Eric Hersman on Aid

Being here in Nairobi I have found an interesting quote. Eric Hersman, one of the founding figures of the Kenyan Internet business scene, on foreign aid and NGOs:

“In a well-functioning state, most NGOs would not exist. There is only a limited role for them, because the market answers many of the problems, and the government should answer the rest. However, here in Kenya, we have one of the highest count of NGOs per capita in the world. It is an interesting dynamic though, because international NGOs bring in money for some things, which bastardizes the market for other things. It creates a whole realm of craziness that you would not find in other places.

Let me give you an example. NGOs build bridges that after two years become dysfunctional. This cost a few million US dollars to make, and after two years, is no longer relevant. Other examples are new livestock programs in northern Kenya that only work as long as the NGO workers are there. As soon as they leave, it all falls apart. These are the kinds of things that we have seen for five decades now, and it does not seem to stop.

Now, if a business had this high of a failure rate, they would not keep operating. NGOs, however, seem to have a limitless amount of money that comes from unilateral and bilateral aid and just keeps on coming in. …”

p49f, Digital Kenya – An Entrepreneurial Revolution in the Making,
edited by Bitange Ndemo and Tim Weiss, 2017
Palgrave Studies of Entrepreneurship in Africa



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