LEADERSHIP SUMMIT 2009 – Andrew Rugasira: Aid vs. Trade

Posted on August 7, 2009




Aid vs. Trade

What comes to mind when you think “Africa?” My hunch is is that things like, poverty, death, AIDS, etc. That’s one perspective that has been influenced by the narrative of the media. If you ask me, I see opportunity. I see 900,000,000 customers and entrepreneurs. Can you survive on $1/day? We have those people. The perspectives that we hold on Africa influence the decisions we make. I would like to deconstruct the narrative that has been going around on Africa.

The purpose of candid talk is not just to share with people the truth of the circumstance.

Africa has had a lot of well-meaning people come to Africa thinking that bringing aid (i.e. “handouts”). But look at all the developing nations in the world, and none of them have grown and developed because of aid; only through trade. We need transformational empowerment to the communities. We need to find ways to relate to people on the continent to get themselves to help themselves to trade their way out of poverty.

These perceptions are so hard-wired, we don’t see opportunities, we only see the problem. We’re not looking to be pitied, we’re looking to exploit markets and opportunity to create value. We need to change the conversation, and we need to change the narrative.

Aid is not effective economically. At the highest point of  aid, the GDP was the lowest in Africa. Aid is not really aid. It’s poorly structured, fungible, insincere and conditional. You have “remote control” management of African societies by donors. Aid also undermines accountability, it doesn’t make it better.

How do we affect change by being compassionate while at the same time maintaining the dignity of those to whom you’re compassionate.

We need to change our mindset. Understand Africa as a continent where people will be treated equally where they will be inspired to do something for themselves. If in the debate, if Africans are not represented, how are you going to know what is or is not going to work? Who do you see in the media?

You can buy good African coffee, good African tea, music. You can buy a product that will employ someone there in Africa that gives them dignity.

PLEASE, reconstruct the mindset you have regarding the continent of Africa. That’s how you and the entire world develops. The idea that we can bring quality products to market, and help through trade and not aid.