Developed or Developing – Which would you rather?

24 November 2010 at 18:00 9 comments

Anna Cleal, KF13, Kampala, Uganda

These words were inspired by a recent conversation I had with a Ugandan man who had spent 10 years of his life living and working in the UK.  He left shocked over the lack of community, how you couldn’t just talk to a stranger on the streets like in Uganda, and how people would refuse to acknowledge someone sitting next to them on the subway.  “They all just want their space!” he exclaimed mortified. He looked at his watch and said; “and it’s all about time.”

Here I seek to compile a list of my observations from living in both developed and developing. In my eyes both have certain advantages and a merger is what we need to aspire to.

The Developing World


  • Sense of community and openness:  One thing I loved about arriving in the Philippines was that you could drive along the street and see into peoples lives, doors were open, children played happily on the street, everything seemed alive and you could feel the heartbeat of the place.
  • Evidence of culture and cultural identity:  One of my biggest fears for the world is that it will become like an extended airport. I’ve passed through many an airport recently and apart from the shape of the building they really do feel much the same. Sometimes when I’m in Manila, Philippines, I have to think very hard to remember which country I am in, yet when I go to Bohol where I volunteered last with Kiva, I know I am Philippines. Likewise there are parts of Kampala, Uganda, where it is hard to tell what country you are in, and other parts where it is screamingly obvious. We need to hang on to these parts, to cling to them like a kid you’re walking across a busy road.
  • Less emphasis on time, less rushed, more idle time, time to think, waiting isn’t such a burden.
  • Vibrancy, colour, disorder, noise – I think one thing one notices about the developing world is it’s lack of aversion to colour, vibrancy and noise. A carnival-type atmosphere often results which I think development can sometimes suffocate. Yes, I think we want suitable infrastructure and a degree of safety, but I also think we need to let the true colours of a society to shine on through.
  • Local markets, buying from just down the street, vegetables of natural size, local produce


  • Lack of freedom based on financial restrictions – continually have to make decisions based around money, very difficult to travel, can’t afford luxuries and purchases that make life easier (e.g. washing machines)
  • Lack of infrastructure, access to health care
  • Stress from monetary pressure and greater physical hardships
  • Less regard for the value of human life, safety
  • Susceptibility to corruption, disease, natural disaster

The Developed World


  • More freedom of choice based on access to capital, savings, in a word money.
  • Quality of education, access to knowledge, world becomes oyster
  • Physical ease of lifestyle, comfort, less time spent on menial tasks
  • Potentially more opportunities to pursue dreams, to dream big
  • Orderly infrastructure and sound legal system


  • Increased stress from job pressures, often still monetary pressures to keep up with a certain type of lifestyle
  • More time pressures despite having machines to carry out menial tasks, what I like to call “I’m so busy mentality” which is quite different to the “I might just sit here on the side of the street all day” mentality of the developing world
  • Lack of connection, safe houses with walls, gates, locks, not stopping and talking
  • More structured sense of community instead of general ‘all inclusive’ sense of community
  • Tendency to become disconnected with nature because of the lack of contact with the outside world, and no longer relying on personal crops, food supplies (e.g. cursing the rains when, in actual fact for someone growing crops, rains are a blessing)

Please note that I realize that many people live outside the generalizations I have made.  I’m merely commenting on observations I’ve made over the last few years and realize this is not true for everyone.

Ultimately I think we need to…
1) Aim for quality of life as well as quantity – for us to develop, but to slow down. Not to clock watch, not to have to be so aware of time.  For all people to have the ability to stop in the street and talk. For no one to say “I’m so busy or I’m so stressed.” For those in the developing world who do live a slower paced life, to have greater access to health care and to live longer.
2) Aim for greater financial freedom for all around the world, access to capital and opportunities.  For every individual to have the right to dream big.  For everyone to have the opportunity to travel, to explore different cultures.
3) Aim to maintain a sense of community and culture as we develop.

