The Watch Woman Column: Handwriting on the wall, donor funding to dry up

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Cautionary tales are worth paying attention to for their deep lessons. If you hear your neighbour’s beard is on fire and you have a beard, or your loved ones have a beard, the smart thing to do is to quickly find a Kufuor (now Mahama) yellow gallon, fill it up with water and position it in the general neighbourhood of the beard.

Ghana spots a fine beard too—56 whopping years after Independence.

This week, South Africa woke up to a shocking news story: in 2015, the United Kingdom will end its annual aid of €19 million.

This amount is free money the UK gives to its former colony in support of its initiatives to reduce mortality rates of women giving birth and to support businesses.

Apparently, from the UK’s vantage point, 19 years after the end of the brutal bloody racist apartheid regime, South Africa is now of age and must stop looking up to its former colonial master to continue scratching its itchy well-endowed multi-racial rainbow-nation back. Implication: in just two years’ time, South Africa should get its act together.

And more so—for the past two years, Ghana has been running its big mouth wild and non-stop, bragging that it is now a middle-income (lower?) economy.

And that, it is also now a crude oil producing country—about to add gas. And had always had gold, diamond, timber, bauxite, magnesium, the largest man-made lake—and many others. Considering Ghana’s pluses, you would think that we’re on the verge of sending men (and women!) to the moon. 

Fire spreads easily. Ghana’s long and bushy beard can catch fire. Sooner or later, donor money to Ghana will also begin to dry up for after all, we have crossed the line into middle income. But more especially, sooner or later, Ghana must mature. Even if it appears that this country is currently growing in circles—three steps forwards, two steps backwards—we should sooner rather than later, figure things out by transforming into a vibrant, proactive and self-sustaining country.

We cannot forever wait and hope—with cups in hand, to beg and to receive donations. We’re not at a funeral!

We’re a well-endowed nation. Rich people do not beg or expect freebies from others. When you live in abundance, you should be able to sustain yourself. This implies that you should be in a position to feed yourself in a well-nourished fashion, supply your needs, support yourself in all manner of ways that will keep you in existence, plan for your future generations—and ideally, to even support others who are less endowed and are in need.

Enters the sustainability movement:

Sustainability has become like a movement in the donor community. The language goes like this: developing countries must make sustainability plans in preparation for a time when donor money will cease.

Environmentalists talk about sustainability too. For instance, the plastic waste we continue to dump into mother earth is not sustainable; it is choking the earth because non-biodegradable plastics do not decompose to become one with nature.

The message is clear: If you cannot guarantee your sustainability, then you are at risk of self-destruction. Conversely, if you plan for sustainability, you prolong your existence and you can even thrive. In effect, whilst on the path of development, developing countries should not operate on a ‘live today for tomorrow you die’ model. Definite plans must be made on how to carry on, assuming that help will not come from anywhere; as if we are trapped on a faraway island with no help in sight!

Enter Civil Society Organizations:

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)—also known as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)—are one of the players in this country that permanently carry cups and calabashes in hand to receive funding to support their work. The World Bank describes Civil Society as “important actors for delivery of social services and implementation of other development programs, as a complement to government action, especially in regions where government presence is weak”.

In Ghana, NGOs can be found in just about every sector. Methinks Tamale is the NGO capital of Ghana. As you enter Tamale, sign boards greet you, screaming: ‘We’re here ooh! Plenty!’ Generally, the three regions of the north are awash with NGOs.

The first time you bear witness to the over-whelming presence of NGOs in the northern part of Ghana as well as remote parts of the Western, Eastern, Brong Ahafo regions, you gasp for air and wonder, ‘Is this also part of Ghana?’ You will also be tempted to ask, ‘Does the government of Ghana operate in these parts?’

NGOs in Ghana are engaged in a variety of issues: agriculture, health, gender, disability, water supply, poverty alleviation, behavioural change interventions as well as generally waking up society on its civic rights and responsibilities.

It is a good thing. Some of them may not be doing anything of essence and not making any impact. But others are truly in the business of promoting civility in society.

CSOs are only able to operate when benevolent organizations and individuals give them funding. Yet, the on-going global sustainability movement is catching up with them also.

A little over a week ago, I attended a conference of CSOs who are recipients of STAR-Ghana grants aimed at assisting them to become sustainable.

The expectation is that they will clean up their acts by improving their institutional capacity and operations to enhance their survival—and may be, even thrive while providing better services to Ghana.

The conference was an ‘experience-sharing and lessons festival’ for the 43 organisations from different social sectors who have received STAR-Ghana Sustainability funds. Donor representatives were also present.

Run by Ghanaians, STAR-Ghana is a multi-funded donor entity with contributions from the European Union, UK, US and the Danes. These are the countries that are the usual suspects in the aid-giving business.

Giving grants to the 43 CSOs to make them sustainable is in itself a wake-up call. That the UK is about to cut £19 million of aid to South Africa is a bigger wake-up call that should pinch Ghana to do a serious reality-check of our matters.

The hand-writing is undoubtedly on the wall. It is time to seriously consider African solutions to African problems; Ghanaian solutions to Ghanaian problems. For instance, it is about time to promote individual and corporate philanthropy in Ghana—big time. Increasingly, a new crop of wealthy people are emerging in this country—our own versions of Bill Gates, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and Ted Turner.

What do they do with their wealth? I’ve come to believe that when one’s cup overflows, the outflow does not belong to that person. All outflows must be externally directed because that is the natural law of overflows.

Trying to force an outflow back into a container is unnatural if not greedy and a waste of precious energy.

Corporate entities in the country embark on grand charm-offensives they call Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. Some try to provide the same sort of services and facilities CSOs provide. How about if some of the UniBanks, GT Banks, Vodafones and MTNs of the country turn their attention at adopting existing CSOs and strategically support them to do better for Ghana?

Article by Doris Dartey

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.