“An exit strategy from aid dependence requires a radical shift both in the mindset and in the development strategy of countries dependent on aid, and a deeper and direct involvement of people in their own development. It also requires a radical and fundamental restructuring of the institutional aid architecture at the global level.” – Former President of Tanzania Benjamin W. Mkapa
14 days into #21earlydays, I have read two books so far; Dreams from my Father (Barak Obama) and Ending Aid Dependence (Yash Tandon). Reading ‘Ending Aid Dependence’ got me thinking about my own journey to personal independence; I had to convince my parents why I wanted to start living independently. Well, being dependent on another or others can be limiting. While dependence may help meet your basic needs, it does not transform you into your own person. But once you are independent, you are your own self, you develop your own identity, and lead the kind of life you want for yourself. However, independence is about taking personal responsibility; taking ownership of your life, providing for yourself, making own decisions and choices, and deciding the course of life you want to take without external force or influence. While others may advise or give council or support you, you are solely responsible for making decisions and owning up to their consequences. When I first wanted to become independent, I did not realize how much work and responsibility it was. I was used to being fed, being dressed, being taken care of, etc., and yet at the same time I did not want to feel controlled by another person. But then the reality was that I couldn’t have it both ways, it was either I became fully responsible for myself, or remain dependent on others.
In reading Yash’s book, I started looking at Malawi my home country and other countries like adults who at some point in their lives decided they wanted to be independent, and so they fought for their own liberation from another country’s control or ruling, and became independent. An independent nation is like an independent adult who is responsible for him/herself, takes care of him/her needs, makes own decisions without being forced or influenced by another, and takes ownership of the consequences. However, 50+ years since Malawi became ‘independent’, I feel we are like a 50 years old person who wanted her independence, but still wants others to take care of her because it is easier than hardwork and being responsible. She does not trust that she has the capacity to take action to meet her needs, so she runs to another person (parent or aunt) that she deems stronger than herself for help. Imagine if you knew an adult like that, what would you make of her? This is what I see of my country and other countries that claim to be independent. To this day, we seem not to trust in our own ability to take ourselves out of the poverty we find ourselves in, we are like the way I once was; wanting independence but not wanting the responsibility that it comes with. We want someone else to either do it for us or help us. Help is not bad, but seeking help for everything and not taking responsibility or not doing something about your situation is bad.
As an independent adult, my goal is to develop myself so I can become better than what I used to be, have a better life and be proud of myself; I’d think this is the same goal for my nation. But as Benjamin Nkapa said, it begins with a change of mindset and full involvement of everyone within the nation to work hard towards growth and development. Aid is not bad, but nations have become so dependent on it that it seems like there is no way out; such is the dependency mindset that does not liberate a nation for it to reach its full potential. But it will take nations to make this radical, and definitely difficult choice to break away from aid dependency if they are to experience true independence, development and growth.