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African aid projects need to take longer term view

ICE news

A UGANDAN graduate engineer working in England has hit out at the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for wasting money on African projects which have 'too little long term benefit for locals'.

Christopher Olobo, a graduate engineer with Mott Macdonald, claimed that money spent sponsoring African students at UK universities was contributing to the brain drain in Africa.

He also accused DFID of investing in road building and drainage projects without promoting the need for adequate maintenance.

Olobo raised the issues at the Engineering the Millennium Development Goals summit at the ICE earlier this month.

Olobo has a civil engineering degree from a Ugandan university and a masters in transport planning and infrastructure from Southampton University.

Although he has not received any DFID funding for his education, many of his DFIDsponsored colleagues have failed to return to Uganda.

'I go back three times a year and get down on my hands and knees to clear drains and repave sections of road myself.

I have learned the importance of maintaining infrastructure - if I can't pass that on, what have I learned-' said Olobo.

Tony Blair's Commission for Africa report, published in March this year, also highlighted the issue of talented Africans leaving the continent. It says: 'Many educated Africans have over the years quit their homelands because they are frustrated at not being able to put their skills to good use. They can also earn more and have a better life elsewhere. Africa loses an average of 70,000 skilled personnel a year to developed countries'.

DFID head of infrastructure Alistair Wray admitted that future DFID funded schemes would have to take a 'reality check' and that the issues Olobo raised were 'valid'.

He added that 'Multi-lateral [institutions] can sometimes lose track of what's happening on the ground.'

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