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History of the project

The project ‚Lebenschancen Malawi’ was established during a seminar in February 2006 entitled ‘Help for Africa?’ The project was further specified at a workshop in April 2006. Below you will find a well-written description of the  seminar and workshop.

Seminar "Help for Africa?"

„That the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation-Fellows have decided to critically analyze the politics of development aid in Africa represents real joy to me”. These were the opening words of the ‘Help for Africa’ seminar, stemming from the former German President Walter Scheel, who greeted the seminar participants through his personal advisor Christoph Höppel.  The two organizers of the seminar, Niels Beisinghoff and Christian Repp, members of the Foundation’s International working group, managed not only to secure Walter Scheel as patron to the project, but also acquired many committed speakers such as Professor Franz Nuscheler, Director of the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF) at the University of Duisburg, who is known to be one of Germany’s leading development experts.

In his introductory lecture Prof. Nuscheler referred to the deceptive reality of the concept development aid: namely, aid is often understood as a one-sided act that allows no partners. Instead, Prof. Nuscheler prefers to speak of the term “development cooperation”, which emphasizes the mutual character of the action undertaken to improve the living conditions in developing countries.

At the same time the speaker referred to the increasing critique of the consequences of this action. The figures representing the world’s poorest populations have continuously increased due to the high population growth in most developing countries; however, without development cooperation this figures would undoubtedly be higher. Yearly 65 billion US-Dollars in total are invested in development cooperation, which cannot work wonders. The Federal Government of Germany invests yearly almost twice that amount for the reconstruction of former East Germany without being able to produce the awaited ‘blooming landscapes’.  Prof. Nuscheler did not miss out on the opportunity to criticize the development policies of the industrialized countries. With regards to Africa he named the support of corrupt elites as the deadly sin of the international development cooperation, an approach applied mostly during the Cold War because of political and strategic considerations. Development aid was described as harmful where it interfered with independent action, forging instead a reliance on foreign help.

In future Prof. Nuscheler would like to see a stronger development cooperation policy that becomes part of the global structural policy whith its goal to strengthen the developing chances of poorer countries in a sustainable way through the establishment of international and internal framework conditions in the social, industrial and environmental sphere. That is a global task, assigned not only to the North, but also to the South. In order to achieve this greater co-responsibility and co-decision, duties should be assigned to developing countries on a multilateral level.

The introductory lecture and the discussion that followed were just a foretaste of the lively podium discussion that occurred on the second day of the morning session of the seminar. The mediator was Dr. med. Surjo Soekadar, former Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation-fellow. Professor Nuscheler, Member of Parliament Dr. med. Karl Addicks, Rainer Erkens from the Institute for International Cooperation and Policy Consulting of the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation and Dr. Klaus Schilder from the independent Non-governmental organisation World Economy, Environment and Development (WEED) presented various explanations and solutions to the problems of the African continent in a committed and controversial manner. The sense and need of a common European development policy was also addressed. The African participants emphasized the idea that the former colonial powers, especially in West Africa, are a cause of interstate conflicts and instability. This tendency could be resolved through a decision of development politics at European level.  Karl Addicks, who represented the FDP (Free Democratic Party) as MP and representative of the Committee for Economic Cooperation and Development of Parliament, was against a concordance of development policies at a European level, preferring instead the subsidiary principle. In contrast, other participants expressed the idea that bearing in mind the global dimensions of the problems faced by development countries, less state sovereignty in Europe would enable a development policy that is more active, coherent and effective.

In the second part of the seminar, discussions on the role of the civil society actors in the development processes took place. Aiming at a greater local participation and “ownership” of the development resources, local Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) are deemed to be the most important partners of development cooperation. In the civil society sector an NGO-boom is witnessed due to the fact that this sector is a welcomed consultation partner in the receiving countries and often forms the legitimacy basis of international development projects. These NGOs represent a small part of the civil society in developing countries. Rainer Erkens explained that civil society is understood above all as citizen’s participation, namely, the voluntary union of people in order to benefit the community. Such examples are local self-help organizations, citizen initiatives, or a self-administered football club. On the other hand, it was stressed that the provision of many public services in Africa results not through state institutions, but due to the capacity of social groups to organize themselves and due to the special meaning of family ties. Analysing several cases, it became clear that these features of the African society can contribute to wealth increase, but can also serve nepotism and patronage structures in certain contexts.

That afternoon the participants of the seminar had the opportunity to get acquainted with impressive examples of German NGOs as civil society actors in Africa. Five associations presented their projects and illustrated how one is able to help people in Africa in different spheres with few means and a huge personal commitment:

– Dr. med. Harald Braun and Rainer Weiß presented the association „Hilfe für Malawi“ (“Help for Malawi”), which is concerned with the improvement of the living conditions in Malawi through a better provision of medical care. The association is primarily concerned with the support of a maternity hospital in the Malawi district of Nkhotakota. Dr. Braun managed the hospital during a long service abroad, and it is his reports of the medical care situation in Malawi that led the citizens of his native town Riedstadt to found the association.
– Joachim Schlange presented the work of the association Sahel e.V., which supports an orphanage in Burkina Faso and was established in 1995 by the German Katrin Rohde. At the same time Joachim Schlange is engaged in the Otto Group project „Cotton – made in Africa“, which seeks to establish demand for trade in African cotton, produced under high ecological and social standards. 

– Elisabeth Steegmann and Hermann Depenbrock acquainted us with the project House Dogbo, which is based in West African Benin and seeks to secure schooling and professional training for underprivileged youngsters.
– The Association Solar Energy for Africa aims development of a different kind, as Dr. Bernd Hafner reported. The Association offers various products for solar energy use in the region through local partners; amongst others a solar cooker, solar lamps for schools and solar input for engines that can be placed in industrial machines.
– The former fellow Dr. med. Surjo Soekadar presented the work of the Association ‘Lebenschancen International’, which in 2002-2004 with the help of Naumann fellows set up a professional and health centre in Paraguay, accommodating 10,000 adolescents. Towards the end Surjo acquainted us with his initiative the Global Marshall Plan which stands for just globalization and represents a network of famous people throughout the world; the initiative is supported by public and private organizations.

The presentation of various projects offered a different glance at the seminar topic in comparison to the previous scientific discourse and podium discussions. Hearing the reports of the NGO-representatives clarified what type of difficulties and opportunities the practical work in Africa encounters. Above all, these presentations showed us that it is possible to do something and directly face the destiny of poverty and development failure that many people in Africa share; they showed us that “Lebenschancen” (Chances to live) can be offered.

On the third and last seminar day the participants tried responding to the question ‘what can I do’ under the mediation of Matthias Altmann, thus, proving the above-mentioned statement. In search of an own Naumann-Fellow project (together with the external experts), most participants concurred that it would be useful to utilize the structures and experience of an already existing organization. Another conclusion that crystallized was the fact that foreign aid can improve the living conditions of the poorest most effectively by investing in education and health services. These elements were ideally united by a project idea that came from the report of „Hilfe für Malawi“.

Dr. Braun and Rainer Weiß mentioned that births in Malawi are often undertaken by traditional birth attendants (TBAs). They enjoy the trust of the expectant mothers and fulfil an important societal function. However, the infant mortality rate at birth, as well as the death rate of the mothers is relatively high due to the fact that the TBAs are poorly equipped and have little knowledge of hygiene and how to tackle sicknesses such as HIV/AIDS. A training project of TBAs in Malawi could improve the health situation of mothers and newly borns.  As a training project such an undertaking would also be entitled to possible support from the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

During the process of crystallizing our project idea it became clear that the goal of the project is not only to achieve development aid for Africa. It was often stressed that such a project should be accompanied by a critical understanding of aid. The target group of traditional midwives should not be reduced to the receipt of foreign help. It is more important to respect and understand the cultural identity of our partners. The project work should therefore, be connected with questions referring to the equality of partnerships and the readiness for mutual learning in the development cooperation with industrialized countries.

The commitment of the participants was deeper that just finding a suitable idea.

A concrete strategy was discussed and specific tasks were distributed. Working groups in the fields of Management, Fundraising, Networking, Public Relations and the application for co-financing by the BMZ were established that would continue the work of the project.

Apart from that the seminar was accompanied by a Photo exhibition in the Foyer of the Theodor-Heuss Academy with pictures from the work of Lebenschancen International in Nepal, two documentaries on the topic of small arms trade and the journey of a student from Kenya toCairo and to Johannesburg („The Devil’s Footpath“) and - last but not least – the culinary masterpieces of the Academy cuisine who served in concordance with the seminar topic – African dishes.

The participants found exuberating not only the diverse programme of the seminar, but also the goal of the seminar – to initiate an own development project- led to the realization of the displayed participant interest indeed. This result proves the delightful fact that the discussion of the African situation and the interest towards the work of the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation with regards to „Globalization and Development “ enjoys a wide public inside and outside the Foundation. There were far more applications for the seminar than afforded places. All those, who wish to actively discuss the seminar topic and directly contribute to the improvement of the living conditions in Malawi could undertake this through assistance of the Fellows-project and are, of course, welcome to join us!

Written by Matthias P. Altmann
PhD student in Economic Management at the State Scientific Faculty of the University of Erfurt
Fellow since October 2005



„Many small people in many small places that do different things will change the face of this world“. An African proverb that represents the core of the Workshop, which was attended by circa 20 participants – fellows of the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation, as well as external participants from Cameroon, Niger, Cote d`Ivoire and Germany that met in the Theodor-Heuss Academy. Only two months after the birth of the idea for a project of the fellows of the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation, this idea took its own shape and direction.

The Workshop

This meeting was no classical seminar in the sense of scientific presentations and discussions, but a workshop whereby real ‚work’ begun in order to further the ideas of the previous seminar and transfer them into action. The marketing concept, the fundraising strategy and the BMZ-application, as well as other tasks, were now being specified and put into action. All participants could thus, bring in their creativity, knowledge, expectations and motivation with regards to the furthering of the project. 

In the beginning the two organizers of the workshop Niels Beisinghoff and Matthias Altmann described the birth and the actual standpoint of the project in order to inform all participants. This was followed by the first discussions of the project’s content, whereby the participants’ expectations, questions and suggestions were taken and summarized. The intensity of the first discussion round and the reigning enthusiasm signified that the three-day Workshop in the Academy can only be successful.

The Project
On Saturday we were joined by our Partners Dr. Harald Braun –who spent four years in Malawi– und Rainer Weiß from the association „Hilfe für Malawi“. Dr. Braun and Mr. Weiß will manage the establishment of the project in Malawi and offered an update on the health situation in Malawi, as well as advice on the management of the project. 

The central point of the project is the medical training of traditionally practicing midwives in the District Nkhotakota of Malawi. A big part of the births in Malawi take place not in a hospital, but (if at all) under the supervision of the so-called Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs). These women possess no medical training, but learn the trade often from their mothers through a lifelong practice in the villages where they play a central role. Nevertheless the infant and mother death rates at birth in Malawi pose a big risk. On average there are 200 times more deaths than in Germany. In the cases of traditionally attended births the death rate is also very high due to lacking equipment, as well as to lacking knowledge in the matters of hygiene and dealing with sicknesses such as HIV/AIDS.

Therefore, the project seeks to combine various factors such as education, health information and women’s rights. The TBAs are to be trained over a period of three years in the provincial capital. The training will take place in the sole maternity hospital in Nkhotakota – St. Anne's Hospital. Thus, the midwives will learn not only theoretically about the giving of birth, HIV/AIDS, family planning and other frequently encountered diseases (Malaria, Diarrhoea), but will also have the opportunity to attend numerous births in the hospital. Thus, we hope not only to decrease the number of deaths and complications by birth in the countryside, but also to be able to lessen the consequences of the most often occurring sicknesses.

The question of how to make the project sustainable was discussed in detail. It is important to us not only to achieve a short-term improvement in the living conditions with the invested money, but to ensure that the project will take on its own life after the end of the sponsorship in three years and that the acquired knowledge will not be forgotten.

Project partners in Malawi
Undoubtedly a peak of the workshop represented our telephone conference with our local project partner. Emmanuel Pemba, the administrator of St. Anne’s hospital in Malawi, answered numerous questions, provided background information and got rid off any uncertainties. The exchange with Mr. Pemba was extremely motivating for due to his local experience and knowledge of TBA training he could provide us with a better picture of possible problem areas, the overall situation and target group of the project and the local manner of work. His portrayal of the grave health situation in Nkhotakota district and the big anticipation of the local population from the project motivated the Africa-team even more.

Fundraising und PR
An important aspect of the workshop programme referred to the topic of fundraising, which was discussed by Dr. Braun. After a briefing of the fundraising strategies and theoretical concepts, Dr. Surjo Soekadar presented their application in practice by referring to his donation activites for a health information centre in Paraguay. The Africa-team was motivated from the success story and hopefully could draw on its own strategies for the acquisition of donations.

The participants divided themselves into two groups – in order to deal concretely with fundraising and PR this afternoon. The PR-group needed an efficient marketing strategy in order to design a logo, produce flyers as well as a website. Thanks to the suggestions of the PR-group, the project was named
„Lebenschancen Malawi“. The project website offers  the most important information referring to the project, as well as advice to donators etc. The Fundraising-group was just as successful, which came up with and presented promising strategies and multiple donation activities.

The yellow piggy banks
The Africa-team received special support by the Dr. Reinold Hagen Foundation that equipped us with the best instrument to saving; it granted the project 1000 yellow piggy banks to collect donations. The Malawi-saving-piggy banks motivated the Fellows so much that in the end no one doubted that the end goal of collecting €50.000 through own resources is possible. 

On the same evening the piggy banks were distributed amongst all participants that were to divide them between colleagues, Professors, friends- and family circles. Thus, the senior liberals in THA offered the first money donations – an event met with the positive acceptance of the participants. 

The results of the workshop surpassed the expectations of the participants. 

Their action was more than qualitative as demonstrated in the separate working groups. The participants not only initiated actively a project, but they also identified themselves with it. Highly motivating proved to be the mixture of German and African participants which provided different perspectives for the discussions and offered interesting talks. In order to efficiently manage the workload, regional groups were formed (East, West, North and South) that are to meet regularly and take care that the enthusiasm and commitment of the Africa-team will be preserved.

Your help

A decisive factor for success is that the developed ideas of the fellows will be spread and converted among their family, friends and at their universities. In the spirit of the first sentence of this article on the workshop – you are invited to help and cooperate. The regional groups will be happy to accommodate new members. We also invite people interested in distributing piggy banks (please contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ) and also those who will feed the piggy banks. This is also possible by making a direct donation to our partner bank account „Hilfe für Malawi“, No. 13003203 of Volksbank Gross-Gerau (BLZ: 50892500) (Please state address!). Every little bit helps to improve the situation in one of the poorest countries of the world. In Malawi one euro can treat nine children against malaria. Thanks to the co-financing of the project through BMZ – for every donated euro we will receive four euros for our work in Malawi.

„Lebenschancen Malawi“ offers to all that are interested a possibility to give away from the intellectual and material wealth that we here in Germany enjoy to others.

Written by
- Kocra Lossina Assoua, PhD student in Political Science at the University of  Siegen
fellow since April 2006; E-mail: kocra28
(@) and
- Anne Kögler,Law student at the Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena. Fellow since April 2004, inedita

• Niels Beisinghoff, niels.beisinghoff (@)
• Mathias Altmann, altmann.matthias (@)
• Kocra Lossina Assoua, kocra28 (@)
• Anne-Marie Schumann, anneintheusa (@)

Regional groups:
• West Germany: Kocra Lossina Assoua, kocra28 (@)
•East Germany: Juliane Bally, julianebally (@)
•North Germany: Ghislain Berenger Kouematchoua, kouematchoua (@)
•South Germany: Mohamadou Hassane, m.hassane (@)




"Lebenschancen Malawi" ("Chances to live Malawi") is an initiative of scholars of the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation. The project is under the patronage of the former German President Walter Scheel."