7 Things Foreign Benefactors in Africa Should Do if They Genuinely Wish The Continent Well

Representative Photo of The Future of Africa; A Reminder of Where Foreign Benefactors in The Continent Must Focus their Attention. Primary school students, their teachers and mentors in a village in Kwara State, Nigeria. Daily morning gathering before classes begin.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light again on Africa as the continent that is most dependent on International aid, gifts and help from outsiders for its people’s healthy existence, especially during emergencies.

By sheer human instinct, it is easy to empathize with, and indeed, probably love those “poor” Africans.

After all, Africa is the poorest continent in the world and Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region as authenticated by all available data like the World Bank March 2021 global poverty update.

But how really poor is Africa?

Doesn’t the Continent possess enormous natural resources and 1.3 billion brains, each brain freely uploaded with talents by the Creator?

How is it that more than 50 years of the toils of foreign benefactors have failed to lift Africa from the bottom of the ladder of human development?

Why has Sub-Saharan Africa remained the poorest region in the world despite its enormous natural resources, nearly 1 billion brains and hundreds of billions of dollars from outside poured into the region in the last five to six decades?

Several developmental economists have attempted to understand and/or explain this seemingly impregnable wall of poor development.

Examples are William Easterly’s book, The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics; the books, Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson and Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo.

However, the answer, to a large extent lies in three words: Profound Leadership Failure (PLF).

There are are four main categories in this PLF:

(a). Failure of Mindset and Disorder of Moral Framework

(b). Nonexistent de facto Political Philosophy

( c). Aberrant Worldview.

(d). Prototypical “Unexamined Lives”.

By and large, political leadership in many African nations is saturated with individuals who have lived, and continue to live unexamined, empty, meaningless lives.

Sadly, in many African nations, the ethos of the four categories in the PLF has found its way deep into the lives of ordinary citizens.

Nonetheless, as dire and emotionally compelling the outward manifestations of poverty in Africa are, foreign benefactors must realize that the antidote to this malady ultimately lies hidden and untapped in the Minds of Africans, especially the leaders.

The antidote to the seemingly impregnable underdevelopment in Africa is not any outside largess from non-Africans, no matter the size. The exception is assistance in provision of knowledge particularly to the youths.

In December 2020, Fantu Cheru wrote an article in the United Nations Africa Renewal magazine titled: Wanted: fresh ideas for combating African poverty.

That call for “beams of light” to shine on the dark cloud of poor development in Africa is still very much alive today, struggling for sustainable answers.

Therefore, any foreign entity, government or private, that truly loves Africans and wishes to help Africa turn things around, and turbocharge its institutions from within should consider seven things.

And at the heart of the provision of each of these items must be education and flowering of knowledge of the children and young adults. This is the foundation for the Continent’s resuscitation.

  1. Give to help nourish their ‘Minds’ NOT just to nourish their stomach and flesh.

Just as it is terrible for a ‘Mind’ to go to waste, so it is a great joy to see a ‘Mind’ renewed, fruitful and flourishing.

African leaders in particular need significant mindset transformation from “Can’t Do” to “Can Do”; from “Rescue Us to Rescue Thyself”.

True lovers of Africans must skillfully incorporate this dimension of nudging the people towards “Can Do” mindset into their portfolio in the Continent. This is a delicate but pivotal step.

2. Realize that the most effective way to help Africans reverse the decadence, poverty and underdevelopment in the Continent is not just by financial assistance and short term economic pursuits.

The foundation for the Continent’s emergence must be fidelity to long term collective ‘Good’, knowledge based pursuits and commitment to ‘Truth’ as an absolute.

3. Give to serve them NOT to suck up their natural resources.

Unfortunately, the enormous natural resources of Africa is the main attraction to the Continent for world powers and the multibillion dollar international corporations.

It was so before the Berlin conference — struggle for Africa, 1884 –1885 — it was so during the colonial era and it is even more prevalent today with the new dance partners from the East, especially China.

4. Give to empower them NOT to show them how much power or wealth you have.

Empower them with the knowledge of your projects, whether it is a small, medium or large scale project. You must add an educational component to your programs.

Poor reading culture and lack of hunger and thirst for knowledge are major problems confronting African nations.

Sadly, most of the post-Independent leaders of African nations have turned a blind eye to education and pursuit of knowledge in their populations.

5. Give to strengthen our shared humanity NOT to promote your brand of ‘Humanism’ or Confucius worldview.

Do not De-Culture them with your own Culture.

6. Be a participant in planting NOT the all in all planter.

Avoid the several decades costly mistakes made by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, United Nations and its agencies, and scores of philanthropic entities in the continent between 1960s and early this century.

Their mistaken development model in Africa — doing most of the planting — which largely fed the stomach of the people and built things for them was largely a failure.

Do not build their roads, bridges, airports, schools, farms, healthcare centers, power grids and water reservoirs. Instead, help them to build their infrastructure themselves.

7. Be a friendly Priest NOT the Chief Priest.

At the core of every culture/civilization is a religious worldview born out of decades or hundreds of years, or even thousands of years of worship and allegiance to a “Deity” or deities.

So, when you evangelize and seek conversion of the people to a new religion or belief system, yield the chief messenger spot to new converts who are steeped in the community’s culture.

What gives me the audacity to pen these 7 Essential Elements for Restructuring Foreign Aid To Africa?

It’s lessons learnt from personal experiences in colonial and post-colonial Africa.

It’s failures and successes of our non profit organization in nearly two decades of search for “the elixir” for Sub-Saharan Africa’s conundrum, mainly in Nigeria.

Whether you are a government or private entity, secular or religious organzation, the 7 elements will help you avoid collapse and breakdowns of the edifices you construct.

If you inculcate the 7 elements into your foreign Aid strategy in Africa, there is a chance your “toils and sweat” will yield fruit.

Also, maybe, just maybe, the fruit would be available to nourish the minds of the masses and future generation.

If you deviate from the propositions, no matter how much time, money and effort you pour into your programs, and how grandiose or pretty the initial outcome, eventually your hard earned product(s) will decay.

Best of luck and let brotherly and sisterly love continue.




Neurosurgeon. Founder, Pan Africa Children Advocacy Watch-www.pacaw.org. Author of the book: RESCUE THYSELF: Change In Sub-Saharan Africa Must Come From Within

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Sylvanus A AYENI, M.D.

Sylvanus A AYENI, M.D.

Neurosurgeon. Founder, Pan Africa Children Advocacy Watch-www.pacaw.org. Author of the book: RESCUE THYSELF: Change In Sub-Saharan Africa Must Come From Within

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