Rakesh Rajani is best known to most of us for his helmsmanship of HakiElimu, the most notoriously successful watchdog NGO in Tanzania in the past five years. Using public education as a platform HakiElimu took the fight to the big boys, roasting the government in the fat of its own statistics at a time when it was political suicide to poke holes in the Primary Education Development Program in front of donors. At present, Rakesh is doing what he does extremely effectively: founding, fostering and promoting a new activist organization in Twaweza.
His talk was titled: "Development is Failing Miserably-lessons from 9 villages in Tanzania." Supported by a slide show of pictures taken by Pernilla Baernst taken in 2008, Oct 2009, Rakesh took us through documented experiences of 'failures' in various sectors. This is about getting to the core of development challenges- holding government to power, demanding accountability, rejecting the false stories and false consciousness of the development industry.
But- and this is where things get interesting- the talk was also full of stories of success. Of course 'poor' people in poor countries are not sitting around woefully acting out their poverty. Rakesh took us along as he met canny entrepreneurs and innovators who are powering along the Tanzanian economy by making the best use of what's available. If necessity is the mother of invention, it goes to stand that the powerhouses of innovation will be found where the need is greatest. Doesn't that just invert the power triangle?
I guess that ultimately, Rakesh's point is that we (Tanzania) do not lack money or people or donors or any other classic ingredient for development. What we need is imagination that knows where to look and how to create and invest where it will really make a difference.
"Imagination will make Tanzania Fly."
Now isn't it nice to get a positive development vision for once?