Diébédo Francis Kéré, SSA obstacles, and democracy in Burkina Faso & Zimbabwe

Diébédo Francis Kéré

In selecting a ‘cheetah’ that helps push Burkina Faso into better economic and educational conditions, I have selected architect Diébédo Francis Kéré. Kéré is a native of Burkina Faso, growing up in the village of Gando and being sent away to obtain an eduction as there was no school in his village. He later returned to assist his village in building not only a school, but later on in his work, other structures as well. His innovative designs not only bring a new and improved learning environment to new schools, but also use local sourced materials and create employement through his building projects.

Part of what makes Kéré’s buildings so remarkable is that they were designed to take in the changing climate of Burkina Faso, allowing children to learn in a more effective environment. The majority of the materials were also locally-sourced, and therefore, cost nearly nothing. The school built in Gando was a vision by Kéré, brought to life by the members of the community. Ultimately it was an entire community effort that was incredibly successful, and also sets a model for other villages around the nation that change can be put into effect.

Major Obstacles

After reading Jeffery Sachs The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, I can see that most of the major obstacles not only come from a lack of sustainable income in developing African countries, but a lack of cooperation as well.

In Chapter 12 of his book, Sachs speaks about the “Big Five” ways that could help push development forward in the Kenyan village of Sauri. Most of the problems that the villagers faced occured because there was no money–not a lack of it, but rather, no way to earn it at all. They used their resources to sustain themselves, therefore something like illness or famine could cause a major setback to an already strained way of life.

The biggest problem that I could identify is that investing a few hundred thousand dollars may seem like a lot, but it really is a drop in the bucket towards helping each community to move forward. Sachs spoke a lot on how developed countries have reduced the amount of aid that they are sending. I believe that change in these countries is very possible, but as Sachs makes very clear on page 242 of his book, both the people and their governments cannot solve them on their own. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have the knowledge on what needs to be done in their own villages, but rather, they just lack those resources to effect that change. The biggest obstacle thus far is just identifying that yes, aid is good, but is it effective in making long-term and long-lasting changes?

Democracry in Burkina Faso

According to Freedom House, Burkina Faso was classified as “partially free” in 2013, with its population having the ability to have decent civil liberties but poor political rights. However, Burkina Faso does have a place on the Center for Systematic Peace’s Polity Project–it is defined as an “anocracy“, therefore highlighting regime activity. The country falls into the 39% of Sub-Saharan Africa that has partial freedom.

While the Young African Leaders Initiative doesn’t seem to have a direct presence, it did give a grant to an entrepreneur from Burkina Faso last year to help kick-start development projects.

Democracy in Zimbabwe

In the case of Zimbabwe, it is ranked by Freedom House as not free. The population there does not enjoy free press, and limited internet freedom. It is currently classified as an “open anocracy.” Unlike in Burkina Faso, the Young African Leaders Initiative has more of a presence there. In May 2014, 30 Zimbabweans were chosen to be a part of YALI’s Washington Fellowship program.


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