Alien Operators and Party Apparatchiks


 Effective implementation of development plans, programs and projects depends on free flow of knowledge and information. Plan implementation is based on the mode of communication to the target population that is the beneficiary of development.

Development agencies promote partnership, teamwork, with the “free” exchange of knowledge and best practices between concerned organizations and operational partners, including development associates. In Ethiopia, beneficiaries and partners of development had been kept in the dark by the TPLF regime. Only supporters and party apparatchiks had benefitted from development programs and projects, either as contractors or suppliers of inputs. These stakeholders had been key beneficiaries of information and knowledge about the Ethiopian economy.

Knowledge exchange among the TPLF groups was an important input for their local and global businesses, both as importers and exporters of goods and services. A multitude of development agencies and “alien operators” in the country had interacted and produced information to be shared with the ruling group. This had been useful to meet their business objectives of amassing profits. The state of knowledge about the operation of the ruling party had been very secret.

The key role of development aid organizations had been guided toward building the capacity of recipient/beneficiary entities of the TPLF. These entities had benefitted effectively in substantive development assistance and decision making processes that favored them. They had been managed by “illiterate” but trusted party functionaries, who had no inkling of what they did except mishandling and pilfering of financial assets.

Under the misnomer of “knowledge management” systems, the TPLF had preoccupied itself in capacity building activities. Its trusted cadres had been honored with “graduate”degrees whatever their values might be in the eyes of the common people. The TPLF ignoramuses had called for globalization of knowledge which required organizations to promote the concept and practice of “developmental state” in the country.

It had encouraged the establishment of several universities in each regional state within a few years. The Whiteman was at the disposal of the TPLF chiefs only to create extremely overvalued cadres, who had failed to construct their ideas in writing and in practice. Of course, the ruling party had recognized its failure to attract educated persons to execute its policies and programs. It had also employed the Whiteman as an expert who could attract foreign assistance using his influence in his country of origin. He had helped in sending the children of the ruling cadres abroad for higher education.

In Ethiopia, development aid organizations had played a crucial role in accelerating development assistance that had filled the pockets of TPLF functionaries. These party agents had kept their wrongly accessed funds in foreign banks, denying the country the means with which it would have imported basic goods and services, such as medicines and medical equipment.

The critical roles of aid organizations were coordination of aid efforts, supporting development planning, building development capacity, and investing in infrastructure to assist the junta rule. Where knowledge sharing was concerned, the working culture of most of these organizations in Ethiopia had focused on practical questions of day-to-day work rather than on lessons being learnt at a strategic level on a long-term basis.

Non-profit industry: It was usually hard to find good examples of a coordinated and strategic approach either to knowledge dissemination or knowledge strategy in the “non-profit” industry that had been operating in Ethiopia in line with the TPLF policies and programs. The information services of the alien operators and NGOs were mainly supply oriented, and user needs did “not” always coincide with the way they were available.

Most of the time, the problem was “not” what and how to manage the vast amount of resources generated, but how to satisfy the TPLF stakeholders, peers and government counterparts. Although some aid organizations had tried to actively align their work processes with the needs of the poor people, their services could not reach the target population in practical terms. They merely had attempted to “align” their internal objectives with that of the ruling junta.

There was an extensive study on the non-profit industry of alien operators in the developing countries. Most of these studies were conducted in the context of non-profit making activities. There was little evidence, if any, regarding practical operations of these aid industries toward the development of Ethiopia. It was, however, critical to explore and assess if there were any relevant activities that had contributed to the effective development of the country.

It was also essential to register if the non-profit organizations engaged in the country had applied a viable strategy to manage and share their resources with the poor people. A mechanism should also be in place to check if donations received by the aid organizations were reaching the targeted people of Ethiopia.Without such a mechanism it would be difficult to acquire information on aid programs and projects undertaken in the country.

It had been of the essence to check if the “alien” projects were relevant to the real situations in Ethiopia. It had been observed that most of the non-profit organizations did “not” want to learn what was working and what needed to be changed in order to make their efforts more relevant to Ethiopia. To alleviate this situation, it should have been mandatory that any effective information sharing initiative had been in place in a manner that could have been measured for its effectiveness and efficiency.

