Has HIV/AIDS fueled donor ‘funding’ dependency in Africa?

“We cannot hope to formulate adequate development theory and policy for the majority of the world’s population who suffer from underdevelopment without first learning how their past economic and social history gave rise to their present underdevelopment” – Andre Gunder Frank, “The Development of Underdevelopment” (1966).

This week marks the convening of the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna that assesses the progress made in the fight against the disease. This convening’s keynote speaker was former US President Bill Clinton whose speech called for efficient spending in the face of dwindling resources to address the pandemic. Mr. Clinton while stressing that every wasted dollar put a life at risk said “In too many countries too much money goes to pay for too many people to go to too many meetings, get on too many airplanes,”. He also added that too much money is spent on studies and reports that remain on the shelves.

But how did it come to this? Not that the funding coffers are drying up, but that 28 years after AIDS was discovered, and billions of dollars being spent annually, that HIV/AIDS still looms large on our horizon.

Well, the blame rests on both sides of the so-called development game: non governmental agencies (donors) as well as the beneficiaries. Dealing with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa has become a long term mutually beneficial relationship among the two.

With all those meetings and carbon emissions generated in attending the meetings, the overall goal for these HIV/AIDS projects (probably long forgotten in the NGOs proposal logical framework) of assisting the beneficiaries has dropped lower down the agenda.

In turn the beneficiaries due to having these agencies around for so long (for some AIDS orphans, all their lives) lack the drive to solve their own problems without external assistance (funding).

And indeed why should it be any different when the number of NGOs continue to rise. Just visit Kibera, Africa’s second largest urban slum and you can almost trip over the number of agencies working in HIV/AIDS, water and sanitation and any other baseline survey assessed need.

Last year while visiting with some young entrepreneurs in Kibera, we at YIPE heard some pretty horrific stories in how donor dependency for “funding” has impacted their lives. These youth were all born in the slum and for the most part of their lives, there were always NGOs providing whatever assistance was required.

As a result where HIV/AIDS stigmatization existed in other areas, in Kibera it was not as bad. But that is not just a reflection of the numerous Voluntary Counseling and Testing Centres (VCT) that abound. The real pay off is that if an individual tests HIV positive, they then not only receive free anti-retrovirals, but also receive assistance, be it in the form of food, clothes or maybe rent money. Thus apart from the implementing agency carrying out the HIV/AIDS project, the beneficiaries also became recipients of what they call “funding”.

One of the Kibera youth told us the story of a young man that visited a VCT centre and “sadly” tested negative. Crestfallen that he could not receive “funding”, the young man set out on a mission to reverse that diagnosis.

Not an ideal marriage

This symbiotic dependency between NGOs and their beneficiaries really needs to be further interrogated. It’s a shame that this is the 18th International AIDS conference and it seems that apart from the condom and abstinence, there is no other readily available and inexpensive way to prevent HIV infections.

Why is it that after all these years Uganda which was a best practice case in how to combat the disease which almost decimated the country’s future economic development prospects now has a rising infection rate? Why is it that the majority of these new cases are not among the red zone population segments such as commercial sex workers and ling distance truck drivers but among married couples? Or is it that there are absolutely no HIV/AIDS focused non governmental organisations in that country?

Those questions are for the INGO, NGO, FBO, CSO and any other “O” professing to have made an impact all these years. Now here’s one for the beneficiaries, particularly the youth. Why do we have to suffer one more AIDS related death on top of the 71 million people Africa has lost since the disease was discovered?

A new approach – People, Planet, Project

This year when countries have to renew their commitments to the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, in the face of the global economic crisis, activists are calling for new approaches for raising funds, including airline ticket taxes.

However this will still lead to the same scenario with communities being put on the back burner in their zeal to raise funding for projects.

The solution here is to encourage social entrepreneurs to enter into the fray. The difference between a social enterprise and an NGO is that the entrepreneur has to be ultimately concerned with having community acceptance (if not involvement as employees, distributors …). Their models are sustainable and unlike NGOs they have to be accountable to shareholders and the community (market) they operate in.

Social enterprises also by virtue of their type of entity have to be transparent in terms of finance and corporate governance. Profit also would be a useful tool to assess the uptake of socially marketed products such as female condoms. Maybe some unsuccessful NGO projects could have been abandoned sooner if there was a price tag to measure success.

