Agile Europeans in Africa
Why we need agile Europeans in Africa
“Many Europeans still treat Africans like children”, said James Shikwati, a Kenyan born intellectual, at a panel discussion in Hamburg, showing how European behavior is perceived in Africa.
In the same discussion I argued that Africa and Europe are drifting apart and that we Europeans should better do something about it. Otherwise we lose access to the dynamics of the globalized world.
Let’s wake up …
“The Western world suffers from syndromes of conquest and liberation and is only able to perceive what fits into its worldview; everything else is neglected”, James Shikwati writes (Optimierungsfalle , 2012).
I add, the mainstream European worldview includes that …
- … the world is becoming constantly worse, poorer and more unequal, and
- … that we as Europeans know how good and right development looks like.
This in a time when African countries have left the vicious cycle of ever more poverty and have joined the globalized world. When according to the new Nobel laureate Angus Deaton mankind’s history can be seen as a “great escape” from hunger, poverty and illness.
Abandoning only these two assumptions would modernize our worldview and create space for a new and fresh approach towards Africa.
… and start with a different thinking!
Let’s forget our development models and our “best-practice” project plans. And let’s forget our attempts to sent in the best-qualified experts, carefully chosen by sophisticated worldwide selection processes. What really counts is the interaction then, during actions on the ground.
Systems science teaches us that at least 80% of achieved results come from interactions between people and between people and its environment. And not from individual smart people, smart models or other single elements of a project.
The HOW …
The stage is set by HOW –
how we act,
how we interact,
how we communicate,
how others perceive us,
how we build common understanding,
how we create trust,
how we bring in our strengths,
how we become creative and constructive,
how we handle the unforeseen and unexpected.
… and then the WHAT
Only then comes the WHAT.
Achieved results are always an “emerging property”. And not an automatic outcome of our plans.
Agile Europeans for Africa
Being agile is an adequate way of interacting and tackling complex issues and therewith our collaboration with Africa.
From “agile management practices” we can learn that successful behavior follows specific principles. In my book “Der schwarze Tiger – was wir von Afrika lernen können” I have put forward a set of such principles for cooperations with African countries.
Agile Europeans will automatically discover another Africa: an Africa of vitality and creativity, an Africa of networks and of a booming real economy, and an Africa of a dynamic middle class and novel social innovations.
Then, looking back on our aid programs, we will find them awkwardly outdated. As we will do with our general image of Africans and Africa. – And we will be able to proof James Shikwati wrong: No, we Europeans are not suffering anymore from syndromes of conquest and liberation. We have finally come to terms with a globalizing world and the “rise of the rest”, and our relationships to African people and African organizations.
Hans Stoisser is author of the book
“Der Schwarze Tiger – Was wir von Afrika lernen können”
(only in German for now)