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A few years ago as walked through the streets of the Joburg CBD to que for a matatu to Bez-valley (suburb) where I grew up one doesn’t have to look far to see the poverty and hopelessness around, today as I sit on the balcony of iHub along Ngong writing this piece on my humble evaluation of the NGO sector I can’t help but wonder, can’t we as Kenyans just get things right. Having worked in the in Kenya, South Africa and having passed through a few Sub Saharan countries, there is stark difference in the project implementation culture of these different nations. My first serious job I worked for an NGO in Johannesburg I was in my early twenties as a field assistant, I was fresh faced and this is what happened.


The South African vs. the Kenyan approach:

S.A

Having lived my life in these two countries, a few things are immediately clear Kenya is 3rd world and SA is 2nd world some would say 1st but not quite.

The NGO space in SA isn’t so funded and therefore the few NGO’s around are mostly driven by people whom genuinely want to see a change and know that change won’t come from anyone but the individual themselves, so the projects they implement aren’t big like the UNs and Computer Aids of this world but are community based projects that affect the common man. The NGO I worked for was small, they would receive food donations from McCain foods which would come in the form several hundred  kilos of frozen food and we had to organise distribution points in an area called Vooslorus (Jhb south) and run weekly soup kitchens. I remember one time we literally received 1ton of frozen food, that was a tough day.


The NGO used to receive special privileges with KQ and allowed a certain amount of KG’s to ship to DRC as aid, since food was perishable I was responsible for shipping clothing to DRC and Tanzania and ensured it reached the needy folks, in summary I felt like we had a real impact on people’s lives on a constant basis with minimal funding.


KENYA

Having relocated in Nairobi from Joburg in 2011 there was a plenty of culture shock for me, I did my engineering degree and my first job here was with an ICT NGO as a programmes assistant it was an office job in the NRB CBD no salary whatsoever. I came to be quite good at proposal writing and implementing projects, my colleagues and I did plenty of developments of note.



There were two main projects that stunned me though, amongst others, a major multinational software IT company held a public social media competition for NGO’s in which the winner would receive a ksh5m donation, and I being In charge of the social media, a few days after the competition was over there was gala dinner to be held at a NRB 5star hotel in which the winner would be announced, 1 week before the competition was even over my manager pretty much tells me it was predetermined that we would win and that they (him and the accountant) are actually sorting out the banking information for the money to be wired and at the gala dinner everyone must act surprised I remember feeling so deflated and bad for the other NGO participants who would attend the gala night thinking there # campaigns stood a chance. Iniquity; heinous; corruption.
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I  – used to ride the bus on Saturday mornings where I always sat in the left aisle 2nd last seat at the back looking out the window wondering why on earth am I going to work on a Saturday, and knowing its cause the bosses just want us there even though everyone knows and clearly sees full well there is 0 productivity that happens on Saturday not after yrs of Mon-Fri, and the fact that our office was far from Nairobi that when you look out the window from your desk you see donkeys roaming around the dusty road and you know you’re in their habitat, surely doesn’t help.

The organisation I worked for was IT NGO and there once was a major software IT multinational that had called about 2-3 high school principals to donate 20 computers each to the respective schools, now at face value it was a great PR event even a few journalists had come to cover the event and at this point the NGO had “received” a 5 acre piece of land in one of the satellite towns in Nairobi and built offices out of containers (loved that). I had a database of almost all the high school principals in the country, funny I had the task of selecting the schools that would get the donations under the guidance of the director, I later learned that the multinational software company had bought the computers from us, the NGO and would donate it to the schools from our offices, now, as if it wasn’t enough that our NGO had made a handsome profit our organisation ensured that in order for the principals to get these computers even though they were paid for by someone else the school had to sign a one year 150k maintenance contract  with us in order to receive the pc’s. At this point I was bewildered and what’s more is that I took the photos and had to upload on twitter to show the world what a great job our organisation was doing, never mind that I have to try and keep a straight face and hide the shock.

 

 

 

CONCLUSION

Overlooking the windy balcony of the Bishop Magua building where I’m seated I can see the expansion construction of Ngong road, being an engineer myself I can make sense of what I see construction wise, if I speak to anyone around me and ask how was the Ngong rd contract issued they would quickly delve into the vices utilised to issue the contract. I ask myself what are we in the NGO space missing? Why is there such a high density of NGO’s in Kibera yet the impact minimal, why are the 4 beautifully parked ambulances parked along Juja road but people still die in Kariobangi, why do we donate Computers, have workshops, have trainings but the ICT illiteracy still so high.

When I was 20yrs old 5 other people and I applied for a Job at an international sunglasses retailer in the upper end of Joburg, that stocked sun glasses that cost a small fortune, we were interviewed along the normal procedures but there was final test that made us all cringe, if we all past this test we would be hired, what was it? A real life Lie Detector test, a chain around your chest to detect breathing rate, a palm sweat detector and of course heart rate monitor, needless to say the out of the 5 of us only 2 got hired it also just happened to be the 2 people who not South African myself and my Congolese friend passed the test and met the minimum standards.

Before I took the test I stared at this old white man with sheer apprehension, he made me sign agreement and explained that we have all lied, we have all stolen either as children or adults, but the key here is to what extent, we have all stolen 5bob from our mothers purse to buy sweets but have you stolen groceries from a supermarket, stolen stock from you workplace, have you stolen a cellphone have you taken money that you didn’t earn,  have you lied to a police officer, lied under oath, the question here is can you be trusted.

The issue is not that my boss (Director) was a bad leader or doesn’t know management or isn’t qualified or uneducated on the contrary he was DR. The truth is most of us are educated and know the basics of right and wrong and know supreme ethics but don’t apply it, that’s all. There was a building that collapsed in pipeline just over a month ago, now, is it that the Engineers didn’t know what they were doing that caused the building to collapse, NO I can confidently say there is high chance they knew what ought to be done to ensure structural stability.

The issue is much deeper we need a reference point to adhere to, that is GOD, some will say that we don’t need GOD or the bible and human beings can self-govern without a God (atheism) or a moral compass for direction to tell us what is morally justified and what’s not. The reality is we need the morals of Christ to adhere to not as a Sunday thing but as culture so as to make us great again. If you don’t believe we need a moral compass a supreme being greater than us whatever the direction Islam, Christ, Buddhism etc…  Its fine you just ask yourself this,                                                                                                                   Do you lock the door when you sleep at night?

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