Bruno Legendre acts with an unrelenting logic that I described Friday in my weekly column in the Science & Techno supplement (Article in French; subscription required). But I wanted to talk about him in a little more detail on several points:
- As an agronomic engineer, he quickly realized that there was something wrong with traditional development aid. Basically, it doesn’t help the people who “benefit” from it to help themselves (my terms).
- He therefore created a company, Performances, which does not allow him to receive grant aid (the French and those they influence are like that).
- But there are companies and there are bigger ideas. Legendre’s has two major characteristics:
- All the entities involved (those who finance and those who receive the services) have equal voice on the board of directors.
- The company tasks itself with the little things instead of big ones, for example installing small oil presses that allow the production of good on-site oil instead of limiting rural Senegalese to agricultural production and relying on distant industries for industrial processing. The main objective is to produce fuel from jatropha, a shrub originating in the Americas.
- Without grants (see above), Legendre created a partnership with a French NGO that participates in financing (and thus has a seat on the board).
- He recognizes the essential role played by ICTs (information and communications technologies), which helped him find the partners he works with, and that allows them to work together, as they track his on-site activities virtually.
- But he understands that producing energy encourages electricity consumption, often among lower-income populations, to the detriment to other jobs like education. The growth in mobile and television ownership pushes young people to leave home in the pursuit of another country’s dreams. This path is not inevitable, if people are given knowledge in addition to dreams.
- For this, Legendre has created a rural education program.
- Finally: in order to act freely in civic society, he has taken Senegalese nationality.
Coherent and consequential, no?