Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Quote of the Day

Almost half the population of sub-Saharan Africa lives on less than $1 per day. But while this poverty is at the root of many of the pressing problems Africa faces, so is the powerlessness of the poor. During the course of the last forty to fifty years, most Africans, in large measure because of their leaders' attitudes and policies, have come to believe that they cannot act on their own behalf. Self-determination and personal and collective uplift, values embraced by the great majority of Africans in the period just after independence, have been eroded.

Disempowerment - whether defined in terms of a lack of self-confidence, apathy, fear, or an inability to take charge of one's own life - is perhaps the most unrecognised problem in Africa today. To the disempowered, it seems much easier or even more acceptable to leave one's life in the hands of third parties (governments, aid agencies, and even God) than to try to alleviate one's circumstances through one's own effort.

This "syndrome" is a problem that of course affects far more than Africans, and far more than the poor. Nevertheless, I have found it to be as substantial a bottleneck to development in Africa as inadequate infrastructure or bad governance, and it has added an extra weight to the work of those who want to enable individuals and communities to better their circumstances.

--Wangari Maathai, Beyond the Culture of Dependency

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