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:
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.
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.