Commentaries

International Development

Liz Ngonzi, Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising Faculty Member / Global Thought Leader / Entrepreneur

Born in Uganda and “raised” at the United Nations, Liz Ngonzi builds concentric circles that connect people, ideas, cultures, continents, companies, organizations and technologies to achieve creative and strategic outcomes. She is a recognized authority on philanthropy, branding, entrepreneurship, and technological innovations advancing international development.  Since 2009, Ms. Ngonzi has taught at NYU Heyman Center for Philanthropy & Fundraising, developing courses for nonprofits seeking to leverage technology to more effectively participate in the global funding ecosystem and aspiring social entrepreneurs.  A highly-sought out public speaker, Ms. Ngonzi has spoken in forums such as UNICEF’s Africa's Children: Future Leaders of Innovation in the Post-2015 World, TEDx CornellU, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s African Women and Youth as Agents of Change through Technology and Innovation, SXSX 2102, McGraw Hill Financial’s 2013 Women’s History Month event, the WIE Symposium Lagos, and Yale University’s Sankofa 54: African Youth Empowerment Conference.  Having appeared in media worldwide, Ms. Ngonzi was most recently profiled by Black Enterprise as one of its “Power Women of the Diaspora”.

 
International Development: What If We Shifted from Poverty Alleviation to Wealth Creation?
 
As a professional working in the international development arena with a specific interest in my continent of origin, Africa, I’ve recently begun questioning multilateral agencies’ and iNGOs’ assumptions about the most effective ways to address Africa’s challenges. Overwhelming focus has been on poverty alleviation, yet desipite progress made, even the United Nations has had to revisit its Millennium Development Goals established in 2000 to halve extreme poverty and address other key issues by 2015—with a focus on a “post-2015 development agenda” that provides for a longer term to potentially do so.  
 
While I believe any progress is always great and as someone who grew up in a United Nations home, I definitely can appreciate the complexities inherent in addressing large-scale issues across multiple geographies, however, I wonder what would happen if those whose lives are most impacted by the aforementioned and other development initiatives were included in agenda-setting and potentially provided with opportunities to have their own priorities included in the global conversations driving initiatives intended to assist them.  It seems to me, based on the many individuals I have met and with whom I’ve conversed during my travels to West, South and East Africa, that rather than focusing on alleviating their impoverished states, these folks may instead appreciate initiatives designed to enable them to move beyond subsistence level and into wealth-creation states that could potentially nullify many of the enabling factors that increase the spread of disease, food insecurity, environmental degradation, armed conflicts, and even some of the violence in homes.   
 
With a shift in focus to enabling the highly entrepreneurial people found in Africa’s informal sector  in which 80% of the continent’s population is employed to formalize their businesses and invest in scaling the 20% of the enterprises in the formal sector as a means to create wealth and begin to address the astronomical unemployment rates of its youth – almost 200 million people between the ages of 18 and 24, representing 60% of the continent’s unemployed.  The resulting formalization of the informal businesses would generate a greater tax base, increase general economic activity and even potentially create additional local wealth, resulting in greater African philanthropy that could be channeled into grassroots-led efforts to address the remaining problems taking into consideration, the perspectives of those intended to be helped.  I believe that a combination of current multilateral efforts to address poverty in combination with others to increase wealth on the continent, could potentially result in Africa’s 55 countries becoming developed, rather than continuing to be in various perpetual states of under-development.  
 
 
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 @LizNgonzi 





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