Jun 3Liked by Ken Opalo

Very well put. I had to blow up the figure to even find a category that was clearly "promote higher incomes through raised productivity" or "promote private sector expansion of jobs." I was part of a study called "moving out of poverty" which did surveys with people who had moved out of poverty in the previous 10 years and they were asked them how they did it. The "NGO assistance" category was about the same size as "winning the lottery" or "crime" as a pathway out of poverty.

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"Freedom is not a gift. It's something you have to take. Nobody is going to give it to you. You have to win it."

- Pierre Elliott Trudeau

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Great article. Particularly liked your description of the "taming" of the philanthropists. I always thought it strange that they made most of their money in the private sector but when it came to directing it to projects they actively barred the private sector from bidding to implement their programmes. Have referenced your article in the latest edition of Re Education, my newsletter aimed at education practitioners working in the global south.

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Great post! I mostly agree, but I can’t quite articulate why this is different from what the IFC, or particularly BII do. Do you have thoughts on that?

My sense is that lots of people accept the basic point, hence the expansion of DFIs, but that they struggle to find investments with both a financial return & social impact.

Is a philanthropy better because it doesn’t need a return, or because it can be more nimble, or something else?

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I respectfully disagree. There is no way to stay in school if you get married at 13 and immediately start having kids. Vaccines have reached almost everywhere so child mortality is down. Birth rates have not adjusted. The land cannot carry its population in subsistence agriculture. We are seeing more violence as clana compete for resources. And the average age keeps dropping. Under 20 in Kenya. 14 in Mali. I do agree that education reinforces smaller family size. We have the models from India, China and Bangladesh for this.

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Interesting article. Unfortunately, the suggestions made by the article's author won't be taken up due to inertia, which makes course correction almost impossible, and the fact that many of these so-called philanthropists of the Western world throw money at small-scale African ventures as a means of making themselves feel righteous and moral about helping poor people.

Some of these philanthropists have no interest in investing sufficiently to give those poor people a chance to break out of the cycle of poverty and become totally independent of Western charity. Many charity aid workers from Western countries earn their paychecks and build careers from working in poor countries. So, no incentive from them for poverty to be permanently stamped out.

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Jun 1·edited Jun 3

I know you aren't our Africa business correspondent and you aren't obliged to do so, but some examples of, or links to other articles about, the businesses you are talking about that are ripe for this pathway or already on it would be nice.

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In the US many women who create women-owned businesses to get various advantages especially in construction contracts are often just a front for men who are the real owners. I doubt things will be different in Africa.

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“charity donations are tax exempt in many high-income countries”

I don’t understand this argument. They still have to spend the money, right? It’s not tax efficient compared to keeping the money.

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This is fantastic. My favorite line: "It is hard to overstate the importance of investing in private sector job growth in African states."

I hope you eventually tackle to other poverty reinforcers in much of Africa.

1. Fertility rate > job creation rate. Has any country with a fertility rate >4 eliminated starvation-level poverty? I don't think so. Average age below 20 with no education and no jobs = political and social instability.

2. Capital formation. Given that much of African culture is based on mutual generosity, it is difficult, especially for the poorest people, to accumulate capital for tools that would enhance their productivity. Microcredit is not available to the innumerate.

There are, of course, mitigants to both of these challenges. Philanthropy can be a catalyst in addressing them. But only if that is the goal of the philanthropy.

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The focus on fertility rates is misplaced. Fertility rates respond to economic and other demographic factors. Most of the region has already gone through mortality transitions. Their fertility transitions will come with higher education attainment and improved economic outcomes.

You are see it in subnational variation in fertility rates.

Which is to say that policies that obsess over fertility rates as a solution to poverty are misplaced. Technology isn’t the only constraint to the fertility transition across the region.

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