These are my dreams.  Maybe I’m unrealistic.  Maybe I’m not.  Of course I can make these decisions for myself as an individual yet realise that not everyone wants to live like me, and that some people thrive on that fast paced lifestyle.  I just want to let people know that for some reason I think living 80 years at 100 miles an hour probably feels the same as living 40 years at 50 mph.  So how far have we really come? What is development? Have we really developed at all? What does development mean? Does it mean more money and better living conditions, or does it mean happiness and the time to enjoy the wonders of life? I think as we develop we need to put more emphasis on happiness and the enjoyment of life than on statistics such as life expectancy and gross GDP.

Thus my belief… The developed world can learn as much from the developing world as vice versa. Let’s keep this in mind as we grow.

I call on all those reading the blog, traveling, working in both developed and developing to comment and share their observations.

Entry filed under: blogsherpa, KF13 (Kiva Fellows 13th Class), PEARL Microfinance, Uganda. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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  • 1. Heather  |  5 January 2011 at 20:10

    I think about this topic every day!!

    After spending a lot of time in South East Asia, Mexico, and Central & South America, I find myself questioning why the developed world is viewed as “better” than the developing world. We do have obvious advantages, but in many ways, I think we are no better off.

    Culture shock is something I experience when I return home, not when I go away. To sit on a train and make eye contact with no one, and feel nothing but the silence is like a kick in the face after experiencing countries so socially rich. When away I experienced people who were real, they were open, friendly, funny, and not afraid.

    I have tried to explane this idea to family and friends, but it doesn’t seem to sink in. People are convinced that living in a developed world we are the lucky ones (and in many cases we are ie. health, safety, and freedom).

    Anyway, its nice to hear some comments/posts from like-minded people!

  • 2. Lorna Pitcher  |  4 December 2010 at 06:43

    Could you email me Anna. I founded Ugandan rphans Fund in Toronto 3 years ago and have been supporting Children of Hope Uganda in Lira, northern Uganda. C of HU has just opened a vocational school in Barlonyo, site of the 2004 LRA massacre of 300 villagers. Esther Atoo, the capable Director of C of HU would like to invite you to meet with her in Lira in January to learn about how some of the 505 vulnerable famlies supported by C of HU might benefit from applying for Pearl micro-loans. I am interested in directing Birthady and Bar Mitzfa monies to borrowong groups from the C of HU beneficiary families. Could you email Esther at, copying me, and see if you can explain how Pearl works?
    Thank you so much. Lorna

  • 3. Tim  |  29 November 2010 at 11:20

    hi Anna, really enjoyed your blog and i can really relate to some of the things you wrote about as like you i have travelled to a number of developed and developing countries, we need to have alot more people like you who have such a positive attitude to life. there is so much more we can all do

  • 4. Darren  |  26 November 2010 at 09:00

    Great post Anna – hope you are enjoying Uganda!

  • […] You can also read this and more on the Kiva Fellow’s Blog […]

  • 6. Fehmeen  |  26 November 2010 at 04:10

    I found this wonderfully insightful. I think life in the developed world can also be enjoyed as those in the developing world do, if one learns to balance the love for money and relationships.

  • 7. zerrincetin  |  25 November 2010 at 06:37

    Great post, Anna. In my time in Ghana, I have thought about and questioned a lot of the same questions that you have written here. I struggle defining what is development.

    If development is defined by happiness, I’m not sure if the developed world is really developed. I’ve observed a different type of happiness here in Ghana. People are genuinely happy being where they are and who they are. They are not busy rushing to be somewhere else or someone else.

    The sense of community is much more profoundly felt. People are connected to each other in ways I haven’t observed in North America. Certainly much more connected than e-mail or Facebook can afford.

    Thanks for sharing your observations, pros and cons.

