Building a Self-Reliant Africa from the Bottom-Up

Added: 07-24-2018

This interview with Teddy “TMS” Ruge, Ugandan-born entrepreneur and writer, explores his views on international development on the African continent. Ruge’s comments point to his opinion that beneficiaries of global development actions should guide the direction and implementation of those actions, not Western governments and institutions. Conversation ranges from the Millennium Development Goals to what it means to be “developed.”

international development community Uganda Amy Costello UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) empowerment TMS (Teddy) Ruge Ashton Kutcher celebrity humanitarianism

Type Reading Time Author Date Source
podcast 13 minutes TINY SPARK 07-09-2015
Type Reading Time
podcast 13 minutes
Author Date
Tiny Spark 2018-07-24 00:00:00 UTC
Key Takeaways
  • Communities impacted by international development efforts should be included in the definition, design, and implementation of those efforts. 
  • Realize that aid recipients have a voice; take the time to listen to and respect what people living in poverty have to say.


A socially conscious entrepreneur and writer, Teddy “TMS” Ruge offers his perspective on international development efforts in Africa. He is known for questioning international development efforts on the continent, and the role that development beneficiaries should play in designing those efforts. 

Ruge questions the validity of global development plans designed by Western entities, such as the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. He challenges aid agencies to listen to, rather than trying to speak for people living in poverty and others who are subject to development intervention, and has returned to his hometown of Masindi, Uganda to record some of those voices. Ruge suggests that aid recipient communities and individuals are in the best position to determine their needs, if aid is even needed at all, and the design and implementation of any solutions. To round out the conversation around international development, Ruge suggests that definitions of development and development needs should come from the Global South, not only from the “global development industrial complex.” 

Ruge has also questioned interventions by celebrity charities such as TOMS Shoes’ One for One® program and Ashton Kutcher’s purchase of 10,000 mosquito bed nets from Malaria No More following his Twitter-follower challenge. He feels that “interventionist programs” like these undermine local economies, erode the ability to create local industry, and train young people that they have no agency or responsibility for themselves. When questioned further about the role of White Americans in international development, Ruge suggests an engagement in a supportive role. He feels Westerners should be constructive and should listen to Africans and “...invest in the solutions that are being created to fix Africa's problems that are being created by Africans.” 


Tiny Spark: 

TMS Ruge interview by Tiny Spark’s Amy Costello: 

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