Friday, May 29, 2009

IDRC - MENA Workshop & ICTD Conference

– Doha Qatar April 16-21, 2009

I had drafted up this trip report a while ago but have been so busy with another conference paper, that I pushed it aside. I also found that several comments had already chatted a bit about the ICTD conference, however, I didn't see much written on the Young Researchers Workshop nor a pre-conference event hosted by IDRC for Middle East and North African researchers. So here it goes!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Recap on Business Plans from the Slums

“The role of business skill development in catalyzing dynamic economies and alleviating African urban poverty”
Green College, University of British Columbia

Yesterday, I returned to the old stomping ground of my university and business school, Sauder School of Business, to engage in a workshop discussing issues of social entrepreneurship and development in Africa. The workshop was a fundraiser for the Sauder Africa project Social Entrepreneurship 101. I have been following SE101 since 2007 when I first mentioned to Nancy Langton about the wonderful work of the Kimathi Information Centre and their full-spirited leader, Jose Ngunjiri. They continue to be partners in helping to train young entrepreneurs through a business planning course to this day.

I was quite unsure what to expect from the workshop besides listening to some experiences of work in Africa. My uncertainty then turned to a feeling of inspiration – I sat in this room and started to hear the thoughts of Canadians genuinely committed in the issues of development and business both at home and in Africa and beyond. The discussion was extremely engaging between the audience and speakers in trying to capture what makes a successful entrepreneur in the most dire of circumstances. Here is a little bit about the speaker’s discussions and how I related to their work.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Canada dead set on improving their development aid bucks

I’m back home in Vancouver and it has been a real treat to have time to myself. I get to finish up some reports long overdue, catch up with friends and family and catch up with Canadian news in international development. It looks like I came at the right time as the Minister of International Cooperation, Honourable Beverley J. Oda just announced the new Canadian strategy to international development – greater efficiency and greater focus.

Her speech was super straight forward and you know exactly what they want to do: 80% of resources towards 20 countries to increase food security, stimulate sustainable economic growth and secure the future of children and youth. Bam.

Other sidenotes include sending 15% of their Ottawa-based staff into the field and no more ‘tied aid’ – as in buying food aid in the local countries as opposed to using Canadian food and suppliers which costs up to 30% more! The Ministry is also adding a Democratic Promotion Agency – self-explanatory.

My thoughts – do it. The Ministry has only $2.1 billion to play with this year in aid, they are obviously responding to that terrible Senate report that on CIDA, Overcoming 40 Years of Failure, and we hope this criticism will shape them into a more effective agency.

While some of the criticism has already come through that this new strategy does not direct state its efforts towards poverty alleviation, the idea of increasing food security is absolutely directed at the poor. The workers at farms who are a majority women can help improve their livelihoods with improved inputs and technology for farming and hopefully see better healthy crops in the future.

I’m just stoked that Mozambique has remained as one of the priority countries!