I spent two years living in Kenya, and this WaPo article about development in Kenya is spot-on. Too often, the poor are completely forgotten when the government (or Western organizations) look at growth and development, particularly large infrastructure projects. It’s the same with conservation projects, which win applause from Western donors and governments, but often come at a great cost to poor locals.
This isn’t to say that development and conservation are bad, simply that everything comes with trade-offs.
And those trade-offs are much worse when compounded by local corruption, tribalism, and international naïveté.
Politicians in Kenya are fantastically corrupt, and use development as an opportunity for both graft and land grabs. Also, because Kenyan politics is still deeply tribal, party alliances look out for their own people, but have little regard for members of other tribes.
Lastly, Westerners often come in with ideological blinders, imposing goals and priorities on African nations that have little relevance to the facts on the ground. For example, squandering millions to teach Sierra Leonean women about inheritance rights, at a time of mass starvation and chaos, when families had essentially nothing to inherit.
Academics and activists like to point to “imperialism” as the cause of the Developing World’s problems. In reality, corruption is the single biggest factor holding them back. And it isn’t the ill-will of Westerners that harms the poor in places like Kenya — it’s our clumsy goodwill.