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The Effectiveness-Lab

The future of development!

‘More of the same’ will not be enough –

Agriculture+technology one of the answers to poverty eradication in Africa. Been with us before though, what is different this time?

I am writing from remote East-Africa, afar from decisions that will determine the fate of the poor people I serve in my day job, that of my kin, and other poor people in East-Africa. I can’t help asking what the future holds for international development.

Are the ‘development-gods’ making the right choices about poverty eradication frameworks? What is/will be new this time?

I have analysed what the ‘development-gods’ are telling us – call it their bet on what will eradicate enduring poverty in the world! People like myself, an ardent and at times critical follower of the ‘development-gods’, are mulling over all that is happening in the post-2015 discourse. Should I continue to believe that this time, we may see the end of extreme poverty?

However, before i consider any sort of belief, can i ask which ‘development-god’ is prophesying what, in regards to ‘salvation’ from extreme poverty?

The United Nations (UN):

The UN through its agency the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) seems to hold the ‘patent’ to matters concerning the definition and oversight of global poverty eradication frameworks 2015_Development_Agenda. The UN Secretary General (SG), in fulfilling his mandate as ‘chief-angel’ of the most senior ‘development-god’, appointed a high-level panel (HLP) to advise him on what action is needed to eradicate extreme poverty. Five transformational drivers were recommended to the SG: Leaving no one behind, a clear focus on sustainable development, transformation of economies for jobs and inclusive growth, open and accountable institutions, and forging a new global partnership.

Quite ambitious as one would expect from the senior ‘development-god’, after all, this ‘god’ holds the ‘patent’ to eradicating extreme poverty. Ever ‘hopeful’ as we all are in development, it remains to be seen if commitments to the post-2015 poverty eradication framework are possible in the fifteen year time frame. Even with the UN that is forever under the mercy of the rich nation states, my ‘hope and belief’ has to be unwavering. I can only believe that all the above is achievable, lest as a believer, i lose faith both in my religion and a ‘development-god’ i have to worship.

The EU:

Did you know that the EU is the biggest development donor in the world?  The EU has also declared 2015, the year of development

The EU is talking of a new kind of partnership – a partnership of ‘equals’ that constructively engages and ensures participation and inclusion of all stakeholders. Real partnership is where an equal relationship exists between partners based on genuine exchange, open, constructive dialogue, mutual respect and trust This is not stuff that we hear all the time from ‘development-gods’. Is the paradigm for delivering international development changing?

This year is for Europe and development – I must admit, it is still more of a vision than actual deliverables, but have to keep believing that business will be done in a different way this time

Philanthropists Bill & Melinda Gates:

I am sure you will agree with me that Bill and Melinda Gates are a model of practical and sensible philanthropic efforts in the world. Philanthropic strategy has traditionally been informed by personal hobbies of the wealthy or in the case of corporations, Corporate Social Responsibility needs. It is, for this reason, refreshing to see the likes of Bill & Melinda attempting to get the very best out of philanthropy.

So what are the Gates’ up to? Bill and Melinda, typical of their well-researched approach, have boldly betted on the future of development. A 15-year bet that apparently focuses, and I assume invests, in four development drivers that will shift fortunes of the poor in this world

1. Child health
2. Mobile banking
3. Food security
4. Better learning software

Big call by the Gates’. Although I either will be retired or dead by the time the bet is due cashing in, I want to bet with them on this as my thinking is not far from some of their priorities above. The power of effective education and economic empowerment and its enablers like mobile banking is one clear path to eradicating enduring poverty, atleast in East Africa where I live and work.

I must admit a liking for the Gates’ clarity on substance – a touch of private sector paradigm, I assume.


The Americans are talking big too on development and like the Gates’, they believe they can end extreme poverty by 2030

EXTREME POVERTY OFTEN REFERS TO EARNING LESS THAN $1.25 PER DAY. But extreme poverty is more than just a number – it is the denial of basic freedoms and human dignity. People living in extreme poverty are forced to make impossible choices daily between food, medicine, housing, or education. USAID is committed to eradicating extreme poverty within the next 15 years (USAID.GOV)

Extreme poverty is indeed more than a number and refers to the many ‘soft’ things above. Specifically, the impossible choices that have to be made by my kin at Nakabugu village in Uganda, the poor people I serve every day in my job, is something that I deeply connect with. I wonder what the American ‘development-god’ will do differently in order to make choices abundant to the poor I relate to. Well, they have gone on to elaborate below – this is their bet:

A NEW MODEL OF DEVELOPMENT – USAID is forging high-impact partnerships to harness innovation and scale meaningful results to end extreme poverty.  This new model of development promotes local ownership, leverages private investment, spurs innovation, harnesses scientific and technological advances, and demands the results and accountability that will enable us to meet today’s critical development challenges (USAID.GOV)

Intellectual think-tanks and consulting firms:

Development theory and practice are never shy of ‘work-shopping’, coupled with ‘deep-thinking’, and ‘minting’ multiple poverty eradication models. We are so adept at the latter, and the immediate consequence is so much knowledge, at times repetitive, that we not only confuse ourselves, but others that want to follow and understand what we do. I actually think that the development industry over-supplies knowledge. The immediate consequence of the latter is that time and again, we need entities with a different orientation, to synthesise the many silos of development knowledge. This, in order to help us in development and others watching from afar, make sense of what we think, say, and write.