In order to establish an effective measurement of the impact ofdevelopment on intended beneficiaries, an evaluation should be made on the structure of information flow. This had to be followed up with knowledge sharing practices on the development aid in the country. The Ethiopian leaders should not be blocked from information and knowledge on the effectiveness of “alien” support to the country.

It had been necessary to assess the performance of development aid organizations in Ethiopia for providing an insight and guidance for their future operations. To develop a brief guide, certain research had to be conducted on how development aid organizations operated in Ethiopia. The focus of the research should be on how to put in place policy and strategies to manage donor resources.

Based on these strategies, donor programs and projects would be developed to reflect the extent to which development aid organizations in Ethiopia should be involved. This involvement depended on “knowledge management” as a strategic enabler. It would have been useful if development aid organizations reported to the government periodically on the implementation of their “planned” development assistance to Ethiopia.

Information sharing: Studies had shown that a few aid organizations had strong knowledge sharing mechanisms. However, most of them did not have well organized information systems for sharing data. They did not have adequate information infrastructure in place that could have supported current or future initiatives. To worsen the situation, their plan of operation had to be approved by the TPLF operators. Aid organizations had, however, recognized the importance of sharing knowledge and information with the junta. They had made serious attempts to establish active enterprises respecting the instruction of the junta. They were engaged in various types of strategies to improve their work performance along the ruling party lines in order to avoid “expulsion” from the country.

Lack of guidelines on sharing sensitive and confidential information had made it a challenge for aid organizations to operate. While the overall lack of well-defined strategies had been a challenge, aid organizations were taking “risks” for helping the poor people of Ethiopia. A few of them had identified ways and means of putting in place effective strategy for contributing to economic development of the country.

They engaged in effective knowledge sharing in support of development goals, but the junta had considered this as resource diversion. Non-profit aid organizations had to succumb to party guidelines on how to use their resources. They had to provide social services such as health, school and infrastructure in areas where the TPLF junta instructed them to build. They had to provide plan implementation report to the junta.

Studies helped in assessing information needed by aid organizations. This was followed by the preparation of action plan. Based on this plan, information and knowledge were disseminated to solve practical problems. The studies captured and shared best practices and lessons learnt. Plan implementation experiences had been systematically included in the TPLF development programs financed by aid agencies in the country. This had led to a development aid strategy, which had streamlined foreign aid in the service of the ruling party. It was found that there were higher levels of commitment to be routed to the ruling party from aid agencies.

Informal ad hoc operations: Most of the aid organizations had recognized the importance of managing information informally and secretly to evade party guidance. They had to conduct their businesses in a diversified manner to avoid scrutiny by the ruling junta. However, the actual implementation of information had tended to be conducted on an informal and ad hoc basis with little evidence of success. Some aid organizations had failed to have effective and efficient communication infrastructure for reporting their activities. This had created a wide gap between those who had used information and those who had not. As experts put it, this gap had hampered smooth development among enterprises in different sectors of the economy.

Conclusion: Devising and implementing information strategies to guide future directions of development assistance is still at its infancy in Ethiopia. Information based initiatives represented a significant opportunity to improve work performance within organizations. However, shortage of resources and reluctance of staff members to share knowledge are major hindrances to the “dissemination” of information.

To overcome these deterrents, development assistance programs in Ethiopia need to improve the content, process and inclusivity of efforts. Most of these programs should be based on data and key information for decision making. It is, therefore, pertinent to enhance the capacity of these aid organizations to increase their knowledge about information on development agencies.

Looking at the diffusion of knowledge within an organization using a “change” lens, the process of implementation would be expected to unfold through a series of stages. The initial stage is readiness, which would occur when the staffs of an organization are “receptive” to a forthcoming program implementation effort. The next stage is adoption which occurs when the staffs are changing their attitudes and behaviors to conform to expected output. Studies show that in Ethiopia, most organizations are at the “initial” stage of readiness as development and integration is a cultural change process, which takes time before information management is fully institutionalized.

 Editor’s Note: The views entertained in this article do not necessarily reflect the stance of The Ethiopian Herald

The Ethiopian Herald October 17/2021

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