My name is Kate Pejman, I am currently enrolled in the Civil Engineering and International Development program at the university of Western Ontario. I am traveling to Ghana for my summer internship organized by the Civil Engineering Faculty and this blog is dedicated to this event.
[Kwame Nkrumah -Nationalist leader and president of Ghana from 1960 to 1966) ]
It has been 2 months since I have started my internship with Zoomlion but can I also consider these 2 months the beginning of my work in the world of international development and is yes how effective and sustainable is it..... really?
Am I changing anyone's life?
Answering this question involves understanding the content of my work with Zoomlion, how we define development and how does one contribuite to development.
Review of my work with Zoomlion:
The initial project that we undertook with Zoomlion basically consisted of a plastic recycling inventory involving the mass quanties of various plastic types produced in three economically differentiating areas of accra. The idea behind this project essentially was to get an idea about how much and what type of plastic is mostly generated by households in order to conduct a feasibiloty study on whether or not it would be economically profitable if Zoomlion was to construct its own plastic recycling plant. The data extracted from this experiment with further research on the appropriate technology required to recycle the plastic, and the market in which the final recycled product could be sold in would be all used to do the feasibiltty analysis.
The specific work that we are actually doing at the moment involves research into the market. We have visited various plastic recycling/reusing companies that are managing the plastic one way or another.
We visited a Company called Trashy Bags that used water sachets (the concept of water sachets does not exist in North America! Aside from water bottles people also drink water from water sachets which are made of plastic, you would make a hole in it and start drinking from it... the only down side is that you would have to drink all of it at once since there is no cap to keep the water sachet closed) .....and Yogurt and Chochlate milk wraps to sew duffel bags, wallets, purses, hats and etc. Of course they would collect the water sachets & wraps, wash them and then sew them. I purchased a wallet and a pencil case made of used water sachets and old yogurt and chochlate milk wraps.
We also visited another company that actually did recycle the plastic. They brought the excess plastic from various companies ( such as FanYogo & Fanchoc which is a company that produces yogurt and chochlate milk) and reycled them into plastic palates and plastic shreds and sold them.
Foreign Aid vs. International Development:
The literal definitions of Foreign aid is not exactly the same as that of International development. Foreign aid surely contributes to international development but it introduces the concept of help from a foreign source for international development purposes where as to me international development could be a product of internal or external factors and is not necessarily dependent on foreign resources. So what is internatioanl development or foreign aid?
For clarity purposes, let's hypotatically assume there is the country X suffering from poverty related problems and it is in urgent need of development in order to cease its population from suffering from health, social, econimical and even environmental let downs. Foreign aid would bring aid/help from richer nations and through invertments with either local NGOs ( non governmental organizations), governments or private companies somehow reduce Country X's poverty levels. Where as the international development of the country is not fully dependent of foreign aid and it could be initiated fully from the grounds of its own country and people free of external factors (foreign aid).
However foreign aid has been in exsitence since 1949 (officially) and so a depency on foreign aid has been developed by many developing countries. And so Foreign aid is linked to international development and so both can fall under the general term "development" which could be achieved by help of either foreign or local entities.
NGO vs. Private Company:
Whether contribution to development is done through works with a NGO or a private company, one must examine the effectiveness of the work done. The advantage to working with either one is that development is a goal to be achieved.... in theory at least.
NGO: It involves three parties, the donor, the transporter and the recipient. The donor is the entity that provides the transporter with enough funds to run their organization and projects. The transporter is the body organization itself that transforms the money into some sort of service and the recipient is the one benefiting from the service.
DONOR <------> TRANSPORTER=NGO ------> RECIPIENT
The main challenge faced when it comes to evaluation of work of NGOs is that there is no direct relationship between the recipient and the donor and as long as the trasporter defends their work well for the donor, the donor will continue to provide funds. And so it is very hard for the voice of the recipient to be heard since they are the main entity capable for providing a proper answer to whether or not the services provided to them is effective, ineffective or neutral.
The most effective NGOs are capable of breaking the disconnection between the donor and recipient and analyze their work critically even if their funds are soley given to projects they see ineffective.
Most private companies on the other hand share the incentive of making profit. And no investment is undertaken by them without the achievement of profit. So why am I working with Zoomlion, a private company that just wants to make money?
Because they are variations with private companies and not all fall under the same category. Is the profit going staright into "the CEO's pocket"....?? I believe not. Surely the money does not trickle down to the citizens but Zoomlion's services do. Why? Zoomlion is the largest waste management company in Ghana and so it is safe to say that their work has been sustainable because they have been making profit from their services and surely with no profit they would not have been able to operate for four years. One of their largest invetments has been the sorting and compsoting plant and their next project to be undertaken is the construction of a recycling plant. As their invetments are expanding to various areas, their services to Ghana are expanding as well. If profit was the main goal, why did they not stop at just collection the waste... or only have the sorting & composting plant... why are they now looking into building a plastic recylcing plant? Although making profit remains an incentive in all these investments, the services are truely benefitign the citizens, both composting and recycling are to protect Ghana's natural resources in additional to keeping the enviroment clean.
In addition, if Zoomlion is to under perform when it comes to the services they provide they experience the reactions of their customers first hand & so they are directly accountable to the people they service where as NGOs are accountable to their funders and not necesaarily to recipients.
I think it is easier to track down the effectiveness of the work done by private companies ( or partnerships with private companies) in comparison to that of NGOs.
Company <-------> Customers
Pirates vs. Angels :
Pirates: entities that contribute to international development for the purspose of making profit(monetary or non monetary profit ) while still contrinuting to international development.
Angels: entities that contribute to international development soley for the purpose of doing good for the world.
And so I can conclude that since I am working with Zoomlion which is making money with addition to helping the community, then I am a pirate.
Whether one works for a NGO or a private company it is crutial to identify the effectiveness of the work being done.
Everything I have talked about in this post has been soley my own opinions and thoughts, I still have so much to learn and my internship with Zoomlion has at least provided me with enough information to investigate, research and perhaps define what foreign aid really means not only in theory but on ground.
If you have finished reading this long post...congratulations & thank you. I hope I made sense.