In retail speak, once a consumer buys into the story behind the product, they own it. Isn’t that sustainability?

The best outcome of this 18th AIDS Conference would be a new approach in ensuring that the implementing agencies do have the “moral standing” as Bill Clinton put it to ask for funding to do their “jobs faster, better and cheaper” – something most entrepreneurs do on a daily basis.


Africa’s youth are major drivers in bid to attain African Union vision

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, April 13, 2010/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A three day meeting of experts of the African Union  is underway in the resort town of Victoria Falls, in preparation for the Third Ordinary Session of the African Union Ministers in Charge of Youth (COMY III), to be held from 15- 16 April. The African Union Youth Charter identifies a youth as a “person between the ages of 15 and 35″.

The experts meeting is an opportunity for the Member States delegates to consider, among other programs, the African Union Plan of Action (POA) to support the Decade for Youth development in Africa and the African Union proposal to establish and implement the African Union Youth Volunteers Corps. 2009 – 2018 was declared as the Decade for Youth Development in Africa by the 12th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in February 2009. The decade is an opportunity to sustain political commitment to youth development and empowerment.

Proposals made by the experts will be put forward for consideration and/ or adoption by the ministerial meeting. If the POA is adopted by the Ministers at the end of their meeting on Friday 16th April, the 53 Member States of the AU would then be expected to incorporate it into their own national plans and strategies. This will ensure that youth development across the continent is in line with the strategic objectives of the African Union, as defined by the Assembly of Heads of State and government, the highest decision making body on the continent.

In addition to discussing the documents being tabled by the AU, the ongoing experts meeting is also providing an opportunity for Member States to learn from each other and share experiences. It is serving as a forum to provide targets on youth development which will assist Member States to use research as the basis for youth development programming and planning, thereby ensuring that the same standards, targets and measurement of progress, more or less, are observed across the continent.

The Plan of Action being considered by the experts recognizes the critical role that can be played by the youth in achieving the AU vision of “an Africa integrated, prosperous and peaceful, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”.  Vital statistics and information presented in the POA will enable the experts to make considered decisions, before they present their recommendations to the ministers.

Speakers at the opening session of the experts meeting today described the youth as the “engine for Africa’s development”. This is borne out in the POA which clearly states that “in 2025, the young people of today will be the main drivers of African economies”. This is so for a number of reasons: numerically the youth form a large part of Africa’s population i.e. 34.3% of the population of Sub Saharan Africa in 2007; the young people of today are the best educated in human history; and gender gaps are steadily closing. The social advantages provided by the youth include greater degree of mobility, versatility, dynamism and adaptability. Youth are also known to be more creative and innovative than adult populations, and take the lead in several areas of development, such as in community development, IT, HIV/AIDS, life skills, education and campaigns.

However, as the experts consider the action plan, they will also have to take into account the challenges that the youth face, and adopt an implementation plan designed to ensure coordinated youth development across Africa by 2018, when the Decade for Youth Development will officially come to an end.

One of these challenges is poverty. 72% of the youth population in Sub Saharan Africa lives on less that $2 a day, caused basically by poor education and lack of skills. Other challenges include exploitation of the youth as they migrate in search of better livelihoods; unemployment; HIV/AIDS; unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions; maternal mortality; different forms of abuse, exploitation by different regimes as perpetrators of violence or conflict; and exclusion from governance structures.

After considering the various opportunities offered by the youth population bulge and the challenges that constrain young people from effectively contributing to the AU vision as well as the proposals for action put forward by the AU, the experts will consider the proposed implementation matrix for the POA, whose timeline runs from 2010 until 2018.

During the experts meeting, the African Union is also putting forward, for consideration, its African Union Youth Volunteerism continental strategy (AUYVC). Youth volunteerism is defined as the services of skilled workers between the ages of 18- 35, supported to provide volunteer opportunities to build their capacity through public sector projects, organisations and/ or in a special service community activity.

