These days, the likes of Bono and Angelina Jolie, and world leaders like Tony Blair use their celebrity status to highlight the needs of the poor and poorer nations. Effectively, conquering poverty has become a fad, a “been to, must do” action that helps both the reputation of the giver and the recipient.
But how effective has this fad been? Africa, of which I am native has slid back into the worst poverty since the onset of the global campaigns to reduce it post-independence, from the 60s to the 70s. Truth be said, the continent was far more prosperous immediately after independence than it is today (after many poverty program interventions)—no thanks to wars of attrition, and global economic challenges that have seen the rich become richer, and the poor become poorer. How much aid will do?
I believe the seeming disconnect between aid and development results of the past thirty years (and the apparent inability to reduce poverty through these efforts) can be traced to the wrong focus. Often times, the focus of nearly all these efforts has been on the public sector, instead of the private sector. The corrupt bureaucracy and weak governmental institutions of recipient nations simply have failed to deliver the goods where it is needed the most. The fact is, the only true and tried method to reduce poverty either in the third world or advanced nations is job creation.
Citizens with jobs are productive. Productive citizens aspire for greater things. They are empowered by their jobs to save, invest and grow individually—thereby improving the economy and offering more opportunity to lift others out of poverty. The surest way to create jobs is through the private sector, and small businesses. Encouraging entrepreneurship on all levels, and funding them is a better use of aid dollars than just importing food or medicine, and dumping them on governments that lack the capacity to deliver them or simply steal them for personal gains.
That is why I am passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation, and policies that encourage fair trade which inevitably increases demands for goods and creates jobs in poor countries. I believe the best engine for growth and poverty reduction in poor countries is not mega projects, or programs or major initiatives to rebuild infrastructure or any such things, but the day-to-day creation of jobs by small and medium-scale enterprises, by innovative entrepreneurs and by common people passionate about the environment and their society. In fact, it is possible as shown by Dr. Moyo in her book Dead Aid that sometimes, aid may even hamper development and economic growth. Aid can destroy jobs.
This is why I am passionate about job creation and trade as tools for global development. We can change the world; we can reduce poverty—one job at a time. Even former prime minister Tony Blair finally realizes this fact, after many years in the wilderness of aid.