for over the past few years.  A closer look at how the aid business in Africa has become so expansive translates to how aid continues to be used as a legitimate weapon to keep Africa's political, social and economic spheres tied to Europe.

Aid should continue to be seen as a tool and instrument conceived for a states' pursuit of self-interest.

Dancing with Deceit

The politics of language use and coining of new terms in the name of creating a dependency syndrome in Africa is coming to the fore in the NGO industry.

Coined terms like "technical assistance", "capacity building", "synergies" and "experts" are being abused and misinterpreted to suit and meet the objectives of the comprador bourgeoisie.

Empirically, studies on foreign aid and economic growth in developing countries have generated mixed results that make it difficult to draw conclusions as to what goals have been achieved.

In Zimbabwe, some who have misappropriated aid have bought mansions in Belvedere, while others have purchased beachside mansions in neighbouring South Africa.

Those they claim to have helped continue waiting for alms and handouts that are disbursed periodically through squeezes that do not lift people out of poverty or kills the dependency syndrome.

Of course, believing in aid as a business that will pull people out of poverty is a dance of deceit, where only a few swim in riches and the majority drown in poverty.

The Cabal of Four

At the turn of the millennium, there was an increase in the number of organisations advocating for political rights, democracy and freedom of expression.

When time lapsed, after realising that their agenda no longer spoke to the needs of the funders, they sought another avenue and looked at advancing the cause of women and children's rights.

With the changing times, they altered their agenda and went on to look at climate change advocacy and brought new terms like "climate justice" and "environmental love".

These advocates follow money. In Zimbabwe there is a Cabal of Four that has dominated the NGO industry. They decide who gets money and spit those that step on their toes.

Over the years, this quartet has driven NGOs into partisan politics and deviating from their mandate because that is where they disburse money.

Before transforming to a political party, National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) of Prof Lovemore Madhuku suffered this consequence.

The Cabal of Four, back then, approached Prof Madhuku with a political agenda, knowing fully well that the NCA sought its path in Constitutional advocacy.

The NCA was told to replace its then director with the one appointed by the Cabal of Four, a suggestion that was declined. It is easy to see why the NCA ran out of funds. The Cabal of Four decided to throw the NCA by the wayside. With time this cabal will be known.

Ahead of the 2023 elections, the NGO sector in Zimbabwe has already become political and making it plain on who they are rooting their support for.

They are already setting an agenda that is meant to promote the interests of their handlers to foster regime change and besmirch Zimbabwe's reputation in the name of mammonism.

Some one-man led NGOs have already been transformed into local "think tanks" while they are propaganda mills, always ready to conduct negative research about the Motherland.

Their goal is to subvert the nationalist order with chaos. It is not benevolence.

What if  . . .

While NGOs impact society in numerous ways, nevertheless, evaluations of the programs and projects they implement are rare. They implement projects whose results and mechanisms are monitored by foreigners.

It appears the way foreign aid is disbursed needs to be revisited to avoid the surplus-charity phenomenon if, like China or Brazil, Zimbabwe is to achieve its Vision 2030 goals.

NGOs will never outweigh government work. The biggest protector of national interests in any country is the government and not the NGOs.

The growing levels of poverty in Africa need new approaches where leaders look inward. Africans must identify priorities, define, and implement them on how they drive their development agenda by not being reactionary to the politics of dangling aid of the West.

In this regard, some questions need answers.

What if foreign aid is making the plight of Africans and Zimbabweans worse? What if African governments disregard aid, will they fail to reboot their economies?

What if Zimbabwe passes the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill? What if Zimbabwe had the Patriotic Act, just like the US Patriot Act of 2001 and the Logan Act of 1999, will that not be sufficient to protect national interests?

Zimbabweans, remember we are one!

Source - The Herald
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.