Develop This!

When you look at why developed nations are developed and why developing nations are still developing it comes down to a simple matter of incentives.  For example in America most people go to school so they can get a job so they can raise a family, etc, etc.
Here in Mali most people have several “jobs” depending on the season and time of day.  Most people might sell a certain product for a portion of the day then go work somewhere for another part of the day, and then go home to make something to sell the next day.  Most jobs are informal and don’t make very much money, but then again most people here live on less than a dollar anyway.  If most people are just going to have an informal job anyway what’s the point in going to school and getting educated (unless of course you’re a genius, at which point you’ll probably study abroad and never come back, or if you do you’ll end up getting a cushy government job perpetuating the very system that keeps the status quo).
In the US a person can buy land and a house and see that property appreciate in value over time (hopefully).  Here it seems land rights aren’t as enforceable as they are in the US so even if someone bought a piece of land a) there’s no guarantee the land will appreciate and b) if a person did decide to sell land does he have any claim to the land?
Most people in Mali will end up having children whether they like it or not (people don’t really practice birth control here at all).  The concept of the nuclear family is foreign here where many families will include several wives and countless children.  Ironically my experience has been that children raised in “traditional” are more well-behaved than children in western families.
Meanwhile all the West does is come in to Mali and determine that “hm, let’s just throw more money at the problem.”  Instead of understanding what the needs are and addressing them, we westerners tend to focus more on “doing things” instead of taking the time to understand what the situation is and help people help themselves.  I think of most of us here would much rather go back to America saying we built a school than saying we spent our time sitting around, drinking tea, and talking to people about issues our neighbors and friends here are facing.  I even find myself thinking not in terms of names and faces, but in terms of projects, resources, and completion times.  Maybe it’s just a difference in the way we’re educated but add that to the list of obstacles Africans face in dealing with the West.  It’s like trying to teach someone Calculus when they’re still having trouble adding and subtracting.  So yeah, ultimately for me it becomes a question of how badly I want to succeed.


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