The AU also took the opportunity to urge Member States attending the experts meeting to ensure that they ratify the African Youth Charter and that, beyond ratification, and more importantly, that they implement the provisions of the Charter. To date, 19 Members have ratified, 11 are still at the signing stage and 16 have not yet signed. AU Director for Human resources, Science and Technology Mrs. Vera Brenda Ngosi, said “Ratification is one thing and its good but ratification without implementation of the ideals of the charter is like having a good strategy on paper but without action. It is like a nice dream that is never realized”.

Further discussions by the three day experts meeting will focus on preparations for the Mexico 2010 World Youth Conference and the necessity for Africa to prepare a common position on priorities for youth development for the African region.

Other speakers to address the opening session of the experts meeting today were Mr Itai Muguza, Director in the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment in Zimbabwe and Mr. Magoot, the expert of the Ministry in harge of Youth in Libya who is also the outgoing Chair of COMY II.

Source: African Union Commission (AUC)

Dance4life Seeking Peer Educators

Dance4life the Netherlands is looking for 3 peer educators from the global south

As an HIV/AIDS peer educator for dance4life you are part of a tour team that will travel throughout The Netherlands for 5 weeks to visit all schools who are participating in the dance4life schools project.

Three tour teams will be formed, and each tour team consists of 6 people:

1. a facilitator

2. a drummer

3. a foreign peer educator (coming from a country where there is a high prevalence of hiv infections)

4. a young Dutch hiv-positive man/woman (between 18-30 years old)

5. a tour manager

6. a technician


Period of stay in The Netherlands will be from:

27 August 2010 – 17 October 2010 (7 weeks)

The 3 peer educators will take part in the training days for all tour team members the first 2 weeks (30, 31 August and 1, 6, 7 8 September). The tour will start on 13 September and this will take on 5 whole weeks.

Note: The peer educators will not be in The Netherlands during the final dance4life event on 27 November. It would be great if they are able to attend the dance4life event in their own country so we can see them via satellite during the live connection at the event. This will make the connection with all participating dance4life countries even more impressive.


During the tour they will travel as a team and will be staying together with the team in hotels, bed & breakfasts or apartments near the schools where they perform. During the training days and in the weekends the peer educators will be staying in an apartment located in Amsterdam (the same city as where the dance4life office is based).


– Your story.

It’s important that every peer educator has his or her own personal story related to HIV/AIDS. It must be a story ‘from the heart’, something that touches you and will also touch the hearts of others. A story from the heart will make the HIV/AIDS disaster tangible and personal and will subsequently cause involvement and action under the students.

– Your age.

The Dutch students (age 12-19) have to be able to identify with the peer educator (so age preferably between 18-25).

– Your language.

Your English should be fluent and your voice strong.

– A passport.

You must have a passport that will allow you to travel to The Netherlands, or be willing to get one (in case of financial restrictions we might be able to help).

– Your performance/presentation skills.

You should like to dance (the dance4life drill) and speak up before crowds of youngsters (50-400 students at once).

– Your team skills.

You have to work as a team and be willing to invest in the team (and vice versa of course!).

– Your mental power.

You will have one of the key roles in the performance at schools in terms of getting the message across. At times this can be demanding and you should be prepared for some intense weeks.

–         Your support for dance4life.

You have to share the goals, vision and approach of dance4life.


– Tickets, accommodation and daily expenses will be taken care of by dance4life, as well as costs for purchasing visa/passport (if necessary).

– If a peer educator has to take time off from work for these 7 weeks and therefore miss out on a salary, a financial compensation for this needs to be discussed with Walter & Patrick at the time of the selection procedure. We will then discuss if and how dance4life can (partly) provide for this income. dance4life will need a proof from the employer.

– An amazing 7 weeks that you will never ever forget!!

Although the time in The Netherlands will be intense and quite ‘heavy’ (long days, early mornings, telling your personal story over and over again to large groups) the reward is immense. Mostly in terms of the ‘kick’ you will get from working with the students and bonding with the tour team mates. And from being part of a wonderful movement of international connection and solidarity where we all have one purpose: stopping the spread of hiv/aids and making everybody in the world aware of this need + challenging them to do something about it!


Fill in the dance4life peer educators application form[1] and include a picture!

The personal story is very important as is your motivation on why you think you should be one of the three peer educators in Dutch school tour in 2010.

All applications should be with Walter before April 1st 2010.

