promoting increased & more effective funding in Africa
Most funders working in Africa might not have head of Fazel Hasan Abed. But then again, those working in poverty alleviation might be very familiar with the former Shell Oil Executive’s organization, BRAC. Started by Abed in 1972 in Bangladesh, it has grown into one of the largest organizations working to reduce poverty. Based upon its impact in Bangladesh, it appears to have a model that works. The question is, will it work in West Africa? Several funders think it will.
BRAC is already working in Tanzania where it has run programs in a range of areas including microfinance, small enterprise, agriculture, health, and youth since 2006 and employs over 800 people. BRAC received $15 millions from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support this work. In Uganda it has created more then 1,000 jobs and works in similar areas. With an investment of $15 million, the Soros Economic Development Fund, Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Omidyar Network, and Humanity United are betting on BRAC to replicate its success in Bangladesh in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Both the Soros Economic Development Fund and the Open Society Institute for West Africa are part of the philanthropic activities of George Soros. Omiday Network and Humanity United are part of the philantropic interests of ebay founder Pierre Omidyar, and his wife Pam, who is the founder and board chair of Humanity United.
It is no doubt that BRAC and its founder has proven that it’s holistic from the ground up approach have yielded results. It established an “independent in house” research and evaluation division in 1975 that has conducted evaluation of its programs and made them available to the public..
Both Liberia and Sierra Leone are countries emerging from prolonged conflicts that have wrecked their physical infrastructures and strained the endurance of its citizens. And on top of that, like everywhere else, both countries are faced with the impact of the global economic downturn.
Funders supporting development projects in Africa might do well to keep an eye on BRAC’s experiences in these two countries in West Africa. It will be interesting to see if the success in Bangladesh will bring change in these West African countries and the cross fertilization of experiences will yield a more customized approach suited to the realities and context of Liberia and Sierra Leone.
I love movies! They have such a profound impact on me. Their images linger in my head and shape my perceptions of things. Since my relocation from New York to a small town in Northern Virginia that does not have a movie theatre, I have taken more notice of the offerings on DVD. My library of favorites has slowly began to grow. I have fun compiling my wish list. At the top of that list is the California Newsreel Library of African Cinema. It is a collection of 67 films reasonably priced ($25 each) with such a wondrous range of classics and new titles.
In addition to documentaries on political and economic development, this collection also has films that explore common issues of identity and a sense of belonging. One of my favorites is “AINSI MEURENT LES ANGES” (An So Angels Die). I love the moving lyrical personal narrative about a Senegalese poet (played by the filmmaker Moussa Sena Absa) caught up in family drama and cultural expectations.
Another offering is DOLE (Money) from Gabonese Producer/Director Imunga Ivanga. With familiar images of young people, this film examines the intersections of youth, frustration, and hip hop. Turn the sound down and watch a scene that could take place in almost any urban setting. for the romantic, “AFRICA DREAMING” is a collection of four short films on love from Tunisia, Senegal, Namibia and Mozambique.
California Newsreel is such a great source and in addition to the great films they also have resources to enhance your learning. Be sure to check out the article “Six Pointers for Viewing African Films.”
My goal is to work my way down the list — at least to see each of them if I can’t afford to buy them. For those wanting to learn more about the rich and varied continent of Africa, the Library of African Cinema is a place to start — and you don’t even have to leave your living room. For those involved in philanthropy who want to better understand some of the issues, watching one of these films is good way to hear the story from the source. Just remember, there are lots of stories to reflect the diversity and richness of the African continent.