In June 2016, we published an article titled ‘Hard Truth: In One Year, Akon did more for Africans than most Charities did in Years’. We wrote the piece because the Senegalese-American R&B hip hop recording artist had launched a mega-solar project aimed at providing electricity to some 600 million Africans.
As we speak today, the Akon Lighting Africa project is benefiting many people in Africa. Although the project was launched in 2015, currently, a wide range of quality solar solutions, including street lamps, domestic and individual kits have been installed in over 14 African countries. As a result, a number of households, villages, community houses, schools and health centers located in rural areas have been exposed to electricity for the first time in their lives. This has also created employment for the local youth in these rural communities, with the installation of the solar equipment and its maintenance done by them. This is only the initial stages of the project, however, when the project is fully completed, it will continue to create opportunities for many Africans, especially the youth.
In the piece about Akon doing more for Africans in just one year than Western charities, we should have probably also added Western governments. For years, Western governments, organizations and charities have been pretending to help people in Africa and other people living in poor places across the world. But the reality is, the West is busy doing nothing in these places. Scarce taxpayers’ funds allocated to initiate developmental projects to help less-privileged people in poor places ends up being misappropriated by officials in charge. We have a classic example to tell you below.
According to an internal document of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) obtained by The Daily Mail, more than two-thirds of £25.4 million spent on a foreign aid scheme to install wells, water pumps and irrigation in some of Africa’s poorest areas were taken by ‘fat cat’ consultants — the DFID is the United Kingdom government department responsible for administering overseas aid. The department has an annual budget of over £12 billion. This means taxpayers’ money allocated to the department every year is already massive.
The Daily Mail reports the money was meant to help remote areas in Southern Africa including countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and others to have access to water for crop irrigation, because of severe drought that has hit the region for an ongoing five years now.
The damning documents revealed consultants, hired by the DFID on the project, pocketed at least £17 million of the £25.4 million taxpayers’ money meant to help the poor in these drought-hit areas. However, the leaked papers said only a fraction of the money went on building a handful of small infrastructure and irrigation schemes in the targeted areas. DFID sources confirmed to The Daily Mail that average daily rates for staff who are mostly contractors on the project were more than £600 – equivalent to a £150,000 annual salary.
A review by the government also found that the project benefited just 370 households, rather than the 15,000 intended across three villages in Zimbabwe. Yet, surprisingly, the government praised the project, hailing it a success. Some MPs who saw the government’s review of the project described it as a pure mediocrity on the part of the government.
“This is an absolute scandal. I feel so angry that money meant to help some of the poorest in the world is lining the pockets of rich people. It’s an appalling waste of money and clearly should be stopped,” said Tory MP Nigel Evans, who sits on the Commons International Development Committee.
Mr Evans also called for International Development Secretary-Priti Patel to urgently review the scandal, calling it profligacy and profiteering in the poverty industry.
Specifically, the project was placed under the mandate of the Climate Resilient Infrastructure Development Facility (CRIDF). According to the details, the CRIDF hired 550 staff, spent up to £217 per person on workshops and £20,446 on “gender and social inclusion guidelines.”
The CRIDF awarded the project to Adam Smith International (ASI). It is said ASI has seen its profits soar since the United Kingdom increased spending on aid abroad to £12 billion last year.
The documents revealed that in 2013, the DFID agreed to spend £20.7 million on CRIDF for small dams, pumping stations and irrigation schemes, to develop resilience against climate change while showing the value of co-operation between nations.
But a quarterly review in November 2014 revealed 70% of the first £7.8 million spent went on consultants. Many were at higher rates, which can reach up to £950 a day.
Overall, the projected was expected to benefit around 275,000 poor people, but less than 10% of the target was met. This means the money went down the drain while the intended recipients continue to suffer.
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