  • 8. Antoine S. TERJANIAN  |  24 November 2010 at 18:37

    I enjoyed reading your post Anna. I felt that it came straight from the heart and I appreciate that.
    Can we live in a world where we can all achieve our dreams? and live happily ever after…. Can our world afford the opportunity for all of us to travel and see each-other’s countries? what about the stress on the environment (given present travel technologies)?
    I had published a short paper during consultations held by the Canadian International Development Agency about 9 years ago,
    suggesting that we should aim for a new ‘development model’ that is not based solely on economic growth.
    I am reproducing it below (it is fairly short) as a contribution to the debate you wished us to engage in.
    Best rgds

    Disclaimer: The present input to CIDA’s consultation process does not represent the views of my present or previous employers. It is made on the basis of my six year experience with an international development organisation, working, living and developing projects in 30 countries in Africa and the Middle-East, and on subsequent experience with a Canadian federal department and a Canadian multinational company marketing Canadian technologies overseas. The views expressed are personal, but I am grateful for the comments from many friends to my earlier drafts.

    Economic development and environmental stress: We need a new development model

    It is well accepted that a strong correlation exists between economic growth and the strain caused to the global environment by the ?developed / industrialised? countries. Global warming, climate change, air, water and soil pollution are increasingly pressing phenomena. Yet even though the Official Development Aid provided to LDC’s by industrialized countries pays lip service to ?sustainable? development, its primary focus is ?Economic Growth?. Why? Because developing countries are also asking for economic growth? They want to imitate the same levels of consumption on which Western growth is based.

    In fact economic growth has become a generalised world-wide obsession. Governments, corporations, unions and individuals all want more growth? Everybody seems to ask for ‘MORE’ ! More than last year, more than the neighbour, more than the competitor, and their performance is being evaluated on the basis of the percentage growth they have been able to achieve. This is a vicious cycle, a ‘rat race’, and the Less Developed Countries are also caught in this obsession.

    But even with today’s cleaner technologies, the typical result of the growth in industrialized societies is more waste accompanied by more carbon gas emissions and other contaminants, which are the primary source of environmental stress. It is not difficult to conclude that the present model of development, when also adopted and reached by developing countries, will contribute even more to environmental stress.

    If we only look at the example of carbon gas emissions from automobiles, at the present level of technology, and imagine that everyone on the planet had the same level of fuel consumption as in North America, the result would be catastrophic. Yet the ownership and operation of an automobile vehicle seems to be the dream and aspiration of every person on our planet !

    I am aware of the debate on the sharing of world resources between industrialised and developing countries, and sympathise with views of LDC representatives. I must point-out however, that concerned individuals and groups in Canada and other industrialised countries are voluntarily reducing (their own) consumption/waste and are adopting ?environmentally-friendly? lifestyles. While it is true that most consumers in industrialised countries have not adopted similar attitudes, the ones who have can request that other communities adopt environmentally-friendly lifestyles without being accused of hypocrisy !

    It is time to stop using ODA as a tool to support the present ?Economic Growth? development model. It is time to stop cloning habits that strain our global environment. Perhaps now is the time to start gearing Official Development Assistance towards a new model of ?development?. A model that does not encourage consumption and waste, a model that does not stress our environment!

    CIDA can take a leadership role in formulating a new model of development that places an emphasis, not on growth, but on environmental balance and sustainable development. A model not only for the LDC’s to follow, but for the whole world to follow as well.

  • 9. se lot  |  24 November 2010 at 18:36

    That is the question – what is development? What should we aspire to? Is money really a measure of development? How can development occur without destroying / standardising culture?

    We currently only have one measure of development – and that is money. An unfortunately people aspire to have money, money and then power. Because that is what society has purported as being important. Until we can assign quality of life indicators a monetary value or we can come up with an alternative trading tool to money we will face this double-edged sword.

    What is truly important?
    What will bring you comfort in your dying moment – money? Or love and friendship?

    Community and freedom – I hope it is possible Anna.

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