Villages in Action – I would like to hear more of these conversations

Happy New Year folk. 

How are you getting on with your New year’s resolutions so far?

I know this is an odd question but what exactly are New year’s resolutions? Are the goals or aspirations?

I recently stumbled across an an article by Linda Raftree with her wishes for the year 2012 specifically on issues of Inclusion, openness and authenticity.

Linda reflects on the events that have shaped the world in 2011 and her  wish for 2012 is for the voices of the excluded to be included in development conversations amongst other things.  I share Linda’s wish for  more  Inclusion and authentic stories especially on Africa in 2012.

I attend several events on the development  of Africa throughout the year, where I hear from development experts, academics, NGOs and big corporations and I always feel something is missing from these conversations- the voices of the recipients of  development programmes. As I recently learned if we don’t listen- WE GET IT WRONG and send out the wrong message about those that are on the receiving end of development programmes

An ordinary man on the streets of any given western capital tends to learn about Africa from a television set. This median does not always pull together those authentic stories about life in Africa and anyone with no knowledge of Africa would be forgiven for thinking that Africa is a lost cause on which resources should not be wasted.

In his BBC Radio 4 interview Mo Ibrahim has (quite rightly) recently complained about the popular media failing to present a comprehensive image of Africa.

But the  question  is who has the right to tell the authentic story of Africa ?

How do we add their voice to the development conversation and why is it important that we hear these voices?

If we learned anything in 2011 I would like to think that it was the citizens who own the right to tell their story and that social media has made that possible consequently  the world has changed in ways we could never have imagined. Social media platforms enabled ordinary citizens to take action and oust the big men of politics and the rest of us to rally around those citizens.  We heard the voices of those citizens!

Villages in Action- Is a  little unknown conference that came about in response to the UN summit of 2010. The Villages in Action platform gives us  a rare opportunity to hear from residents of a Ugandan village- we learn how they live, what they do to generate income, the impact of their lifestyle on their environment and why development initiatives do not work.

Why don’t we have more of these platforms across the world? Better still why aren’t conversations on development based on this model?

In 2012 the first development event I will attend will be in Masindi NW Uganda on 14 January 2012. This will be the second Villages in Action conference and I am really looking forward to it. If you  can’t join us you will not miss out, the organisers will bring the event live to you in your living room.

What ever the new year holds in stock- like Linda my wish for 2012 is to hear more from those at the receiving end of development!

Happy New year and please do share your New Year’s wishes

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Are Africans in the Diaspora real Africans

or do we cease being Africans when we leave Africa?

As  some  of you will be aware our guest blogger here Teddy Ruge of Project Diaspora is organising a Villages in Action conference in Uganda and he explained how and why he is doing it in his last blog here

Supporters of the VILLAGES IN ACTION initiative have worked and continue to do so in the background to  ensure that the conference goes ahead without a hitch.

But something rather sinister is going on too

What is that? I hear you ask!

The detractors are out in full swing and of all things they are questioning whether Teddy is a real African!

And  this  has led me to ask


When Teddy announced the dates of this conference he received a lot of support from folk in cyber space even the good folk at AID WATCH  posted something about the initiative on their blog and this is where the detractors started

check out this comment on the AID WATCH blog,

Stefano B. wrote:

This is interesting.

But it’s worth noting that the article was written by an African whoif I am not wrong – was educated and actually runs a business in US.

He may not be considered a total outsider, but he’s not even the quintessential citizen of the African continent.

and this was Teddy response

TMS Ruge wrote:

Thanks so much for writing about our project. I see the skeptics our there are already chiming in. It was to be expected.

Stefano – I was educated in Uganda, Kenya and the US. I also run a business in the US as well as two for-profit social enterprises in Uganda. So I am curious which part of that disqualifies me as a “quintessential citizen” of Uganda.

Thanks again, looking forward to

I had pretty much left it at that until this morning when I logged into Twitter to find several Tweets from Teddy aka @tmsruge  and here are those tweets

#via2010 Not a big deal, but think it is worth a discussion at least. Is there some barometer that disqualifies me as part of this village?

I’d like to ask every1 aware of #via2010. Color of blood do I need 2bleed in order to be “authentic” – so far am the outsider & don’t count

Comments: “While Villages in Action is being run to give poor voice, it is still being organized by outsiders” #via2010

I started by teasing him as per usual until I popped over to the blog in question  and you can read  the comments for yourself here

I was astounded by this. It seemed to me that Teddy who is currently on his way to Uganda via Amsterdam has taken to publicly  defending himself  that as a Ugandan Diaspora  he is qualified to start such an initiative and that he is indeed an African  even though he is lives outside of Uganda and speaks with an American accent. And don’t get me started on the stance that the folk at TED took!

