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Can Africa Fund Its Way Out Of Poverty?

By Nelson T. Ajulo, PhD

The narrative of Africa is nothing but positive. From time immemorial, Africa has been battling with all sorts of labels. These include lack of infrastructure, inequality, lack of opportunities, high crime rate, overpopulation, bad governance, corruption, and poverty.

Many on the continent are already used to the over-flogged statement that Africans live on less than a dollar a day and that it is the world’s poverty capital. The international poverty line the World Bank says is $1.90 per day using purchasing power parity. 

In all of the labels mentioned above, one of the most challenging one to tackle but crucial is poverty. Primarily because of its power once tackled, mostly automatic resolving others over time, according to the Materialistic concept of economics, which define the history of all national economic formation.

In 2021 according to Development aid, there are 490 million people in Africa living in extreme poverty, or 30% of the total population. This number is up from 481 million in 2019.

Unfortunately, what further compounds the problem of poverty in Africa is the rapidly growing African population. According to the United Nations, one in 3 people will live in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2100. The projection is 3.3 billion. Today, it is home to more than 877 million people or roughly 12 in every 100 people on earth. These are staggering poverty and population statistics. There is a need to face this monster headlong.

For the different governments across the continent, their idea of battling poverty is relatively peripheral. Rather than fighting poverty, their poverty alleviation programs are pushing people more into poverty.

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For example, poverty alleviation programs in Nigeria are centred around distributing motorcycles, sewing machines, tricycles, air driers, and farm implements, among others. However, these types of poverty eradication programs can only go as far.

In some instances, the monies spent by African governments are from donor agencies and wealthy nations. 

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee, which tracks Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending, reported that in 2019, aid to Africa totalled $US49.1 billion or 34% of total net ODA.

Furthermore, a Washington Times report said that “Over the past 60 years, at least $1 trillion of development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa, yet, endemic poverty still exists.”

So, the question now is, where are the international aids meant for development going? Are they only good enough to purchase motorcycles et al.? Are they being lost to corruption or other unproven or not well thought out modes of resolving poverty? 

Talking about corruption, the African Union estimated that corruption was costing the continent over $150 billion a year as of 2002. Yet, for Transparency International, Sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest-performing region on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2020, with an average score of 32. Nevertheless, it shows a slight improvement from previous years and underscoring a need for urgent action. 

There are several cases of development funds being frittered away in Africa, especially by government officials. For example, the former president of Malawi, Bakili Muluzi, was charged with embezzling aid money worth $12 million.

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The undeniable fact is that without battling corruption in Africa, it will be cumbersome for Africa to fund its way out of endemic poverty regardless of whether the monies spent are owned by the government or come from donor agencies and prosperous nations. 

Importantly, donor bodies and development should ensure that monies are spent on sustainable projects to combat poverty on the continent. This may warrant not giving a large chunk of the aid to the government. On the other hand, non-governmental organizations are trusted, especially those that have proven concepts, those with innovative ideas that will not only give instant solutions but furthermore one that will be self-sufficient over time, reliable and use IT training to get thousands out of poverty in Africa. 

A non-governmental organization like the Zwart Talent Foundation is currently fighting poverty by equipping young Africans with digital skills that will get them out of poverty. 

Specifically, through the Zwart Academy, the edtech arm of Zwarttalent, we train young people in digital skills, including Java, Python, Cybersecurity, Microsoft.net. and C++, among others, for six months. Upon completing the training, the students join Zwarttech for a one-year internship to acquire practical IT experience. Afterward, they become IT developers and start earning. As they are now ready for the IT world, we connect them to international opportunities through Zwart Recruit

Furthermore, for students interested in setting up their businesses, we have the Zwart Hub, a startup incubation hub. We offer them all the entrepreneurial support they need to achieve their business dreams. The program is also present in the Netherlands and Nicaragua.

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These are in-demand skills required in the present digital world. Less time-consuming to teach and could be easily sponsored with an upfront investment and a possibility of repayment since the graduates are most likely to be employed right after an 18-month training and internship, helping them move from zero income to top 5% earners in their local economy within 5 years.

Of course, Zwarttalent and others cannot do this alone; we need funding from donor agencies and rich nations to train more people and get them out of poverty quicker and faster. So it won’t be wrong to say that donor agencies and funding bodies should consider providing more funds to trusted, proven and reliable non-governmental organizations fighting poverty with technology.

Nevertheless, this is not to push the government aside. On the contrary, the government is a critical stakeholder in combating poverty. Hence, it is essential that we all partner to fight this monster called poverty so that Africa can judiciously fund its way out of poverty.

Ajulo is the Chairman of the Zwart Talent Foundation