Homegrown: Beyond the Millennium Development Goals

March 8, 2013

In 2000, the United Nations adopted a plan called the Millennium Development Goals to address the most significant challenges facing Majority world countries in measurable ways by the year 2015. The ambitious plan sought to relieve hunger, improve education, increase employment, and reduce gender inequality throughout the developing world. For example, one of the targets seeks to “Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. As the end of this period draws near, some of the MDG have had relative success, but most have fallen woefully short in reaching their target.  In a recent essay, Dr. Chika Ezeanya writes a provocative assessment of the MDG and what is needed in a reevaluation of Africa’s way forward.

 Essentially, the MDGs were established on presumptions of expertise on the part of developed countries, of the intimate developmental complexities of developing countries; a we-know-what-you-need-and-how-you-need-it-fixed paradigm. The MDGs were founded on a disguised superiority complex that held citizens of developing countries as people unable to understand the intricacies of their own existence, and therefore incapable of formulating workable, homegrown solutions. Not surprisingly and despite its stellar intentions, the MDGs are today associated with gross underperformance. The reality is that no matter how well-intentioned or how much infused with “expert” knowledge, development conversations, which do not focus on empowering citizens to discover and utilize creative, innovative, indigenous and homegrown approaches to solve their own peculiar problems, are at best, peripheral.

Dr. Ezeanya argument is insightful because it highlights first and foremost the need to empower the poor to think creatively about the way out of whatever ails their community. This approach dignifies those it seeks to help and it is most effective. She continues:

“Africa’s greatest challenge is creativity and innovation founded on indigenous knowledge and indigenous resources. The urgent need in Africa is for homegrown, creative solutions and breakthroughs in governance, science and technology, economic policies, curriculum, health and wellness, and just about any area of human existence covered and not covered by the MDGs.

For the past fifty years since most African countries became independent, majority of the individuals who people the continent have held on to the notion that they are fundamentally lacking in the innate ability to generate ideas, mold them into reality and implement same for the development of the continent.”

Belief in one’s creative capacity and that of their community, combined with discovery of local resources is a potent formula for rising above poverty, overcoming injustice, and pursuing abundance. In the remaining few paragraphs, Ezeanya points to several keys in stimulating this approach to development, namely, “ideas rooted in Africa’s indigenous material and non-material resources” and “the formal, non-formal, and informal education obtainable across the continent.”

Agreed! Compassion must be expressed from the West towards the Majority world with minds, not just hearts. This requires thoughtful consideration of what will support the essay’s basic (and in our opinion, correct) thesis:

“Africa’s future lies in the hands of authentic African thoughts, processes, and actions.”

Read the whole essay.

Full Report on the Millennium Development Goals.