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End of my placement on the horizon, however…

I’ll be staying in Uganda till end of August! More on this in the next post..

Six months ago, I stepped onto Ugandan soil and started my first development work experience in Africa. In the blink of an eye, I finished my placement. Although six months’ social work seems to be short, I did learn a lot of things and got many inspirations. This experience has already played a huge part in my future career path. What did I learn and were my expectations pre-departure met?

1. Development work, in particular community work is very rewarding but has its challenges. 

Working with communities feels a little bit like sailing on a windy day. Hard work, overwhelming at times, and thrilling. I wasn’t sure what to expect before leaving London, all I knew is that I have certain goals and objectives to meet ‘working together with the community’. But how does one define a community? What are its boundaries? Who do you talk to when you “work with” a community? Who are its leaders? A few personal remarks:

  • Anticipate low turn out – at least initially. And bad time management throughout the work. Community takes time to gain trust and patience to teach the importance of respecting time.
  • You cannot solve all their problems, actually you cannot solve most of their problems. In rural Uganda almost everything needs attention: hygiene, infrastructure, access to clean water, education, literacy… the list is endless. Tight focus work on particular task works best. Slowly but surely together with the people you can move forward.
  • Give people voice and make them feel appreciated and valued. Even if this means taking a snap of them, listening to them. Appreciation of another human being isn’t that common so giving people a small gesture of love is something they treasure.

2. The rewards of community work exceeds its difficulties. 

At least for me. This was probably the most challenging work I have ever done but it has brought me the biggest satisfaction. Offering people your time, advise and giving them skills which will improve their lives on unthinkable scale is just something that cannot be described.

3. Africa is big, bold and beautiful.

Before coming to Uganda I haven’t even have Africa on my ‘bucket list’. Oh that has definitely changed now! Ugandan landscapes, its culture and people have won a place in my heart and I’m very eager to explore more of the continent.

4. The work done over the past 6 months has confirmed I’m heading in the right direction. 

This placement was very much a trial step for me in order to have an absolute certainty that international development is something I want to a) do a master in and b) pursue a career going forward. I’ve always dreamed of doing something on a voluntary basis abroad, however life has taken a different course for me until recently. The work I have done in Uganda has given me the peace of mind I needed that this is indeed something I want to be doing for a living, in a long-term future. And I am very happy to announce that I have been accepted into the London School of Economics for the Development Management MSc degree starting September!



Africa is rising … but for whom? Great talk by Winnie Byanyima

Dr Duncan Green, LSE and Oxfam GB, and Ms Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International
Photograph taken directly from LSE blog

This Monday, together with Hannah from nepalilovestory, I went to Winnie Byanyima’s talk at London School of Economics. Winifred Byanyima is a Ugandan aeronautical engineer, politician, and diplomat. She has worked for the World Bank, UNDP, UN and since 2013 in Oxfam as an Executive Director. She’s admired in the world specially for her human rights work, grass-roots activism and expertise on women’s rights.

The full coverage of the talk together with some podcasts can be found on LSE blog here.

A couple of key insights below on what I think is either fundamental for Africa (and not just for Africa) in order to lift itself out of poverty or thought-provoking:

  • Tax competition: not surprised to hear about how Africa is losing billions from fraud and tax avoidance. Governments and private sector – oil, mining and other commodities but also accounting and banking – are all involved in avoidance of paying corporate taxes. Winnie emphasised how competition for foreign investment makes African Governments promise tax havens to private investors which in turn creates the ‘race to the bottom’: tax havens exist to provide a way for the rich West to get around the taxes that pay for the infrastructure and services people rely on. This has become one of the key driver of the vast inequality between counties and continents.
  • Resource-rich curse which leaves citizens disempowered and not to mention poor or even poorer. Rather than pumping the revenues from commodities into infrastructure and education, governments pocket the wealth. Instead of creating prosperity, resources have often fostered corruption, undermined inclusive economic growth and damaged the environment.This natural resource dependence also insulates leaders from public pressure and accountability. And ‘our leaders will only be as good as we hold them accountable’ Winnie said.
  • Big round of applause went for the relocation of Oxfam’s International HQ to Nairobi, Kenya. Thumbs up – why do we have most of the NGO’s HQ so far removed from the grounds where all the work takes place?
  • Inequality – only by tackling inequality and aiming towards inclusive growth will we reduce poverty.
  • Globalisation and its effect on culture & language – super interesting point made by Winnie on how language preservation is crucial for cultural identity of the people of Africa. Need to explore this more in depth.

You can find out more about LSE free talks here: http://www.lse.ac.uk/publicEvents/eventsHome.aspx