When people talk about aid and development in Africa the main topics are usually education, health care, and clean water. While these are very important, there is a more fundamental problem that also needs addressing.
Schools, hospitals and water systems all cost a lot of money! Often this money is supplied as development aid from the governments of other countries and donations from charities. It is not only the cost of building this infrastructure, but also maintaining and running them too.
Most people here in Uganda struggle to afford education beyond primary level, health care and other basics like clean water and sanitation. This is because although many schools and hospitals have been built to improve on these issues, very little has been done to help people afford to pay for them.
I know several doctors here and have spent some time in hospitals seeing patients I know. Usually as soon as a patient is admitted they want to be discharged because they know they can’t afford to be there. This means often people don’t come until they are so sick that it is too late to help them.
I have witnessed many children and adults being sent home from school or University to because they can’t afford their fees.
The only way to solve these problems is through income generation. No matter how much you donate to schools, hospitals and water pipes, the long term outlook is a bleak one unless the people can afford to use those services and they become financially sustainable. Donations are not a long term solution.
Since over 90% of the poor people in Africa are in some ways involved in farming, and many rely on it as their only income, improving agriculture is actually the most effective way to tackle poverty reduction.
By improving agriculture, we improve people’s income. By doing this we are actually helping improve health care, education and all aspects of a person’s quality of life.
That is sustainable development and that is the best way forward for Africa.