It’s been a while since I last wrote. I have been doing a lot of paperwork here, and since that is equally as boring here as it is the States, I didn’t have much to talk about. So, below will be a few pictures, and some musings of mine about the people/environment here.
Because this Resettlement Action Program (RAP) is so big, I have been helping with moving people instead of doing actual development work. It’s necessary and is a good way for me to continue transitioning into work here. I have been doing a lot of the paperwork because obviously Mundelle’s (white people) are naturally good at computers and paperwork. Not the most exciting thing ever, but I am just glad to contribute. For example, because I knew how to do a mail merge on Microsoft Office, I saved someone three days of work in a matter of 10 minutes. Stuff like this happens all the time, and we’re starting to call it “Mundelle Magic,” haha.
On Tuesday I was supposed to go to one of the communities we had already moved in order to get some papers signed, but was told I couldn’t go because they were rioting in the street, and blocking the road. People were out with machetes, bows & arrows, and in large numbers because someone had been robbed in the morning, and they were upset with the lack of security. I had two takeaways from this.
1. It is ironic that the people taking over the roads with weapons are upset with lack of security….
2. THEY STILL USE BOWS AND ARROWS HERE?!?!? Awesome!
Thankfully, this was an issue for the local government and complaining to us is just the quickest way to get things done. This is a good thing to know, that the people know they can rely on us, even if they don’t go about making requests in the best way… But this brings up an important issue that I want to flesh out here.
In a country like the DRC, with $15 billion GDP and 70 million people (around $220 GDP/person), the people here have never had to worry about theft. Because:
- No one had anything worth stealing
- The communities were so small, you would know the guy stealing your stuff
The problems that we have in the West happen everywhere, it’s just a matter of where you are on the development curve. We pay the locals exponentially more than they used to be paid, and while their standard of living is better for it, they have new worries to deal with, and it is proving to be a tough transition. The government is receiving a lot of tax money, but it’s impossible to know how much of that is transferred down to the local level. There is a rebellion just a few hundred miles south of here that is quite expensive, and it’s hard to prioritize the needs of such a large country. We are/will be, a huge part of the national budget, but in any Western country, our part would be miniscule.
Now that people have things worth stealing, there is an increased demand for police, and even though there is more money for the police, is it coming from the capital. So, because we are indirectly responsible for the increased wealth, is it our responsibility to solve its newfound problems?
A lot of people look at multi-national companies and say that they are responsible for environmental degradation, crime, and corruption, which can be true, but is that the whole truth? My belief is that it is the government’s responsibility to monitor the environment, thwart crime, and limit corruption. Obviously, we should augment those efforts as much as we can, but our employees don’t litter, we provide extra security, and we don’t pay bribes. If people rely on us for everything, what will they do when the mine has been exhausted and we leave? It is our responsibility to pay taxes, mitigate damages to the environment, and provide opportunities to the locals, not fill in the role of the state.
Thankfully, our local government has done everything it can and has been amazingly effective. They’re great guys and do a lot of good with limited resources, but this has been more of an abstract thought. I think when multi-nationals do not fulfill their responsibilities they cause problems at their worksite, but if they do too much, us westerners become critical when they leave because of the mess they left behind.
My takeaway from all of this, and to explain why I am here (because neither I, nor anyone else can solve the government’s problems) is to bridge the gap between poverty and development. Development will come in mass eventually, but in the meantime, the best thing we can do is make life better for people during this transition. So that when we leave they have the right infrastructure in place in order to make it to development with a decent standard of living. I am not here to solve every problem, but to simply make it easier on them while they solve it themselves.
The locals decorated their house. I really like it.
One of our fish farms, and some of our fields behind it. We use this to feed the locals as they transition to their new homes.
We’re looking at building a new well from a natural spring here. Notice we’re standing on a tree that is actually a bridge. We’re pretty high tech here.
So, our van wouldn’t start and we had to jump it with a spare battery. Yes, they are using metal rods to start it. No spark plugs here…
Last but not least, photo-shoot with African Bevo! I live in what is said to be one of the most dangerous places on earth, and I think I was closer to being killed by this thing than anything else. Those horns are huge, and he was not liking me getting so close, haha. The locals really got a kick out of it though.
Haha, this is after he huffed at me and I had to quickly walk away…
That’s all for now everyone. I hope I didn’t stir up any controversy or debate here, just my own personal opinions and in no way does it necessarily represent the views of either the company I work for, or the country I work in.
Toko monana (“until later” in Lingala)
One thought on “Thoughts on Working for a Multinational Company. Oh, and African Bevo”
I agree with your point about the consequences (in my opinion “opportunities” is a better word) of the new wealth. At some point the individuals that are getting an increased standard of living must also take their own decisions on what and how they’re going to use their increased wealth. As you say, the goverment must take a stand to stop any chance of corruption (which is a plauge on society as a whole) and make sure that its people are safe (honoring the social contract the individuals have with the state).
A world spanning system of cap – and – trade that includes all countries would take care of the issue of environmental problems. It’d also decrease our demand of oil in the long run which would result in that we can be tougher against non – democratic countries that use their abundance of oil as their bargain chip when it comes to violating the right of man (looking at Middle – eastern countries).
I really like that you’re contemplating these kind of questions, I think we all should do that more, no matter where we are living.