Years ago, a partner in a North-South project ‘accidentally’ forwarded an email to me. A follow up on a discussion with his compatriot about our project. In the email, he had described us in Battor as ‘lazy Africans’. I was dumbfounded. I could not sleep. I sent a reply to the email at 2am asking him to explain. He apologised. Subsequently, he did things that suggested he did not respect us.
Why would anyone refer to our team in Battor as ‘lazy Africans’? The only reason I can think about is that he led the proposal writing to bring in funding for the project. He cannot say his team did more work on the project than our team in Battor. But we were labelled as ‘lazy Africans’.
Eventually, we cut off all partnerships with his team and decided to do things our own way. Our own vision, our own search for funding, and to make sure to establish local systems that work for us. I believe we have been successful.
Every cloud has a silver lining. Sometimes we need ‘adversity’ to bring out the best in us. What we needed in Battor, was disrespect from a partner in a North-South project to show us the reality to do things on our own.
I believe many people and institutions in low income countries can turn things around if they sit back and reflect on relationships with some more affluent partners.
Dignity is important. I won’t trade that for anything, not money, not ‘fame’.