Email: walter.odede@dance4life.co.ke

On Zuma Leadership and Africa’s Youth

Leadership can be described as a process of social influence. It is not just the ability to lead a group of followers effectively.

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle cited character as the foundation of leadership – “to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way …” (Aristotle, Ethics II.9)

But for those who may say that Aristotle represents western values, what about African traditional leadership?

What made the chiefs of  Mali and Songhai, or for that matter Great Zimbabwe or Buganda leaders?

Traditional leadership was based on a centrally controlled hierarchy of authority. Leaders such as Shaka Zulu rose because they displayed charisma and valour in protecting their territory. For this protection, such leaders were often allocated land, livestock and of course brides!

That was the way. Today, we pay hefty salaries to our leaders, and even though democracy and good governance have emerged, we still demand that our leaders represent our national values.

Role Models

In the academic study of leadership, starting from behavioural theories of the 1950s, the focus on who or what is a leader has moved from what leaders do to how they act. In that way, the impact of their actions on their followers has been acknowledged as a way to assess the quality of their leadership.

Barack Obama is a recent example. Many youth even in Africa got inspired to believe that they could succeed in making change. In other words, he led by example.

Zuma Leadership

This week, it emerged that South Africa’s 67 year old President Jacob Zuma fathered his 20th child out of wedlock with the daughter of a friend, 29 years younger than him.

Though it is heartening that Mr. Zuma has publicly acknowledged his paternity, the question remains whether his actions have had repercussions on his leadership credentials.

The President was also quoted saying that his actions didn’t undermine his government’s efforts to combat AIDS. The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in South Africa is among the highest in Africa with the predominant new contraction rate being among the youth. This is the same throughout sub-Saharan Africa, with the scourge being mainly felt in the working age population. Then there is also the generation of AIDS orphans who are now in their youth.

When in May 2006 he was acquitted of rape charges with an HIV positive woman, Mr. Zuma who is a former head of South Africa’s National Aids Council, testified that he had not used a condom and took a shower after the act to minimize the chance of infection.  He later apologized for these remarks saying “I erred in having unprotected sex. I should have known better.”

And, the buck does not stop with Mr. Zuma.

His party, the ANC who held such clout they “recalled” former President Thabo Mbeki have in their remarks given a stamp of approval to Zuma, saying the media was making “a mountain out of nothing“. Even more disturbing the ANCs Women and Youth Leagues have also passed it off as private and disrespectful to discuss.

Apart from HIV/AIDS, South Africa has a major crisis in violence against women. In a study last year by the country’s Medical Research Council, one in four South African men in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces  said they had raped someone, and nearly half of them admitted to more than one attack. Even more alarming, practices such as gang rape were common because they were considered a form of male bonding.

So are President Zuma’s actions his business alone?

Personally yes, but as the President of South Africa and role model to the youth, – No.

Any leader wants to leave a lasting positive legacy. And now is the time for Mr. Zuma to make South Africa a success. Let not his legacy be promiscuity, irresponsibility with his wives health and a score of children claiming inheritance.

Today schools teach the history of Shaka Zulu who fought against western imperialists. Today the war for South Africa is different. The foreign intruder is the scourge known as AIDS. This scourge is killing the youth. This is the war that Jacob Zuma must lead his country. With all his might, discipline and zeal. And, from the front and not behind.

Lead the way and we will follow.

HIV/AIDS affects more than just the bottom line

A UNAIDS study in the year 2000 on the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Kenya predicted that the scourge would leave the Kenyan economy one-sixth smaller than it would have been in the absence of HIV/AIDS. Well, the pandemic has wreaked more havoc both on the economy as well as business.

Not only has the scourge adversely affected productivity and costs, but HIV/AIDS continues to have an invidious effect that is unquantifiable but yet profoundly impacts enterprise.

Absenteeism is usually the first and most common impact on business productivity. The number of days an employee reports to work can be measured, but this can also be a trigger for discord in labour relations when other healthy workers have to shoulder the responsibilities of the absentee.

The next impact is usually a loss of vital skills, which in turn makes entrepreneurs hesitant to invest in training for their employees. Most times, when a small business owner sponsors an employee to training they also expect that this employee will act as some sort of champion of the newly learned skill or knowledge, spreading it amongst the other employees. Thus the loss caused by AIDS doesn’t just end with the illness or death of that employee.