That is where consulting firms, think-tanks come in – examples being McKinsey and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). Firms like McKinsey in the wake of the post-2015 discussion, have guided discourse and brought much-needed context. It is a welcome filter, even to us insiders that should by now be able to see the wood for the trees.

What have these firms been up to re.: helping us all determine what will drive development and poverty eradication over the coming 15 years?

McKinsey have zeroed on four critical drivers of development that we all need to be paying attention to. These are Harnessing the power of markets; Enhancing the growth prospects of China; Spreading good ideas and developing new ones; and tapping into the growth opportunity in Africa specifically technology, agriculture, and infrastructure needs

There must be those of us, especially peers at the East-Africa CSO that are wondering how China makes it into the equation. Well, it is a fact that China has attained enough muscle for it not to be disregarded in matters related to development. By the way, the Western ‘development-gods’ haven’t directly alluded to China’s influence, positive or negative, in the post2015 agenda. However, for those of us in East-Africa, China is a player that needs recognising and one to start analysing in regards to the benefit-harms of their development philosophy.

The respected Overseas Development Institute (ODI) takes a more cautious approach to what is coming in next-generation development. It cautions against imposing ready-made solutions as opposed to local reformers.

adapting_development_9 odi pix
ODI and its caution re.: post-2015. Be aware!

So, what is in this next-generation development deal for us all?

I am sure we all shall interpret the above representation of views on the so-called post-2015 agenda, in different ways. I am also sure, knowing development and the ‘development-gods’, that all the above poverty eradication frameworks are backed up with rosy-analysis and discourse. Don’t we all in development do the latter so well?

The question has to be, at least for me, whether we see anything new in the frameworks? Will the next-generation development frameworks ‘effectively’ eradicate poverty? ‘Effective’- eradication is something that is close to my heart, as I know that we can eliminate poverty, but in non-effective ways. This is especially true as the push for private sector driven solutions, and I confess to liking them, becomes ever clearer. Markets will continue to be a big part of the jigsaw to eradicate poverty, but we need ever to be aware of the ability of markets to solve one problem i.e. increasing income, but create another. The climate change challenge the world is currently grappling with is an example of the benefit-harms of markets and development.

There are a lot of good threads in this post-2015 discourse i.e. innovation and use of technology, economic development focus and its enablers like mobile banking, local and sustainable partnerships and solutions, and a call to focus on dignity, equality & accountability. However, the jury at least for me, is still out on whether this can solve the problem at hand – extreme poverty!

What is in this for the East Africa Civil Society Organisation (EACSO)?

For civil society, specifically the East Africa civil society organisation (EACSO), there are positives in the next-generation development framework, were it to be approved by the UN. The EACSO must be interested in the rationale that is framing current thinking like local partnerships and solutions, avoiding imported solutions, and some have mentioned institutional openness and accountability.

I urge you all to ask if the emerging solutions are new to the poverty eradication debate, and if not, what adaptation has been made to them, for us to consider them different from old.

What about the poor and vulnerable village-girl and children in nakabugu village Uganda?

My constant reference for effective poverty eradication frameworks, apart from the poor people I work for and support in my day job, is my kin in remote Nakabugu village, Uganda. Reflecting on the status quo of the family below, tilling dry earth in the January sunshine, kids in tow, i hope that private sector, innovation, and technology driven solutions can change their fortunes for the better. Uganda is an interesting case study as it has had a relatively vibrant private sector over the last few years, some good innovations like in mobile money and banking, yet the country is still poor. What should be done differently this time, to change the fortunes of this family?

Tilling the land in mid day sunshine Nakabugu Village Uganda, very young children in tow.

Anyway, do you believe that what is coming post-2015, will eradicate extreme poverty?


8 responses to “The future of development!”

  1. […] you get on to development doctrine territory, doctrine written by one group of people i.e. development gods, taught by another group of people i.e. the ICSO, and practiced by a third group of people the […]


  2. […] pressure to prove their relevance in the face of changing and unpredictable development discourse. ‘Development gods’ continue to insinuate that the answer to sustainable development lies with national governments, […]


  3. […] I call politically correct accountability. The latter accountability mostly answers to donor’s (development god) accountability needs, while the former is about full transparency, explaining rationale, and taking […]


  4. […] development-gods if they did wake up one day wanting the ‘right’ kind of […]


  5. […] that we cannot just disregard in the guise of what is politically correct. Therefore, as the development gods and those of us in development implement this change of guard in Southern development operations, I […]


  6. […] poverty but I may not understand it always. How is that possible? Even stakeholders I have called ‘development-gods’ in my past blogs are not exactly clear on what poverty is and how to eradicate it: Some of the […]


  7. Its very unique article, i have now managed to grasp more of the Philanthropists and their tactics in our developing societies.


    1. Thanks MWP for checking this out – I’m a firm believer in the power of African philanthropy and I’m sure you know that it’s quality and not quantity of philanthropy that matters! Or I think!


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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