I found this hurtful too . Teddy and I collaborate on a couple of initiatives and  I don’t know anyone that is more dedicated to the development of African as he is. I also wondered whether the rest of us African diaspora involved in the development of Africa will soon come under such attack?

Is it really possible that some folk out there do not consider African diaspora as real Africans with a passion about the development of Africa or is it because we have dared to take up roles that are normally taken up by the likes of BONO

What about our fellow  Africans on the ground? Do they view us as outsiders too?

I see our role  as the diaspora amongst other things as a bridge between the African continent and West.

One thing for sure most African governments are increasingly tapping into their diaspora not only as potential investors but also as away  of  attacking suitably qualified people to fill difficult to job vacancies.

This  was recently demonstrated by the Ugandan government, when they sent a whole delegation to address us. On the day the government officials told us that they have vacancies to fill within the infrastructure sector (Roads and Railways) and would especially like to tap into the skills of its diaspora and not only that they would like hire SKILLS ASSESSORS from within the diaspora so that they can establish exactly where the gaps are.

One of the government officials said that he too regards our role as a bridge between the West and Uganda(Africa)

So over to you folk.

ps, if this comes across as a rant it is meant to be! If you are on Twitter follow the hashtag #VIA2010 for more details on this and the conference

Taking the microphone to the Villagers

In the last post we learned about a new type of conference from TMS Ruge, one that takes the conversation to the poor- VILLAGES IN ACTION

I caught up Teddy a few days ago to try and get a better understanding of what this is all about and here is what he had to say

So  Teddy I have heard so much about this  VILLAGES IN ACTION CONFERENCE, can you tell me firstly where and when it is taking place?

Kikuube Village Grounds, Masindi, West Uganda Saturday 27th November 2010, 2pm – 8pm

How did this come about ?

In September 2010, international organizations, heads of state, celebrities and specialists gathered to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As you may know, the MDGs were set in 2000 to achieve eight anti-poverty goals by 2015. In the midst of the coverage of these grand events, high profile attendees wined, dined and debated the relative merits of each MDG plan, while the actual “poor,” (the object of these goals) were not invited to these elite events.  As Project Diaspora is dedicated to change perceptions about the poor by building a platform whereby the voices of the poor can be heard, we decided to take the microphone to them.

Why is this conference necessary, after all there are so many conferences on Africa?

The goal of this one-day conference is to showcase the grassroots efforts driving economic development and improving the welfare of the community – all with little or no assistance from international aid organizations.

As a departure from the usual conferences on poverty in Africa, the keynote speech will be delivered by the village’s Local Council (LC1) chairperson, Milly Businge. Mrs. Businge represents this village of 270 homesteads and just over 1000 people.

Even though she had no knowledge of the MDGs prior to the planning of this conference, her keynote speech will revolve around the development springing up due to the shift from subsistence farming to commercial farming of sugar cane. As more farmers turn their uncultivated parcels of land into sugar cane out-grower parcels for the local sugar cane factory, development has followed.

That is very interesting, can you tell us more about the nature of this  development?

There has been an increase in the completion of permanent houses, mobile phone adoption, and improved means of personal transport are proving to be catalysts for an improved way of life/development.

What else can delegates expect at the conference

The conference will  bring together 400-500 members of the community, and community leaders for this one-of-a-kind event. Most of the presenters and panelists will be from the village itself, mixed in with local subject-specific experts and practitioners.

The conference will also showcase a start up SME-

Pamlea Nyakato- photo by TMS RUGE

Kikuube’s first hardware shop was opened by an enterprising young woman Pamela Nyakato who identified an opportunity and now has a thriving business. Individual efforts like these are directly contributing to local development as well the achievement of the MDGs.

What arrangements have you got in place for those that  are interested in this conference but cannot make it to  Uganda

A global audience of thousands will engage with the conference through social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, the blogs.

Thank you Teddy, I wish you the best of luck with the conference. Please do come back and  let us know how you got on


This conference is sponsored by BUSINESS FIGHTS POVERTY a network for professionals passionate about fighting poverty through business. For information please click on the logo on left