Finally there is the emergence of a loss of morale amongst the other staff members. What else can you expect when attending funerals of colleagues and their family members becomes a common event.

On World AIDS Day, the National AIDS Control Council should salute small businesses that take measures to protect their workers who are uninfected, whilst offering appropriate support and services to those who are infected. These are the entrepreneurs who are on the front-line fighting the scourge that threatens to shrink and sink the economy.

The government on its part could also provide incentives to small business entrepreneurs by introducing tax incentives for greater involvement in AIDS prevention.

The Coming of Anarchy: Lessons from West Africa

images1An article published in the mid 1990’s “The Coming of Anarchy” by journalist Robert Kaplan offers several lessons which if not considered, could result in failed states ala Liberia, courtesy of the youth who rise up and say ENOUGH!

The post-election violence of 2007 and early 2008 aptly demonstrated that the barrier between crime and politically instigated tyranny is becoming increasingly blurred, particularly in urban centres. Kaplan’s description in his article of cities in West Africa, echoes the state of Kenya’s urban slums where “streets are unlit; the police often lack gasoline for their vehicles; armed burglars, carjackers, and muggers proliferate”.

Polygamy & the Family Breakdown

Contributing to youth disaffection is the practice of polygamy which adds to the alienation of young people even within their “extended families”. Marriage breakdown, increasing incidences of sexual crimes and the resorting to commercial sex work by our youth, has promoted a population explosion as well as HIV/AIDS for which contraction rates remain highest amongst this population segment.

Mini-slum nation-states

Similar to pre-coup Abidjan, Ivory Coast with names such as “Chicago” and “Washington” for slum-districts, Nairobi’s slums boast names of conflict regions: “Kosovo and (mini) Mogadishu” which in turn are “governed” by street militias (“jeshi’s”) bearing similarly militaristic names such as “Baghdad Boys”, “Kosovo Boys” and the notorious “Taliban”. These sprawling slums continue to grow as more young people migrate to cities. Deforestation in rural areas has also brought with it adverse effects of climate change where rains are no longer assured forcing the young unemployed to migrate. The newcomers exert increased pressure in the urban low-lands which in turn has led to inter-ethnic conflicts within the slums.

Just like Kaplan’s view of 1990s Conakry which he describes as “a nightmarish Dickensian spectacle to which Dickens himself would never have given credence”, our cities and towns have now become venues of beggars with children with protruding bellies who seem “as numerous as ants”. Kaplan concludes that in states where man is recklessly depleting natural resources and with increased populations, nature will eventually take its revenge.

A case of nature taking back its own

And it has. Incidents such as the recent flooding in Nyanza attest to this. Populations have now had to move further inland, which could trigger a conflict with the upper regions settled communities.

Kaplan posits that the environment should be understood and acknowledged as a matter of national security. However, housing development in urban centres has been haphazard, facilitated by corrupt municipal authority officials turning a blind eye when issuing building permits. The most recent incidence of this was the recent collapse of a building in Mvita, Mombasa which has so far claimed the lives of at least 3 people. Building experts have for long been lobbying against the construction of multi-storey buildings asserting that coastal soil is not as resilient as interior soils for building foundations. So far the developer of the collapsed building remains at large.

Nevertheless, the demand of a growing urban population continues to ensure that developers have a ready market. The resulting high density estates have in turn led to water reserves being severely compromised. While Kenyans watched with consternation about the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe, little did they believe that the disease would somehow find its way into our borders.

The Coming of Anarchy

Just like the recent youth-led takeover in Madagascar, Africa has for long had uprisings among the youth population. African history has many examples where “Soweto-like stone-throwing adolescents” finally had it with aging leaders and took matters into their own hands against such repressive regimes.

However there does remain a window of opportunity to pre-empt this. If only the Ministry of Youth Affairs would pay due cognizance to the urban youth population living in squalid conditions, by pushing for the mainstreaming of youth interests in government policies that focus on strengthening families, internal security, health, environment and land reforms.

On the other hand, if the status quo remains, not even Nairobi’s skyscrapers will be able to conceal the anger of the youth when they finally decide to make a stand.