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December 22, 2011
By Claudene Wharton
A University of Nevada, Reno sociologist contends that widespread corruption, economic mismanagement, lack of accountability, lack of sound leadership in government and the nascent private sector will continue to weigh negatively on struggling Sub-Saharan African countries, unless these sectors collaborate with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and microfinance institutions (MFIs) to bring about real progress.
In his new book, Rethinking Development Strategies in Africa: The Triple Partnership as an Alternative approach - the Case of Uganda, Johnson W. Makoba, associate professor and sociology department chair in the University's College of Liberal Arts, uses Uganda, his home country, as a case study.
Makoba has been researching development strategies for Africa for more than 20 years and contends that a "triple partnership" is the only way that sustained economic development and poverty reduction can be achieved in the region. He asserts that the massive amount of development aid channeled into the country over the past two decades has done very little to reduce poverty in the country or improve the peoples' well-being.
"They must form a triple partnership," Makoba said. "They must seek to engage the state, the private sector, and nongovernmental sector and donor agencies, in the development process. All these actors are critical to sustainable development."
Makoba says that NGOs and MFIs have shown to be effective agents in sustainable grassroots development efforts, helping to achieve the twin goals of improving the well-being of the poor and promoting more sustainable economic development for the region.
"The failure of states and markets in Africa and Uganda to bring about desired economic development or effectively deliver basic services, such as health, education and clean water, has meant that NGOs and MFIs have stepped in to close the 'gap' created as a result of such failure," he said.
Makoba's recommendations are based not only his scholarship, but on his first-hand experience. He grew up in rural Uganda amid the social, economic and political devastation that began in the early 1970s during the Idi Amin regime. He was determined to "study hard to make a career and be able to help others to find self-help solutions to poverty."
After earning his bachelor's degree in sociology in Uganda in 1978, Makoba went on to study at UC Berkeley in 1981, where he earned his master's and doctoral degrees. Soon after he began teaching at the University of Nevada, Reno in 1990, he founded his own nonprofit organization to provide financial and educational services to poor women and children in Uganda. The organization, the Foundation for Credit and Community Assistance (FOCCAS), was incorporated in the State of Nevada in 1993 and has served more than 16,000 women since its program operations began in 1996.
"I view development in developing countries as a dual process - improving peoples' well-being in terms of material things and empowering them through participation in decision-making, whether in households, communities or in national politics," Makoba said. "Among the poor in developing countries, women and children tend to be the most marginalized. Hence, my research focuses on nongovernmental organizations and microfinance institutions, as these promote participatory grassroots development and self-reliance among poor women and youth."
In his book, Makoba explains that recent public-sector reforms in Africa, such as the creation of executive agencies, can serve as a road map and provide the building blocks for the eventual establishment of autonomous development funds on the continent that would promote a partnership in development efforts. Under this new paradigm, he asserts that nongovernmental organizations, the government and donors could collaborate and rethink their strategies and roles in order to achieve sustainable development. Corruption and political interference would be minimized under this scenario.
Makoba previously authored the book, Government Policy and Public Enterprise Performance in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as several articles published in scholarly journals. He is currently the head of the subsection on "Microfinance and Development" under the Sociology of Development section of the American Sociological Association, the premier professional association of sociologists in the United States. His new book, Rethinking Development Strategies in Africa, published by Peter Lang, is available at Amazon and other outlets.