Guest Post: Africa needs more investments, less humanitarians

Kunle Oguneye

Here’s another (provocative) guest post from Kunle Oguneye:

To all the young, well-intentioned, recently-graduated students of International Development or similar programs, please stay in America.  We don’t need you in Africa.  

If you would like to visit, please do so, but we don’t need any more NGOs or Community Empowerment Programs or Disease Awareness Programs.  Don’t get me wrong.  Africa still needs your help and your passion. We just don’t need you on the ground anymore. 

Where we need you is on Wall Street.  Yes, I know the big bad Wall Street.  The truth of the matter is that the inequity in Global Development can be directly tied to access to Capital.  Poor cities in Africa have a difficult time issuing bonds and raising money from International Markets in order to fund their infrastructure developments.  Without Infrastructure, micro-finance schemes for the poor can only go so far.  The farmer still has trouble getting his or her crops to the markets before they spoil.  The tailor in the rural area won’t get any customers because the roads are always flooded. 

Municipalities are the ones that need to build the roads, the drainage canals that will enable commerce to flow.  The municipalities are suffering because they don’t understand this world of high-finance, and even when they do, they are not considered attractive investments.  So, the cycle of poverty continues to perpetuate itself in the Developing World.  First, we try Farm Aid, let’s give them high yield seeds, then let’s focus on Micro-Finance, and then let’s focus on Disease Prevention.  All laudable goals, but with limited impact because we haven’t addressed the underlying need for Infrastructure Development.

So young people, I implore you, please go back to school, get a degree in Finance or go to Law School.  Go to Wall Street, where they’ll listen to you before they listen to me.  Explain to them why investing in Developing Countries will be good for global markets.  Explain to them that people in Developing Countries have buying power.  Get the Hedge Fund Managers to invest in existing businesses in the Developing Countries.

The next time I see you in Africa, I want to see you wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and holding a Blackberry. When I see that, I’ll know there’s a future for global development.

Kunle Oguneye is president of the Seattle chapter of The African Network, a Nigerian and former tech worker who now writes children’s books (which should explain the photo).

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.