This is one seriously interesting list. Not being a tekkie I have
been playing the role of fly-on-the-wall more than that of
participant, but since fund-raising is one of the things I have
to do in my job I couldn't help but comment on the questions
about top-down aid flows quite validly raised by Valerie Bruce:
When In Addis a couple of months ago at the UNESCO/ITU/IDRC
Africa regional symposium on telematics for development, I was
amused to listen to a very accomplished World Bank man preaching
the gospel of "full Internet connectivity for Africa by 1996".
He was on the lookout for good projects to set up nodes and
revealed the Bank would imminently have funds available for such
projects. His agenda, which is understandable since that was part
of his job, was for the symposium to push for full Internet
There I was wondering how these Bank-funded nodes would stay in
business, and who they would serve. And who would provide the
training. And whether "full connectivity" was an end in itself
rather than a means to an end. And whether governments paranoid
about preserving their P & T monopolies and about national
security would allow direct Internet access, despite the offer of
start-up funds from Washington.
I for one do not subscribe to the view that aid to Africa should
be scrapped. After all, nations that are now donors once built
their wealth on our backs, literally in some cases. And if they
have the money and it's needed down here, why not?
That notwithstanding, I simply love donors and IFIs -- when they
are working in tandem with the potential beneficiaries in a
paricipatory manner, with loans/grants being disbursed according
to needs assessed at grassroots level.
The problem with donors -- as with every other constituency -- is
that they all have their agendas. Some are liveable and workeable
with, others are not. Donors lack co-ordination among themselves,
often compete, and throw loads of money down the swanee
supporting dubious projects. So as "donees" we are forced to
comply with their whims.
One way out of this quandary has been flagged by David Balson at
the IDRC, who has set up BelaNet, a donor co-ordination mechanism
run out of Canada. Balson is an IT guru who was instrumental over
the last 12 years in the establishment of many of the nodes we
now see in Africa (PADIS/CABECA is one brilliant success aided by
Another way out is being co-ordinated by Clement Dzidonu at
Trinity College Dublin through ANITEP. If there are no strong and
representative voices to demand a say in how aid is disbursed, we
Finally... I notice that the planned A T & T plan 'Africa One',
which plans to ring the continent with a fibre optics cable at a
cost of billions, was developed on the initiative of the ITU. How
participatory was the planning and who will benefit. Clearly
better communications in the region will help catalyse intra-
regional trade and economic growth, but more than anything it
will increase Africa's attractiveness as a market. All this is
fine but who in Africa apart from obsessed people like ourselves
is talking about it?
So let's talk some more....
Peter da Costa, Regional Director for Africa
Inter Press Service (IPS) Third World News Agency
Regional Headquarters for Africa
P.O. Box 6050, 127 Union Avenue, Harare, Zimbabwe
Tel: (263-4) 790104/5 Fax: (263-4) 728415
E-Mail: [log in to unmask]