For at least sixty years, the countries of East Africa (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda ) were the beneficiaries of western charity that has been expressed through a historical evolution that goes to involution . The evolution is recorded in the transition from missionary work to the Development NGO (1975-1995). The Involution is recorded by the NGOs passage from development to emergency with the arrival of the bloated UN humanitarian agencies , from 1996 to 2010 , the year which marks the irreversible decline of the classic Western NGOs .
In Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda international NGOs are almost gone. The respective governments, beginning the stage of socio-economic development, have indirectly decreed the NGOs death. With less poverty and more development, NGOs do not need anymore more, especially those specializing in emergency. This is now the common thought of many African governments. Some NGOs have shifted their regional headquarters from Nairobi to Kampala but these Coordination offices are meanly used to manage remote projects in South Sudan , Central African Republic and Somalia. Few NGOs have more projects in Uganda, meanly in the poorest region of Karamoja.
The decline of Western NGOs in East Africa does not mean the end of social service and the need for social progress to counterbalance the classic capitalist phenomenon of increase of extremes (increasingly rich minority and the poor majority) that can be found in Nigeria, South Africa, USA or Europe. The vacuum left by Western NGOs has gradually filled with a breath of fresh air throughout Africa: the social enterprise founded and run by young unemployed Africans.
The concept idea of these social enterprises is to create profit from the welfare state by bringing real benefit to the population. They are mostly concentrated in food security, access to electricity, finance, creation of micro-businesses and franchises, education and health. A strict rule is necessary to achieving success in this emerging evolution from Organizations Non-governmental to private: each project should create real economic improvement to the beneficiaries and make a profit to the owners of social enterprises , otherwise the office will be closed.
From the scandalous situation of Ngo’s administration of several million Euros per year just to be spend on projects with poor impact on the population and great donors tolerance, Africa is gradually switching to a private management of social issues that does not allow errors and waste .
Social enterprises in East Africa have arisen due to the contribution of Unreasonable East Africa, an association that helps young African entrepreneurs to create social enterprises. “The 14 social enterprises created in East Africa are evolving beyond expectations, becoming independent from the financial point of view and profitable for communities and entrepreneurs , involving a million people and managing a turnover of 700 million dollars” explains Joachim Ewechu co-founder and executive director of Unreasonable East Africa. The name of the association is derived from the Western cooperation experts ten years ago. At the time they describe the initiative as utopian and doomed to failure: “an unreasonable project.”
The first social enterprise in East Africa is Ugandan and dates back to 2003 when was founded Good African Coffee. Initiative undertaken by three graduates from Uganda and Andrew Rugasira 40 years old, in order to survive, all with over 5 years of unemployment behind. Today, Good African Coffee employs 14,000 farmers with an annual turnover of $ 1.3 million and 400,000 of profit. Exports are concentrated especially true the English market. Mainly present in the west of the country, Kasese district, the Good African Coffee sells seeds of selected Arabica coffee and divide the profits of the collected product 50-50 between farmers and company. The 14,000 associates farmers have witnessed an unexpected improvement of their economic and social conditions , being able to build own houses, buy a used car, support the tuition fees of their children. A result never recorded during the projects of “traditional” Western NGOs despite the millions of Euros spend to finance these projects. Do not forget that every euro that the United States , Europe, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund spend in humanitarian assistance in Africa will increase the country’s foreign debt of African countries beneficiaries or victims of the intervention , according to points of view . By contrast, the African social enterprises do not increase the foreign debt but employment and standard of living.
Recently, the Italian Embassy in Kampala has launched an initiative that is directed towards the concept of social enterprises. Under the input and enthusiasm of the Ambassador Stefano Antonio Dejak , the Italian Embassy is try to create a synergy between Italian NGOs with Italian private companies to achieve social projects financially oriented. A laudable initiative that has found the enthusiasm of the Italian community in Uganda, although there are also critical voices inside. The criticisms or concerns are focused on the ability of NGOs to manage economic projects that need to produce profit because of their historical habit of spending money and not to generate it through economic activities. To this we might add the mono- ethnic aspect of the initiative, which involves only Italian actors, rather than those from Uganda. This approach could lead to unpleasant surprises being this initiative forced to confront the aggressive and highly effective social enterprises run by Ugandans for Ugandans.
Among the giants of social firms in Uganda there is the presence of Telesat International, Village Green Bio Energy and Energy. Telesat International, founded by Maalik Kayondo and Irene Karayaga Ndagire , provides training and education to the unemployed, the essential market information from the agricultural to the industrial or metal , creating micro-projects for family businesses or cooperatives. The data of his success speak for themselves : 40,000 associated with $ 400,000 in annual profit . Green Bio Energy , founded by Vincent Kiensler and David Gerard , provides consulting and training in the creation of micro-enterprises and sell a strange but efficient stove , solar lamps, floor slabs and bricks for fuel made from biomass at extremely popular prices, decreasing in quantity of charcoal used to cock, with great relief for Ugandan forests. With over 18,000 customers the Green Bio Energy recorded an annual profit of $ 150,000.
Village Energy, a company founded by social Abubaker Musuuza , assembles and distributes solar energy storage kit that allows peasants , petty bourgeoisie and proletariat to have electricity for their homes and productive activities without connection to the expensive and unreliable national grid, totally privatized and inefficient. Here, too, the figures speak for themselves: 4,000 customers , $ 90,000 profit per year.
Similar initiatives have sprung up in Kenya, thanks to Eco Fuels and SmartLife . Eco Fuels , founded by Myles Lutheran and Cosmas Ochieng produce and sell biofuel and organic fertilizer. The environmentally sustainable products contribute to the reduction of the greenhouse effect, make more fertile the fields and away the specter of economic slavery dictated by the purchase of chemical fertilizer which farmers are often victims. Ten thousand gallons of biofuel produced per year thanks to a network of small producers from farmers who buy organic fertilizers. Equipped with the necessary technical kit customers become partners transforming natural compounds and their trash into biofuel reselled to Eco Fuels. 100 tons of natural fertilizers sold annually. $ 50,000 in annual profit. And this is just the beginning promise the two founding members, also with a long history of unemployment and despair on his shoulders. The SmartLife founded a year ago by Jack O’Regan and Tyler Goodwin sells to the slums of Nairobi biodegradable sachets of drinking water, and hygienic products. The goal is to improve hygienic conditions and reduce disease resulting from use of contaminated water in the slums. The first year of its existence ended with 88,000 liters of drinking water sold and $ 15,000 in profit. The founders are now planning to open several selling points in the capital to reach customers from proletarian and petty bourgeois. The selling points will be managed by the unemployed in the slums and the profits divided 50-50. Excellent solution for increasing employment in these “outlaw territories” reducing crime and prostitution.
“These projects make more money that the charity NGO of wasungu (white) . Here they teach you to stand on your own feet. We earn money and them as well. Before they were only the NGOs to gain. At least this is my impression “said Julius Mutebi partner Telesat International.
If the progress African will have to go through the end of the humanitarian system of the International NGOs described by many Anglo-Saxon press the Holding of Suffering, or Lords of Poverty , that is fine. I am sure that the experts of cooperation, will be able to recycle themself into other areas, certainly more productive for them and the community.