Sunday, December 13, 2009

Boas Vindas a Mozambique: Development Ground Zero

In an effort to chase summer, I’ve decided as my next stop Mozambique. The weather doesn't hurt, but the actual reason I’m here is to work for TechnoServe as a volunteer consultant. TechnoServe is an NGO that uses market-based approaches such as supporting key entrepreneurs and institutions to create industry-wide changes that can transform a country's economy. During December and January, I’ll be working to assess their impact on the poultry industry, talking with people on all levels, from the government policy makers to the chicken growers living on less than a dollar a day. More on that later, but first, what is Mozambique all about?

Given my limited time here, it's hard to tell. The country emerged from a nasty, long civil war only in 1992. Seeing people with missing limbs around town isn't uncommon. Many of the Portuguese and Mozambiqueans of Portuguese heritage fled during the war, and there still seems like a disconnect between the native Mozambiqueans and the Portuguese that remain (e.g. often I see those of the Portuguese heritage running the restaurant, and the native Mozambiqueans serving as waiters). However, for the most part, economic barriers seem to be the only restrictions for social mingling - skin color doesn't matter. And, on a lighter note, they've good seafood, but given that my hometown is the home of the modern shrimping industry, it's somewhat of a non-factor for me...Man, I could go for a grouper sandwich right now...Back to the point - Maputo, at least, has a Latin American/island feel. Palm trees line the beaches of the Indian Ocean, as locals trod around in sandals on sand dusted roads.

What I can say is that this place is Development Ground Zero. Here “Millennium Challenge Account” or USAID logos are often sighted on trucks passing by. The building I work in houses USAID, the African Development Bank, and other aid organizations. The other night I was at an expat-laden party, and here’s a list of the jobs of the people I talked to, in the order (I remember) talking with them:

  1. World Food Program (United Nations)
  2. European Commission (European Union)
  3. Ministry of Agriculture
  4. German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ)
  5. Ministry of Planning and Development
  6. Population Services International (PSI) (a social marketing/global health organization)
  7. Another person with GTZ
  8. Another person with PSI
  9. Bartender
**And the next day at a gingerbread house-making party, I met a guy who worked for the Clinton Foundation with pediatric aid patients.

Guess which person on that list was the local? Come to think of it, I haven't met a single foreigner who is working in something other than development. No businessmen, no tourists. Whereas I had never before seen a massive social society sector on the scale of India and Bangladesh, here I'm seeing what big time aid looks like. One development worker I met called Mozambique "the development darling of the world." It's been a big success story so far, with an impressive post-war growth rate (now at 6.5% annually), and aid seems to be working. However, it's still ranked as the 6th poorest country in the world and suffers from crippling problems. It's pretty obvious to me that this African experience is going to offer a much different glimpse at poverty alleviation than what I saw in Asia.

1 comment:

  1. Rob,

    Really enjoying the blog. I'm passing it along to all my colleagues.
    Have a merry (and warm) Christmas and keep up the good work. Hope you get a few chances to run!