The Founder and CEO of Global Media Foundation, a Ghanaian based human rights media advocacy organisation, Raphael Godlove Ahenu has criticized what he describes as “the paternalistic model of saving Africa” even as global leaders try to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Mr. Ahenu was delivering a paper on the topic: “NGO Funding and the Politics of Rescue” at the just ended International Conference on “Moving Beyond Paternalism: Supplicants, Saviors and the Politics of Anti-Slavery and Anti-Trafficking in Africa”, which took place at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.
It was organized by Beyond Trafficking and Slavery and supported by UK Economic and Social Research Council and brought together more than 35 scholars from over 19 Universities across the globe and civil society organizations.
The main goal of the conference was to explore how and why models of paternalistic protection have shaped the formulation and implementation of anti-slavery, anti-trafficking and other humanitarian projects in Africa.
According to him, the imposition of problematic practices and agenda on African governments and indigenous African NGOs as part of the fight against human trafficking, prostitutions, child labour and modern-day slavery that has emerged in West African NGO landscape is not the best.
He noted that there is always an attempt by the western world to impose their culture and values on us in Africa by way of stigmatizing certain African culture and values as primitive and that should be scrapped.
Acculturation he said is seen as child labour in African where as in the western world it is seen as impartation of skills.
He said Western NGOs are fighting for more human right for children and this has culminated in African Child being stubborn.
“African parents have unique way of bringing up their children and this advocacy by human right activist largely financed by western NGOs have contributed in derailing our way of training, values and culture,” his paper asserted.
“I worked throughout my childhood and youth in agricultural labour and other jobs which the ILO and abolitionist organizations suggest that no child should be allowed to do. But through these jobs, I successfully completed my diploma in broadcasting and journalism, which I decided to put to the benefit of these marginalized communities through the formation of GLOMEF.”
“What could have happened to me if I was stopped by the then since government never paid a pesewa for my education even though I was coming from very poor home?, he questioned in his paper.
The CEO lamented about the invasion of NGOs, which he referred to as abolitionist organizations in Ghana, claiming that things such as child slavery and sex trafficking and others were predominant in communities.
“For those of us working at the grassroots level, this was very upsetting because we knew the picture these groups were painting was very different to what was happening.
We were also alarmed by the fact that they blamed our culture and traditions for these stories about slavery and trafficking they were telling the global media. They totally missed out the external forces which had forced the government to undertake measures that punished its own people”.
According to Mr. Ahenu Jr, largely, the objectives and aims of these programs are set out by the western NGOs without the local NGOs. In this regard, the local NGOs are forced to work within the parameters set out by the western NGOs which may not be in the superior interest of the local environment.
Dr Samuel Oloruntoba, a Lecturer of Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute and the University of Lagos presented a paper on the topic: The Politics of Paternalism and Implications of Global Governance on Africa: Critique of the Sustainable Development Goals”.
He posited that following the self-conceited civilizing missions of the colonialists, Africa has been a laboratory where all forms of development strategies have been experimented.
Dr Oloruntoba said the modernization theories of the 1950s and early 1960s depicted the development concerns of Africa as a ‘white man burden’ what he described as “Development Merchant System”, the aid industry has flourished while African countries floundered.
“Despite the failures of previous programmes such as the structural adjustment programs of the 1980s through the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals”, he said, new ones are formulated with little or no input from the supposed beneficiaries.
(Richard Boahen [email protected] )