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Worries about the Giving Pledge

by Anthe Vrijlandt

Dear Mr Zuckerberg,

It’s with great interest but also with great worry that I have been following recent articles in the press about your wish to “give a large part of your fortune away”(Giving Pledge). I am a Dutch national, who has been advising African Governments for the last 10 years. My very first reaction was: “please don’t give it to development aid”. My next reaction was a bit more nuanced: “please consider how you give it away”.  Moreover, what we really want here in Africa, more than your money, is your ‘brains’, your knowledge, and your capacity of being innovative, creative, challenging.

After so many years in the Aid Business, I have come to some conclusions on development aid that I want to share with you:

  1. Reduce as much as possible “charity”; most countries in Africa are stuck in the Aid Trap. The only way to move out of this trap is developing a flourishing business sector. If you have time and if you are interested I can advise you on some good reading (for example work by William Easterly or Hubbard and Duggan).
  2. One of the objectives of aid should be making itself redundant. Please come and assist terrible poor countries in getting rid of aid by setting up businesses, loan schemes and capacity development schemes (scholarships for example).
  3. Come advise a Government of a poor country (for example of Burundi, the country of my current residence) by setting up some businesses and showing how they can abolish the “red tape” that makes life impossible for local or international companies.
  4. Use produce from local producers to make high quality products.
  5. Invest in energy. All over Africa I have seen a massive transformation the very moment a house, a street, a town is connected to electricity. Eco-friendly power is particularly well available (wind, sun, hydro power). Moreover, this will be an investment, not charity.

Allow me to challenge you. If you are considering giving part of your fortune to good cases, for example in Africa, please, do reflect thoroughly on the way you want to spend it. I would be more than happy to reflect / debate with you, if you so wish.

Yours sincerely,

Anthe Vrijlandt

International Advisor
Aid Coordination

(open brief van Anthe Vrijlandt aan Mark Zuckerberg, oprichter van Facebook en  Time Magazine Man van het Jaar 2010)

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