Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Development consultants extracting the urine

Someone by the name of Indar has just returned to the UK after a stint as a volunteer in Nigeria and started a blog. Her initial post is a scathing attack on a joint VSO (Uk organisation - Voluntary Services Organisation and GTZ - German govt's development agency) project and what they get up to in Nigeria. I hope she fully dishes the dirt, now that she is away from the hand that fed her.

It is quite rare to hear stories of the reality behind development - for the obvious reason that consultants don't want to be blacklisted or stop the flow of tax-free gravy. There are major issues that need to come out in the open, for example:

1. How much development money goes on consultants, and how much actually gets spent on delivery
2. How much consultants earn (1000Euros/dollars a day tax free is relatively low-end)
3. The difference between how much international 'experts' get paid and local staff (in many circumstances, the work load is the same). It is typical for a local staffer to take home say N100,000 per month (400 pounds) and, given the sum just mentioned, the oyinbo to take home 20,000 Euros+ per month (£14000). That's 35 times more moolah!!
4. How effectual the development projects are. I can tell some stories. Overlapping of projects is common (donor x and donor y doing the same project to the same agency, or donor x doing the same project twice, with a year or two gap).
5. How much emphasis there is on international companies doing work that could easily be done by local companies

I could go on, but I've already drawn blood from the hand that's been feeding me. Development consultancy is a con, basically. When you see oyinbos flaunting it round Abuja in some beefy shiny 4x4 with a big mast at the front, just remember this.


culturalmiscellany 4:40 pm  

Having read Indar's post I would offer the challenge as to whether it was VSO acting inappropriately or the GTZ? I agree that alot of dirt is involved in development work but to be honest alot of governmental work fullstop involves dirt. Having worked in the Public Sector as a consultant I quickly calculated that my annual tax contribution from my salary only paid one day of my consulting fees! Surely this is a waste of cash I asked myself on a frequent basis. However, when I asked around my colleagues there was not one single governmental employee who would take up my job as they didn't want the pressure, hours or lifestyle associated with it. So, if this is the case how else would the job get done?! Is it better to pay such money inappropriately and get the job done or wait for someone locally to do it. I know you yourself have at times have got frustrated with your government colleagues and their pace so you understand the point I am trying to make even if I'm putting it across badly.

imnakoya 5:13 pm  

Thanks for bringing this blog out of the shadows Jeremy.

There is dirt in any bureaucracy. What makes several western nation-funded NGO suck is the assumption that there are no local competence, hence the need to bring in ‘oyinbos’ and pay them tons of money. This mindset is not only wrong from a business perspective; it’s against the principles of on philanthropy.

Aaron Rowe 6:01 pm  

Good stuff Jeremy,

How do you find time to work and find all these interesting blogs. Keep it up if you can though!

Just wanted to note that Indar ph's profile says that they are male.

Oh and $1000 dollars a day tax free for IT consulting? I am in the wrong job.

Anonymous,  6:02 pm  


I don't always agree with everything you say and sometimes you do talk complete bollocks but time after time you prove that your heart is in the right place.

It's nonsense like this post that makes my bllod boil. Why are bloody 'oyibo' consultants being paid huge sums of money for work that can be done by local companies? This is all a complete con!

When will Africa wake up and boot all of these so called 'well-meaning' idiots out of the continent and solve their problems by themselves?


Christian Writer 6:10 pm  

They're all at it; the international development consultants and the local staff too. But like you said, the stories one could tell...ever heard about the one about the local NGO who fictionalised projects, corresponding reports and gave his staff a certain percentage of however much they get out of international NGOs? Not that the international ones are that much better. Take it from someone who knows, THEY'RE all it. Oops, said too much already.

St Antonym 9:32 pm  

Extracting urine? Oh, got it: "taking the piss."

indar ph 7:35 am  

Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for promoting my blog. In fact I am a male, as you will see from the picture on the blog.
Although VSO were originally supposed to be in a partnership with GTZ on the project, in fact GTZ seemed to regard VSO as a way of getting cheap labour, and had no regard for the philosophy of VSO; "sharing skills, changing lives". The "partnership" has now been terminated by GTZ Nigeria due to the arrogant attitude shown by GTZ. This is a shame, since we did achieve some success on a sub-project working with community banks.
Nigeria is great, I love Nigerians and hope to return there soon, (but not as a development consultant).

indar ph 9:24 am  

just read back my commment, and saw that I'd made a mistake.
I should have said that the "partnership" was terminated by VSO due to the arrogance shown by GTZ.
The final straw was when GTZ were offered the services of a Nigerian who was living in London, who has experience in minerals (not the soft drinks).
GTZ were paying VSO £13,000 per year for each volunteer, being the actual cost to VSO. The volunteers received the standard volunteer allowance (27,600 Naira per month) plus accomodation. GTZ complained about paying £13,000 per year for a Nigerian; they also complained about paying the same amount for the Kenyan volunteers who were also working with GTZ.
"Racism" is an easy accusation to make, and needs to be used very carefully, but this kind of attitude makes you wonder.

Dami 2:27 pm  

"when you see an oyinbo a dodgy one that is in abuja......please prepare a molotov for his gad guzzling 4x4

About This Blog

  © Blogger templates Psi by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP