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TL;DR

  • Capacity, time, and access have influences on the impact of many EAs in Africa.
  • Likewise, commitment issues, lack of confidence, and collaboration and openness gaps also play roles in limiting impact.
  • EA communities can accelerate progress by offering more targeted support. 


Disclaimer: I make this post to highlight some of the challenges that I think some African EAs and those interested in the EA approach in the region face. I also propose ways the EA community can help accelerate some of the African EAs' impact. I do not intend to imply that current African EAs are not impactful or are the only ones needing support to accelerate their impact, nor is it meant to refer to any individual African EAs. This is based on my experience in EA community building in Nigeria and engaging with other EAs in the region. My post is intended to raise awareness in any way that would be useful.

For emphasis, I’m not implying that the challenges I included capture everything or that the proposed ways are exhaustive. 

Interests and challenges that I have identified

EA seems to pique the interest of young professionals and students in Nigeria when they first learn about it. This interest could very well be shared by individuals in other African contexts, as I have heard similar sentiments from those I engage with from other regions of Africa. Those curious tend to explore EA further by interacting with local groups (where they can), enrolling in an introductory program (usually EA Virtual Programs or the one organized by the local group where applicable), signing up for an event, or utilizing online resources, such as the forum, to delve deeper into the EA.

Based on my experience in EA community building in Nigeria, I have observed that there is more interest in Effective Altruism from recent graduates/early career professionals, followed by university students and mid-level career professionals. However, I have noticed very little interest from advanced professionals. This pattern may likely be similar in other contexts. The groups that show more interest in EA may do so for any of the following reasons: 

  • Many are still exploring their career options and see EA as a viable approach. 
  • Some are interested in charitable causes and view EA as a way to align with their goals. 
  • Others are looking for opportunities and stumbled upon EA. 
  • Some have found EA to be advocating for the cause area they are already passionate about or interested in. 

I have also identified some of the problems that I think are preventing some of the individuals from making headway:

  • Commitment and Disorganization: I experienced situations in which recent graduates looking to use their career to make a more positive difference could not commit to learning more about some of the top problems or even properly engage in career planning to enable them to figure out their abilities and top problem that they could effectively contribute to. I think this commitment issue correlates with disorganization in this context, and this is actually one of the key concerns I repeatedly see in our community in Nigeria. I believe it has a lot of implications for making progress and how impactful one could be. I tried to get a sense of this problem, and in some of the surveys or interactive sessions, time issues were flagged as some of the reasons, as some are actively engaging in other day’s work; other reasons cited are internet access related or visa for in-person training or program abroad. 
  • Lack of confidence and collaboration: Some of the individuals in the community feel less confident and that it would be hard to make headway tackling big problems at their stage; they think that engaging in such efforts is traditionally reserved for higher career-level individuals. Also, there is the issue of collaboration, and some tend to be thinking about these problems or efforts alone. I realized this issue when I saw members with shared interests but failing to collaborate several times to think about solutions and strategies, get help, or even check with one another for accuracy or to improve accountability. With regard to the confidence issue,  fear of rejection plays a role; during our last retreat, a member narrated how such a situation influenced him on some of the considerations.  
  • Openness Issue: The speed in updating the view also seems slow among some members.   In my experience, this tends to be more common among individuals who may have difficulty allocating enough time to learn about other issues or approaches, as they may be more focused on their own preconceived notions.

However, I saw comments on collaboration, interest in learning, and openness in recent feedback. 



Here are some thoughts on how I think the EA community can continue accelerating the impact of African EAs.

  • EA Community has already made efforts toward building capacity, knowledge, and understanding either by running a skilling program accessible to the African community or funding programs to skill up African communities.  Some of these programs offer stipends to participants to cover their time and internet costs. The EA community organizations focused on training and capacity building could further accelerate such efforts through targeted, tailored programs for African communities to increase accessibility and reduce competition. Animal Advocacy Africa (AAA) runs a training program to enable African animal advocates and talented individuals to start high-impact projects or work on existing organizations to reduce the industrialization of animal agriculture on the continent by enhancing participants' abilities in communication, decision-making, planning, etc. AAA has already helped some local animal organizations increase access to funding, talents, and organizational abilities through its existing programs. ILINA programs also run training programs focused on GCR’s causes.   Similar programs targeting individual cause areas, such as AI, Biosecurity, Climate change, Poverty, etc., providing training and enhancing capacities could accelerate more African communities' impact on such issues. Although time constraints, limited access, and lack of training impacted the previously mentioned commitment issues.

Some recent feedback flagging training needs. 

  • Aligned organizations and Initiatives with operations in Africa that have the capacity and what it takes could complement the effort by providing internships, volunteering, or even job opportunities to deserving young professionals and students of the African communities. Even organizations and Initiatives with remote internships and volunteering can accelerate such efforts by improving their inclusion of providing remote internships and volunteering to deserving members. This may build capacities by doing 
  • Regional conferences. The EA Global team is making efforts to increase the participation of African EAs in the EA conference by offering admission and facilitating travel and visa support. Hosting regional conferences will further improve access and networking opportunities and enable the global community to engage with the regional community. This will also encourage more collaboration and action that is aligned with shared values.
  • Grantmaking organizations and scholarship programs can accelerate impact by improving funding decisions for deserving opportunities in African communities.

Why I think this matters to the EA Community. 

  • One of the ample resources African EAs could utilize to make more difference is their careers. Therefore, it is crucial to support them to deploy these resources effectively. This, in turn, will lead to greater epistemic diversity in the community and may help reduce the tendency to work on regional problems in isolation, ultimately leading to increased ownership and reduced delivery costs.
  • If the African EAs are positioned and able to take ownership and contribute to EA-aligned organizations in the regions, they are more likely to uphold EA values and principles. Currently, EA-aligned organizations working in Africa tend to source their talents from the wider African population, which often has different values and motivations. This may lead to misaligned priorities and values in the long run, especially if the core EA team discontinues their work on the project.
  • After weeks of learning and involvement, we wouldn't want to see people diverting entirely to other things. Of course, everyone has the right to choose their own path, and an EA career may not be the best fit for everyone despite their initial interest. However, I believe that this should not always be the case. If we have the resources to retain talented individuals looking to contribute, we should do so.

In conclusion, I hope that this may improve awareness, contribute to the discussions, and enhance the dialogue that is already in existence. 

 

Thanks to Kaleem Ahmed for the review and feedback. 


 

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