Monday, May 22, 2017

Read This Before You Donate Another Dollar For Africa

Read This Before You Donate Another Dollar For Africa

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Rescue Thyself:
Change in Sub-Saharan Africa Must Come from Within
Author: Sylvanus Adetokunboh Ayeni
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, New York, NY, 2017                                                                     

I must admit over my many decades of life, I have indeed donated considerable amounts in time and in charitable dollars to improve the educational and poverty conditions of Africans, and still do. I have made two trips there to participate in some of these projects and chaired charities that are involved in the process. But something has always concerned me about the whole thing. Ayeni’s book confirmed my suspicion. The rest is up to me, and you, and the kind of African leaders which may or may not emerge in the days ahead.
Dr. Sylvanus Adetokunboh Ayeni was born and raised in Nigeria. He is a retired neurosurgeon, living in the U.S. and has for years been involved in the education of children in Africa as well as in attempts to improve Africa’s healthcare sector. If anyone knows about the ins and outs of Africa’s decades old problem of little to no progress, it’s Dr. Ayeni.  He delivers his message with incredible doses of passion, love, logic, and statistics.
The book opens with a quote from Roman Statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero that reminds me of the attitude of a recent American President. I was hooked.
The author divides his work into three major sections.  The first one sets out and debunks some detrimental misconceptions both Africans and the rest of the world may have about Africa and Africans.  Here he deals with misconceptions related to the creation of mankind, the purpose of life, and the essence of nationhood.
Part II deals with some fundamental requirements for change, including visionary leadership, production vs. consumption (especially of natural resources), solid infrastructure, and meaningful education programs.
In Part III, Ayeni talks about some other things that need to change if even all the requirements he identified in Part II were to somehow miraculously appear.  These conditions he says are “inward” ones implying they must come through the heart and through the mind.  They include a change in beliefs, desires, and behavior (especially of leaders); a change in governance and the how the Rule of Law is achieved and adhered to; and a change in the roles of exterior donors and NGO’s.  With respect to beliefs, desires, and behavior, Ayeni engages ancient material involving Socrates and ‘the Ring of Gyges’, which I thoroughly enjoyed and learned much from. A main idea that emerges is the need for leadership to start thinking about the masses and not themselves.
The reader reaps a lot of knowledge about each of these areas as he/she works his way through the book. Admittedly, for some of us who are more type A in our personalities, there is some repetition but the author feels, and helps us understand, how one cannot overstate what is obvious and yet no one has been willing to tackle it head on – perhaps as he himself often says, “it won’t be easy” and “there are no simple or easy answers”.
For me personally, Rescue Thyself not only taught me much, but I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s knowledge of literature and history, and his careful use of both. His quotes from many sources are appropriate and well placed. And many of his own are also worthy of being cited elsewhere.  One memorable one for me, when he debunked any excuse Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) might have as to why it is still in trouble was “Except in the Garden of Eden, no society started out rich.  Another one is: “The color of the skin does not determine the quality of the output of the human brain.” I have underlined much of the book for future reference on various topics.  Clearly, his focus is SSA and he explains exactly what countries are included in that designation. He very succinctly tells us what was going on in SSA while the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution were taking place elsewhere.
His use of statistics alone is worth the price one may pay for the book. One could prepare many a presentation from what Ayeni gives us through statistics.
He goes where others have feared to tread and this is to ask the question, “Is democracy the appropriate form of government for the nations of the SSA?”
But the bottom line of the good doctor’s message is this: it is time for the foreign-aid community to rethink its strategy.  That includes global organizations like the U.N., individual countries like the U.S. and Canada and others, NGO’s, missions, denominations, churches, and individuals. And if you think your support of “digging wells” in SSA or supporting foreign schools is the way to go, Ayeni will cause you to think again.
In his last chapter as well as his epilogue, the author gives some very practical suggestions as to what can be done now. And he also warns us of what may well happen if these things are not done. Scary.
This is a must read for anyone working with NGO’s in Africa.  It’s also a must read for pastors and mission leaders, and of course the individual who cares about helping his or her less fortunate brothers and sisters in the world.  Well done, doctor.

·      Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, May 22, 2017.

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