What can development practice learn from AK47?

Superb interview of Prof Lant Pritchett (HT: Econforeverybody blog, a must read blog). In the short interview, Pritchett discusses several problems in development sector from education to copying success stories blindly only to fail.

In one q, he speaks about what development sector can learn from AK47:

Ann Bernstein: ….. I often say that we South Africans like to introduce Rolls Royce policies and laws when as a country we drive Toyotas. You have thought about this issue a lot and you have written that development practice can learn a lot from the AK47. Can you explain this controversial remark?

Pritchett: The AK47 is the world’s most popular weapon. The M16, which is the standard weapon in the US army, is far and away a more accurate weapon than the AK47, which beyond a few hundred yards, cannot hit a thing. The AK47 emerged from the Soviet Union, where they designed their weapons for the soldiers they had, low capability with little training. They also designed the AK47 to be unbelievably robust; no matter what you do to it, when you pull the trigger, it fires. You can basically hand anybody an AK47 and it will be a reasonably effective weapon. The United States took the opposite approach of designing the best possible weapon and training soldiers to match the weapon. It is an excellent weapon, but if you do not keep it clean and in good functioning order, it will misfire.

The problem is when you give the M16 with its perfect design to a poor soldier it won’t work. This mirrors a lot of what has happened in development – the desire to adopt best practice, leads to a gap between practice design and the capability for implementation. Rather than organically building designs that work in a low implementation environment, policymakers have tried to borrow designs and fit them into countries, and it just does not work. When well-designed programmes are poorly implemented the reason is obvious, but the problem repeats itself, because no one ever admits that what they need is an AK47. You need to design the programme for the soldiers you have.

Interestingly said…

 

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