March 6, 2009

Pastor Phiri, in the faculty meeting at Heart of Africa Mission, discussed why the budget went wrong.
“An African doesn’t want another person suffering. If money is for another purpose but someone comes in bitter need, as an African refusing to contribute to a needy situation — it would mean he doesn’t care.”

To not care is a big social no-no. An African’s identity is as a part of the community, not as an individual. When someone is labeled that he doesn’t care, he is effectively being pushed to the edge of the community.

Balancing act - Johanna carries a basin of water the African way. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Balancing act - Johanna carries a basin of water the African way. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

That may be a good concept in this social setting, but it becomes a major problem when applied to business. If one business enterprise is suffering, it is usually not a good idea to take the profit from another enterprise to try to save it.

Or, if students are in need and the money that is budgeted for fertilizer for the banana crop goes into helping them with medical expenses and tuition, then the income for the whole operation is in trouble.

Most of us who run our own businesses understand these concepts. Johanna and I spent time at a meeting discussing them with the management team. Judging by the questions, comments and responses, I think they have learned a little more about financial management.

But how do we find solutions to the financial difficulties here and in other places that will work with the understanding and culture of the Africans running the operations? It is a question I pose to the Africans. We are all working together to find answers.

Capacity building is a nice phrase but I often find it difficult to put into practice, especially when working with such a different culture. But when you see the lights go on in someone’s mind, it makes the frustrations worth it, at least for the moment.

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